What we do in our spare time

2011-03-23 00:00

“VETS combine business with pleasure,” screamed the headline of the Manawatu Standard. Okay, I’ll admit it wasn’t exactly the front page (bottom of page 13 to be exact), but the picture was colourful and the caption accurate.

We were in New Zealand (or New Zilland according to the locals) as participants in the third Veterinary World Cup Cricket Tournament, an event that uses the great game of cricket as a medium for social networking within the veterinary profession

And, although socialising with our international colleagues was priority number one, cricket was actually played.

After an exhaustive selection process (which involved putting one’s name on a list), we assembled a squad that would have made the Proteas proud. In fact, certain team members felt that, with the official World Cup across the pond in the sub-continent looming, they would keep trim in the hope of a belated call-up by adopting some strategies out of Herschelle Gibbs’s memoirs by putting in some extra training at the Tui Brewery.

Our South African playing squad comprised six vet students, two South African vets practising in England and one in Australia, a practising vet from the Eastern Cape and three of us from kwaZulu-Natal. We were accompanied by a couple of wives and three senior veterinary citizens who assumed the role of coaching, managing, beer tasting and umpiring with alacrity and energy. Their presence was designed to keep the players focused and on the straight and narrow, a task they achieved with a modicum of success, although, it must be said, there were times when the priorities became blurred and the roles reversed.

The week actually started with a day of academia and a tour of the Faculty of Veterinary Science at Massey University, followed the next day by the cricket. The tournament involved six teams: five local and ourselves. India (internal problems), Pakistan (visa problems), Ireland and Australia (hot air) had all expressed interest but did not make the final hurdle as complete teams, although we did have individual representation from various overseas countries.

The event started on a bad note for us, with a loss in our first game to a fired-up New Zealand industry team. The result was precipitated by a reduced focus due to jet lag, Tui export and Butch (our coach, manager and now umpire) falling asleep at crucial times during the game. It took us a while to diagnose this malaise as he had developed a technique of resting his chin on his chest as if in serious concentration, his eyes hidden by his wide-brimmed hat. It was not significant when he was standing at square leg, but the problem became apparent when a six-ball over started progressing into the teens and he was startled into activity by calling a wide to a gentle prod to the covers.

Our standard improved during the course of the tournament, however, and notwithstanding the multitude of social distractions our excellent, gracious and ever-willing hosts chucked our way, we managed to win the remaining games and were eventually crowned overall winners.

Of more importance, though, is the multitude of friends and contacts we made, both in South Africa during the build-up and in New Zealand during the event. The future success was guaranteed by the election of steering and organisation committees to oversee the next event in South Africa in four years’ time.

And, judging by the enjoyment generated by Butch and his senior squad members, we will then have a multitude of ex-players in line for managerial positions.

 

• The author is a practising vet with a passion for his profession and a giggle in his heart.

 

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