Cricket in the Jungle

Written for in November 2016.

After Tristan Allen’s excellent 2013 piece on Australian club cricket, the TFT editors – there were then two – asked other ordinarily talented cricketers living abroad to write short pieces on their own experiences.  Having recently moved to Singapore, that small city state just one degree from the equator, I readily agreed.  To our editor’s great frustration, it has taken me a full three years to produce the piece: a wait almost as frustrating as my habit of dancing down the wicket and then producing a forward defensive!

Singapore is both very hot, and very wet.  We have no need of weather forecasts or “Apps with rain radars” here as the daytime temperature is always a reliable 31°C to 33°C.  During the two annual monsoon seasons, it rains – very heavily – each day: normally for 15 minutes at exactly 2pm!  Thunderstorms occur on 40% of all days, and the humidity is horrible.  It is impossible to walk anywhere for more than 5 minutes without developing a sweat reminiscent of an overweight Lancashire league opening bowler in the middle of a 15 over spell.

There is also an extreme shortage of cricket pitches here.  There are only two cricket squares on the Island – which is only 1/3rd the size of the area encircled by London’s M25 motorway.  Most games are played on horrible artificial strips with tennis ball-like bounce.

Singapore (Blue) vs. London (M25)

At the same time, demand for cricket is very strong.  There are large numbers of super keen Australian and Indian cricketers here.  I play for an Aussie team, ANZA, which puts out five XIs: four league XIs and one social.

The solution arrived at by Singapore’s cricket administrators – whose fondness for over rate penalties would strike fear into the Chairmen and Captains of the Surrey Championship – is to play two 30 over games, on each ground, each day.

Games are played according to the northern hemisphere seasons, so as to permit the egg chasers an opportunity to play their so-called sport in “Winter”.

As an accumulator of only limited talent – who generally requires at least 30 overs to score a fifty – this shortened format initially put me off.  After allowing myself to be blackmailed into playing, I discovered it wasn’t the only thing I should have been worried about.

Wicketkeeping in Singapore is a nightmare.  The humidity makes 20 overs feel like 50.  After three or four overs, sweat starts dripping down into your eyes to such an extent that I have started wearing tennis headbands of the style made famous by Bjorn Borg and Craig Woodhouse.  Dizziness kicks in after 10 overs if one does not keep on top of dehydration.  Some sides have taken to switching their keepers after 15 overs in an attempt to alleviate the burden.

Singapore Cricket Club, Singapore

The other great worry is snakes.  My teammates at ANZA tell an alarming story about an – English -teammate who wandered into the light jungle surrounding the ground to retrieve a ball.  Moments later he screams “Snake!”, sprints across the square into his waiting Lexus and accelerates off towards the local hospital.  He was never heard from again.

I enjoy playing for an Australian side.  I haven’t experienced the f-word tirades Tristan describes during his time in Blacktown, Western Sydney.  But then most of the Australians I play with are on the same side as I am.

Most of the teams we play against are predominantly Indian.  Something that brings me neatly on to our greatest disadvantage, and the main reason we currently sit third bottom in the league one spot above another ANZA XI:

Our opponents are 10 to 15 years younger than we are, net, and do not drink beer.

We are currently outside the relegation zone, but will go down if the team currently in last place win their final game next weekend.  The only positive that we can take from the season is that we’ve somehow managed to finish above a higher ranked ANZA team, who have been nicking players when short.

I have managed some runs, but have struggled for boundaries.  The leg glance still works, but my off drive has sadly been absent without leave all season.

J., 2/11/16