Monday, April 6, 2020
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A letter to my nephew

Dear Nephew,

Cricket is a game. It is a great game. I am glad you are playing it. This game can teach you a lot about yourself, your fellow players, the players in the other team, and the adults who Umpire and come to watch you play it. Let me explain.

Do you remember that time when you first asked me why you were given out when it was clear that the ball had bounced well before the point fielder caught it. You said you didn’t understand why he then appealed for a catch. I think you were on 4 at the time. You stood your ground copping abuse from the fielders who yelled at you to get off the field. I don’t know what you were thinking when you came off. Your Mum was furious and I had just arrived with your grandparents who wanted to see you bat. I don’t know why you were given out, except to say that the Dad umpiring from the other side made a mistake. I don’t know whether this was deliberate or not. but it wasn’t fair. You didn’t look happy, until you Grandfather came over to see you. You smiled at him and had a good chat.

Or the time that Summer Hill Umpire judged you LBW in the U14’s for school when everyone could hear the ball nick your bat and strike you in the stomach as you tried to steer it to fine leg. I think you were 3 metres from the stumps. You went and sat under a tree eating those savoury Shapes you like and said nothing for a long time afterwards. Fortunately when we bowled a few of the opposition were given out in the same way. Our Umpire was very fair, but even he was fed up with what he described as “random decisions”.

Or the time the opposition Coach came over to brief your team on the new Mankad rules before the game. At the time we all thought it was a very nice thing to do. And then his team deliberately stalked our batters all game. That is what people call gamesmanship. Remember I had to give you out for bring 2 inches outside the crease? After that the Association sent an email asking teams to play in the spirit of the game.

Just know that Dad’s sometimes make mistakes, or don’t play in the spirit of the game. It’s often hard to know which, so you need to be slow before making any judgements. Also know that Dad’s are adults and many Dad’s care about winning much more than their sons do. Everyone likes to start a weekend with a win especially if they have had a tough week at work. Some Dad’s take competition to the next level and deliberately influence the game to give their boys a helping hand, a little edge, a bit like ball tampering. Unfortunately there are no cameras or review technology in junior cricket and Dad Umpires aren’t accountable at the time or any other time for their actions. Dad’s don’t always teach their sons why playing fairly is important. Sometimes they don’t have time or they don’t think it’s important. Most Dad’s have never told their sons that Cricket is above all a test of physical and mental skill. Sometimes we need to be reminded of the basics.

In the final analysis, it isn’t the game that really matters. What matters is how YOU conduct yourself on and off the field. What is important is knowing the difference between right and wrong, what is fair and unfair, treating your opponent as a human being not as someone to be “psychologically destroyed”. Suffice to say that being in the ear of a batsman with rubbish talk all the time isn’t using your skill to defeat a batsman. In the same way, if you are a bowler the best way to defeat a batsman is by high quality bowling not low quality verbals and send-offs.

When you are an adult you see how people behave and shift their ideas about what is right or wrong, fair or unfair, depending on the situation or the advantage they can extract from it. Observe where that line is in others, how it shifts based on the situation and how they justify it. Observe what people do, not what they say. Always be certain in your own mind about where the line is, why it is there, and observe it always without fail. You will find yourself in situations where it might seem easier to step over the line. But you are smart enough to find a way out of these events either in advance or later on without compromising your principles. This is your ethics and moral compass. It starts with saying “No, that isn’t the right thing to do” and then using your charm, wit and guile to suggest a much better outcome, or to walk away. I’ve seen you do it before.

When you know you have done the right thing your conscience is always clear. That is something to cherish.

You have always been level-headed. So I know what I have written will come as no surprise. You have seen enough of it through the seasons. And you are only 15. If you observe well, and do well, you already know what it means to be an adult.

The 17th Man

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