The Grade Cricketer: Tea and No Sympathy

"It wasn’t unheard of for Nuggsy to head straight to a game from a night out. Once he actually wore his whites out on a Friday night in order to conserve time the next morning."

"Only cricketers could invent meaningless verbiage and lend it primal aggression."

"Now most grade cricket clubs provide rolling updates for their Twitter followers throughout the course of a day. There really is a lot of useless shit on the internet."

"‘Mate,’ I started, as always. (Even when addressing their mortal enemy Australian men will employ this term of endearment.) ‘What the fuck are you up to here?’"

"Two club presidents betting on the outcome of a grade cricket final. Un-fucking-believable. But…was it, really? Actually, it all kind of made sense suddenly. From the outside, club presidents poured thousands of dollars into grade cricket with seemingly no expectation of return, aside from the meaningless power one wields from being the president of a cricket club. But perhaps there was a return, after all? Perhaps grade cricket was completely rigged—nothing more than a plaything for rich white men to fuck with, placing bets and fixing matches unbeknown to the players themselves, save for a few key conduits like Nuggsy, who were able to bridge these murky waters."

"would never normally admit it outwardly, but I had been a pillar of mediocrity for the majority of the year."

"I figured that off spin is literally the easiest skill one can perform in cricket—no different from turning a doorknob clockwise in terms of the effort exuded."

"If only those children were old enough to know that Daddy would rather stand at second slip and touch the cricket ball twice in six hours than spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon teaching them to read."

"In short, the very moment you think you’re on top, cricket—much like life—has a way of bringing you back down to earth with shattering force."

"‘When I was your age, I already had fifteen years of full-time work under my belt.’ During conversations like these, I always consoled myself with the fact that my parents’ generation was responsible for the majority of the social and economic problems that exist today. Born in the aftermath of World War II, they were lucky enough to be the beneficiaries of free higher education, affordable house prices and a stable global outlook. It seemed like there were jobs everywhere back then too. By the sounds of it, you could walk into any office and ask, ‘Can I have a job?’, no references required, nothing. That was literally how everyone got work back then. You’d shake some bloke’s hand and, over the course of several decades, eventually work your way up the corporate ladder to become the CEO. Some forty years later you announce your retirement, having racked up enough superannuation to purchase three waterfront properties in Sydney. These days, if you walked into an office and just point-blank asked for a job, you’d be escorted out by security within six seconds on suspicion of being an Islamic State terrorist. As such, we’re all stuck doing three-month unpaid internships on the off-chance we might snare a $35,000 per annum content-writing gig for some shitty youth-skewed online publication."

"my chances of buying property are about as good as me holding onto a catch in the cordon: fucking slim to none."

"This was my equivalent of the Gatting Ball in the 1993 Ashes series, and Dad was Warney, lapping up his victory with oafish glee. In my defence, it was the first off cutter I had ever faced in my young life, since, generally speaking, eleven-year-old seam bowlers are yet to develop their wrists and fingers to the extent that they can successfully impart sideways movement. Some of the other fathers suggested I be given a reprieve for getting out first ball, but Dad wasn’t having any of it. In retrospect, it was probably a bit over the top for him to point aggressively towards the pavilion and order me to ‘fuck off, cunt’, but he’d been made redundant earlier that week, so I can’t hold it against him for wanting to blow off a bit of steam."

"remembered the first time I’d seen Nuggsy do this trick, back in my first season as an impressionable nineteen-year-old. I’d immediately consulted YouTube to try to replicate it myself but only ended up getting into a heated argument with an anonymous stranger in the comments section about whether George Bush ‘did’ 9/11."

"When it comes to nightclub protocol, most men prefer to play the role of the hungry lion standing on the edge of the watering hole, waiting for an opportunity to pounce. Go to any nightclub and you’ll see an abundance of single men milling around on the side of the dancefloor, one hand in their hip pocket, the other clasping a schooner of domestic lager, tapping one foot to the beat of the music and bobbing their head at a similar pace, craning their necks in an undignified attempt to establish a connection with someone, anyone. Sadly, eighty per cent of these men will go home having not spoken a single word to a woman that evening, bound by their own crippling self-doubt. If only they had the courage to step onto that dancefloor and flail their arms in the air they might actually end up going home with someone, rather than getting into a fight with another bloke outside a kebab shop at 3 a.m. Say what you will about the lockout laws but I personally think the best way to curb alcohol-related violence is to teach blokes how to dance properly."

"‘Thanks for coming over—I thought he was never going to stop talking about his Michelle Pfeiffer in second grade, whatever any of that sentence means.’"

"Of course, if it was revealed to my then teammates that I was in a book club I risked the admonishment of my peers—a collection of individuals who I fucking hated anyway, but whose validation I lived and died by."

"‘So, I’m thinking you and me should do it together,’ Jai murmured seductively. I realised I needed to interject now, lest Alex fall even deeper into his emerald eyes. ‘Nah, it’s all good, champ,’ I blurted. ‘Excuse me?’ ‘Alex and I are going to work on this one. I think there’s a few people over there still looking for a partner.’ I gesticulated toward the front corner of the lecture hall, where a collection of social outcasts stood. ‘Is that right?’ Jai replied, his eyes still transfixed upon Alex. It was like he was putting her under a spell. Jai’s answer sent me into full ‘catcher behind the wicket’ mode. Without explanation, I unleashed a series of cricket sledges that would normally be directed at opposition batsmen but were now being applied out of context and targeted at a defiantly anti-sport hipster. ‘Come on here, lads! This bloke’s got no idea! Someone get this bloke a gym membership! One brings two!’"

"I stifled a snigger at the thought that grade cricket was my mistress and waiting to have sex with me again. Like an incessant ex-girlfriend you know is no good for you, but you keep going back to her anyway. Why? Well, because it’s all you’ve ever known and you have a deep-seated fear of change."

"Goes without saying that I didn’t really give a shit what some bloke in twos was doing for a crust. He could have raised forty thousand dollars for breast cancer research by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for all I knew, but if he was consistently pushing them down the leg side, he was dead to me."

"It was more socially acceptable for two women to go for a coffee and talk for hours, gazing into each other’s eyes, gleaning all the ins and outs of the human experience. For men, we always had to be ‘doing’ something, even if that meant sitting next to each other and getting drunk in a bar, watching some form of televised sport. Again, even if a meaningful conversation between two men did take place in this environment, the excessive consumption of alcohol would have created large blackspots in the participants’ memory, rendering all the content forgotten within the space of twelve hours."

"It goes without saying that both teams cannot have the same amount of energy at the same time, for there is a finite amount of energy on a cricket field."

"always, this placed me in a difficult predicament. When you come to the wicket at, say, 4-20, after a flurry of wickets, you’ve got very little to lose. People’s expectations are low. You can play it one of two ways: grit it out and soak up as many balls as possible, so that you can return to the pavilion and receive plaudits for your defiant innings in the face of adversity, or give yourself a licence to tee off and earn some quick runs. The second scenario is a win-win, in the sense that if you get out you can blame the batsmen before you for failing to lay a platform. It’s their fault, not yours. And if, by some stroke of fortune, you do manage to pile on 30 or 40 runs, well, you’re a hero."

"Whether it’s the sly ‘what can I get you, champ’ from a barista, or a ‘did you tap on there, pal’ from an eagled-eyed bus driver, life in itself is a constant alpha showdown. These days I can barely communicate with another human being—male or female—without wondering whether I’m being belittled in some form or another."