Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Village Greenies Cricket Club

A “greenie” was a bottle of Heineken, the most popular beer in Cayman at the time, at least among cricketers. Our club’s name had nothing to do with the village greens of England, but the name was cleverly chosen.

In the beginning, the club was often scratching around for players in the weekend limited-overs league, so I got the odd game despite my overwhelming lack of talent. Fortunately, nobody wanted to open the batting except me. I couldn’t score runs, but I was hard to shift.

All my runs were scored through the slips, from deliberate nudges off the outside edge, leaning forward from a stance a foot or so down the wicket – left elbow well up in order to keep the ball down. Balls outside the off-stump missed my prod; balls headed for the stumps got the edge and bounced before they reached slip and usually went through. It was the best I could do.

As Cayman’s expat population grew, there became enough useless-but-keen players to warrant a second team. I was barely good enough to play even for the Greenies Two, but was appointed captain by virtue of my willingness to provide sandwiches for lunch every time we played. (Linda made the sandwiches, of course, but the responsibility for reminding her was mine…)

We were never the worst team in the league. We usually managed to give West Bay a kicking, and the Schoolboys, and indeed we had our moments of glory. Only two that I can think of, but they were memorable. Once, we actually beat our senior team. The local newspaper’s sports writer gave us a wonderful back-page headline in bold caps: GREENIES TWO ARE NUMBER ONE! That didn’t sit well with our embarrassed betters, but Alan and I got a good laugh over it. And From then on they made a point of promoting any of our team who looked promising.

The other “moment of glory” occurred the day we no-hopers fought the League champions to a forty-overs draw. Not a tie, mind, but a draw. Purists may point out that a limited-overs match can’t end in a draw – but there’s a story goes with it. On this occasion, By-Rite (the champions, whose sponsorship by a local supermarket meant they didn’t have to make their own sandwiches) batted first and racked up a massive total of 246 for two, if I recall. Maybe it was 264. Nothing we could ever reach, anyway. Their batsmen whacked our poor bowlers all around the park, and ran us ragged.

On form, we could maybe last for half an hour against their class bowlers. If their fielders dropped a few catches we might accumulate forty runs. It was a beautiful sunny day, and most of their team were keen to wrap the game up quickly and hit the beach. But – well – never say die, eh? I persuaded my fellows to play for a draw. Let them bowl us out, if they could.

As it happened, they couldn’t. The opposition were livid when they saw what we were up to, and begged us to have a swish and get out. Every half-hour we hung around was half an hour less time for the beach. Looking back, I don’t know how we managed to score any runs at all; we certainly didn’t try to. At the end of the day – and it pretty much was the end of the day, by the time they had bowled their forty overs – we had sixty-something on the board, and nine wickets down. The last-wicket partnership was as tense a time as we ever experienced as a team.

A Village Greenies team did actually get to play on some real village greens in England, in 1981. It was a select team, eligibility for which was a willingness to pay for the trip and to give up one’s vacation time. Ross and I went (he was aged six at the time), and among our collage of snapshots here at home is a photo of Ross batting throw-downs from Charlie Griffith, our celebrity guest-player.

Charlie was a West Indies legend. He and Wes Hall were the best fast-bowling pair in the world, for a few years in the 1960s, and Charlie was ferocious. He was down to medium-pace in 1981, but as competitive as ever. “The most disgraceful piece of fielding I’ve seen in my life!” He told me with withering contempt, when I let a leg-glance through for a boundary at Budleigh Salterton. Well, maybe he was telling the truth, at that. So when he offered to give us all some throw-downs, later, I sent Ross in instead of me.