My close friend Bill Cherry has roped me into adventures for the last 30 years, whether it is climbing Kilimanjaro, The Rhino Charge, or bar crawling in St.Pete. He is never without the next great adventure and I am never really sure if he is serious or just full of bravado after a few cold ones. Nonetheless, I often accept though I too am never really sure if I am serious or just full of bravado after a few cold ones but it’s never a dull moment. This time, it’s participating in the Mara Festival of Cricket event for charity. Here is the schedule for the event. I grew up playing baseball and I mean a lot of baseball and I continued playing baseball and fast pitch softball till just a few years ago, see I Got Shut Out By Abe Lincoln. I had one fundamental goal, Don’t embarrass myself! Let’s see if any of the baseball skills translate.
Day 1 – I have learned that I am playing on the Toothless Lions team, a bunch of former rugby players. We have received our “kit” AKA uniforms. They are pink!!!! You mean I came all the way to Africa to play cricket and I don’t get proper cricket whites?? I get a freakin pink uniform?
Well, that clearly makes me the only person in the world that has now played cricket in a pink kit AND has played fast pitch softball in a blue tuxedo! Wow… what a claim to fame!!
I have no idea why cricket isn’t more popular in the US??? (It is the second most popular sport in the world, behind soccer) I think it has a bad reputation regarding days long matches, well that simply wasn’t the case for the brand we played. We played 10 overs, which basically means that 10 bowlers throw 6 pitches each and then the sides switch and the other team has 10 bowlers throw 6 pitches each and the team with the most runs wins. Basically, it’s like one long inning rather than 6 or 9 innings in baseball. The games each lasted about 90 minutes, that’s fast enough! So, my baseball skills did translate, fielding was identical save for no glove, that was easy enough to adjust to. Batting was a bit different, you had to get used to hitting it on one bounce and instead of planting your back foot being more mobile to move to where the pitch goes so you can hit it. The BIGGEST adjustment was bowling… wow!!
Unlike baseball, you can’t bend your elbow when you bowl in cricket… that took me many many practices to try and unlearn a lifetime of muscle memory. Many thanks to Julien and James Evans for taking pity on me and giving me some exceptional tips that helped me get through it. In the end, I had to bowl in three games and I am proud to say the last game I actually bowled a proper over! In the end, the similarities with baseball are many!
Cricket on the Mara
The whole weekend was actually a charity event to raise money for a local Masai school. We camped out in a conservancy that had a a pod of hippos in the pond. It was a tremendous event and a chance to spend a weekend with the local Kenyan cricket community. Besides learning a lot about cricket I discovered that everyone in Kenya has a unique skill… they can open a beer bottle with anything though the preferred method is to grab 2 bottles and use one as the opener. So before anyone thinks this was plain old camping.. it was car camping on steroids featuring showers, long drop toilets and the food was catered the whole weekend including a proper English breakfast each morning! Of course, one of the highlights was Bill and Lindsey hosting a port and stilton party on Saturday night! Yup… just regular old camping. For anyone that made it this far, here are a few shots from the weekend.
All in all, I had a lot of fun playing cricket and I can see what the appeal is and trust me, the kind we played is a lot faster than Americans think. Time to find a local club?? Maybe when I can lift my right arm over my head again!