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Soup of This Day #291: Pulling Faces And Admitting Not A Thing

February 20, 2013

Lisa Sthalekar
Australia Women’s Cricket team star Lisa Sthalekar, who retired from international cricket at the conclusion of the 2013 ICC Women’s World Cup. She leaves the game as the only women to have notched up 100 One Day International (ODI) wickets and 1000 runs – Photo: YellowMonkey, 2010. YellowMonkey is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

Once upon a time I got into a fight. It was a proper schoolyard brawl with fists thrown and a head rammed into a solid wall.

How this came about was simple yet complicated, as fights often are. It’s easy to explain though I guess – I was across a classroom, ready to leave at the close of play for that session when a friend started to get picked on by the local crew of bastard bullies. My friend was pretty thick skinned and had a fair bit of muscle backing him so I guess I should have let it go. Something in side of me snapped though and so I stopped and called on them to leave him alone.

Which they did, because now they had me as a target. And I didn’t have no muscle backing me. There was, to my faint surprise, just me. Not even the friend I’d spoken up for was on my side – Maybe he was embarrassed by me stepping in – Maybe he figured I could handle myself – Maybe he just wasn’t a friend.

And so we moved quickly through the stages of escalation until a fight had been brokered in the maths room at afternoon recess, to which everyone duly attended – Most particularly me and the head bastard bully. A look-out was posted for teachers, a space cleared among the desks and everything was ready for a rumble.

Except my fists.

I’d like to think that it was a sense of honour, an understanding of what was right, but most likely I was trying to preserve what I had. And what I had was a badge that read ‘Head Boy’. I was proud of that badge – Amazed that I’d been able to wear it at all, constantly thinking that at some point it would be taken off me and given to someone more deserving.

Like someone who didn’t get suspended for fighting.

So I stood there with my hands in the pockets of my duffel coat (Which I still have) and invited the guy to hit me because I wasn’t going to fight him. This Gandhi-like approach of passive resistance should never have worked in the middle of a highly-charged Lord of the Flies-type face-off.

And it didn’t. The bastard hit me.

Which was a bit of a set-back to the program, but I stuck to my guns, or lack thereof, and invited him to take another shot.

Which he bloody did.

And it stung and I started a re-think of my plan. I’d recently watched The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and had kind of seen myself as the Jimmy Stewart of this conflict. Now I was starting to wonder if maybe I’d be better off switching to the John Wayne side of things. Unfortunately I hadn’t got my hands out of my pockets by the time that Lee Marvin had swung me head-first into a wall.

This hurt like all get out. Kissing the bricks brought tears to my eyes and these in turn brought more tears – Hot tears, mostly of anger at myself, but also at every bastard who stood there hoping I’d win but not being willing to step in. Strangely, I had no tears for Liberty Valance.

For him I just had a challenge. He hadn’t knocked me down. A guy with his hands in his pockets was still on his feet. Not. Giving. In.

This came to mind recently after I tracked a couple of cricket games. The 1st was the final of the 2013 Women’s Cricket World Cup, between Australia and the West Indies. The Australians were the form team of the ODI competition – In sweeping away almost all opposition the Southern Stars, the reigning World T20 champs, had lost just once on their way to the final.

In what was for them a dead rubber against the Windies.

Who surprised many with their progression to their 1st ever World Cup final via a mix of controlled bowling and aggressive batting – Deandra Dottin, the stand-out with the bat seemed to be able to dispatch balls to the boundary with effortless abandon.

It was to be experienced verses explosive, but for all of the fireworks on offer the key battle for the Windies would be the coin toss to determine who would bat 1st.

Australia.

The Southern Stars set about laying down a marker for the Windies – Accumulating runs steadily, in spite of the regular loss of wickets, the Aussie had looked early to be on track for a formidable total. Lanning had 31, Haynes 52 and then Jess Cameron notched up 75. Thereafter though the middle-order stumbled and it was left to wicketkeeping captain Jodie Fields and pace bowler Ellyse Perry to finish off the effort with a run-a-ball partnership that yielded 36 for Fields and a spanking 25 from 18 for Perry.

The target then was a decent 260 – A par score for sure but not the kind of knock-out total that could allow the Australians to stick hands in pockets, inviting the Windies to take their best shots. The Southern Stars would have to make some strikes of their own.

Their tactics though were more nuanced than that. They began by simply stifling the potent Windies bats, delivering line and length that allowed little room for expansive shot-making – More boa constrictor than taipan.

That venomous role was initially left to an unlikely Perry. The pacey superstar had sat out the 3 previous matches with injury and into her 1st spell looked like she was nowhere near recovered. Twice she pulled out of her opening delivery, seemingly unable to carry through with bowling. On the 3rd attempt though she got the ball out. Just 4 balls after that and she had the 1st Windies wicket, trapping opener Kycia Knight lbw and a dot ball after that, she had opened with a wicket maiden. She had 1 for none.

And she needed a visit from the physio.

Who has some magic hands because Ellyse Perry went on for another over and took another wicket.

She did concede 2 runs though so had slumped to 2 for 2.

For her 3rd over she was back on track – It was a 2nd wicket maiden and she had the astonishing figures of 3 overs, 3 for 2. The Windies had been becalmed by Australia’s opening bowlers, Schutt and Hunter, and now holed below the waterline by 3 Perry torpedos. Another Windies bat, Kyshona Knight, retired hurt, joining bowling team-mate Tremayne Smartt in the treatment rooms. From there it was an uphill struggle for the calypso queens – Dottin and Aguilleira provided some fireworks but both were clean-bowled by Lisa Sthalekar’s busy off-breaks for not much. The West Indies were clearly heading for a loss.

But they weren’t knocked down.

Both Kyshona Knight and Tremayne Smartt came out to bat, defying injuries and the knowledge that their efforts were inevitably going to be fruitless. It was a World Cup Final and they did not give in.

It was about as honourable as a 114-run loss can get.

The 2nd cricket game was of lesser import – It featured the New Zealand men hosting England in a run-of-the-mill ODI – No World Cups up for grabs in this encounter.

It was serious stuff nonetheless, as evidenced by a charged Kiwi run chase, that looked like running out of steam short of a target that, at 259, was within 1 run of what the Southern Stars had set the Windies. In this instance though New Zealand had got much closer than their Caribbean counterparts, but still, at 7 for 218 in the 47th over, they looked in trouble.

Particularly given that Martin Guptill had, like Kyshona Knight and Tremayne Smartt, come out to bat injured. He had limited movement, having apparently pulled a hamstring earlier in the run chase. This would be a problem if a quick scamper between the wickets was required, as substitute runners are no longer allowed.

Guptill solved this problem by sending the ball to the boundary for 4.

And then over the boundary for 6.

He subsequently added another 3 boundaries and with the fully mobile Brendon McCullum cracking a few of his own, the Kiwis got home with 7 balls to spare.

They didn’t stick their hands in their pockets then.

And so we come back to that childhood fight and something I’m still wondering about nigh on 23 years later – Did I do the right thing, standing my ground in a losing cause like Kyshona Knight and Tremayne Smartt? Or should I have come out swinging like Martin Guptill?

I’ll probably never be sure 1 way or the other – 1 thing I can say is that it would have helped if I had emulated all 3 of those cricketers, and worn protective pads and a helmet.

Pulling Faces And Admitting Not A Thing

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