Beach cricket is not for bad losers

2014-01-15 05:12

Whilst celebrating a few good waves and walking my tired body to my towel a tennis ball rolled toward me and that is how I accidentally got involved in a pickup game of cricket. It seemed like a fierce competition and with my highly sensitive ear for competitive behaviour I needed to accept the invitation.

As I joined in, a welcome nodding here and there from other players acknowledging my inclusion, a wicket had just fallen and a little guy stepped to the crease. He couldn’t have been more than nine or ten.  He stomped with the bat at his feet, his left arm held at the perfect angle and sporting a stance far beyond his age. This was going to be fun.

It seemed I had joined a family game, uncles, aunties, cousins, you name it.

The first ball delivered to the little man was an absolute beaut. Bowled by, who seemed to be his uncle, it creeped between the bat and his legs and clipped the offside of the cooler box wickets.

“Howzat!” we all jeered together. Although surprised at his royal duck I was actually more excited about being one step closer to batting.

The little batsmen stood there, unshaken and not ready to leave.

“Not out, I wasn’t ready.”

Without a single objection the game continued. Wow, I had seen bad umpiring and protests by batsmen before but nothing like this. The wicket took place in front of my very eyes. I ignored it, I wasn’t going to act like an idiot and fight. “Soon, we’ll get him soon,” I thought to myself.

This charade went on for almost a half an hour. It didn’t matter if he was plum LBW, caught in midbeach or bowled middle stump. He was never out. An argument ensued every time. Tears, protests, anger all over a game of beach cricket.

Why was this little guy such a bad loser? Surely the demands of mini cricket haven’t created an entire generation of competitive juniors fear ridden of failure?

Why is everyone letting him get away with it was another question?

The next rotation of bowlers took place and a tall man, who turned out to be the young one’s father, took the ball with his left hand. He came steaming toward the makeshift crease like Brett Schultz in his prime. He delivered a ball that could make Robin Jackman cry. And then everything made sense.

His delivery hit the bin with such vigour it woke the fielders on the ocean boundary. Dad sure celebrated his son’s fall of wicket. What an oddity? He ran around the beach, an adult man of say thirty-five, like a Spanish footballer celebrating a goal.

I’m not blaming dad. I’ve always been highly competitive and a sore loser. My father on the other hand, who spent many hours in the nets with me, always took his wicket gracefully.

What is it then? We know competitive behaviour is inherent. It is part of our makeup. And to a certain extent our environment dictates some of that behaviour, but could it characteristically be so crippling it spoils a friendly game of beach cricket.

What an awful realisation it was for me when dad and his son held a mirror to my own behaviour. I have on countless occasions in backyard rugby, cricket or even Marco Polo spoiled a game between the family when over celebrating a win or unwilling to waver a decision against me. Nobody likes a sore loser or an over indulgent winner.

South Africans as a collective are a nation with a highly competitive spirit. It is just in us. We take everything very seriously and sport is right there at the top of the list. With the African Nations Championship in progress, the Aussie tour around the corner and Super Rugby about to start I am excited for a lot more fun and games.

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