“It’s just not cricket!”
I’m not sure the original inventors of cricket, or even its present day players and administration, would approve of the way we do cricket in China.
You won’t find cucumber sandwiches waiting for the players on the sideline, although we are partial to a bit of Pimm’s Cup. That chocolate cake sitting on the table would probably land professional players in quite a bit of trouble.
There aren’t any orange quarters at the end of your spell in the field, but there are ice cold Bacardi Breezers and a hell of a lot of beer.
Fancy rules like the Duckworth-Lewis system aren’t in play, but there’s a guy out there wearing a Luchadore mask whose runs count for double.
You won’t see googlies or leg-spin or pace bowling from most of the players. Fully half of them are lucky to keep every bowl on the ‘pitch’, a rather elaborate term for the dusty strip of ground different from the rest of the field only because it has battered stumps at either end.
It’s safe to say that, by the conventional definition, it’s just not cricket in China. Whatever we do have, though, is still a hell of a lot of fun.
Cricket in Nanjing
It came every Sunday morning without fail. My hangover addled brain would swim up out of the murky, boozy-filled depths it had plummeted into the previous night to the furious rapping of our club captain, ‘Lynchie’, banging on my door entirely too early for my liking.
Mouth feeling like I’d been face-raped by the booze monkey, I’d grab my share of the kit and stagger bleary-eyed down to the Nanjing Normal University sports field that doubled as our field of dreams.
Cricket in Nanjing technically boasts three teams: Nanjing Nongmin, the Bogan’s Heroes, and Nanjing International School. Sadly, the latter refuse to play with a real ball or leave their backwoods corner of the city, so they get one or two games a year in tops.
For the Shanghai Lu based Nanjing Nongmin and the Shigu Lu based Bogan’s Heroes, it’s a weekly affair as the several years old rivalry continues to unfold.
Never mind the fact the wins column must read something like:
Nanjing Nongmin: 187
Bogan’s Heroes: 11
It’s not that the Bogan’s Heroes don’t possess some genuinely good crickets. ‘Hammer’, ‘Lando’, and ‘Juva’ can all bat with the best of them, and ‘Calamari’ and ‘Wolf’ are decent bowlers.
The less said about Brent’s bowling war-cry or Corkie’s unorthodox fielding technique of lying in the grass staring up at the clouds, the better.
And don’t even get me started on Windows 95 and his short shorts.
Where the Nongmin (my team) and the Heroes differ is their fundamental approach to the game. Where my team shows up sober (albeit occasionally hungover) and well fed, the Heroes are typically either still drunk from the previous night, or well on their way to being drunk for the day to come.
Given my poor cricketing pedigree and prediliction for getting drunk, I probably should play for the Bogans. But I daresay Kash, Hogg, Chattha, Hainesy, Furniture, and the Silver Chancer Enhancer (long may his memory remain) would lynch me the next day at work.
You may notice we all have nicknames. Mine?
CWB = Cunt with Blog.
Touring Cricket in China
While our regular Sunday sessions were a highlight of my first year here in China (I’ve ceased attending these days due to my Nanking Nation responsibilities), the best part of playing cricket in China is the annual touring schedule.
With teams playing cricket in cities such as Suzhou, Hangzhou, Shanghai (and Pudong), Xiamen, and even exotic Hainan; there’s rarely a shortage of opportunities to pack up the kit, catch a flight, and get rather drunk somewhere else.
While Shanghai has become entirely too serious to indulge in these tournaments the way they’re intended (the gronks play to win, for some reason), the rest of us enjoy the experience of getting drunk beneath unfamiliar skies and in unfamiliar bars.
Xiamen’s annual Halloween Sixes tournament was my first foray into touring, and what I remember of the tournament was fantastic. Pimm’s Cup beneath the hot Xiamen sun, palm trees around the field, an all you can eat Indian feast to celebrate surviving, and some kind of beach party that I proved entirely too tired to attend.
This year’s touring schedule looks likely to include a game against Suzhou (where it’s ON THE LINE!), a visit to beautiful Hangzhou, and potentially a weekender down to hot, sunny, Russian girl filled Hainan. A guy can dream, eh?
The Nanjing Rural Sixes and the Connerry Shield of Dreams
Despite all of the above exotic locations (well, I don’t know that anybody would call Suzhou exotic), my absolute favourite event on the annual cricketing calendar in China is the locally run Nanjing Rural Sixes, so named for the fact Nanjing (despite being a city of 8,000,000) is a bit of a backwoods, and the fact the field we play on has an outfield of knee high grass and an in field of bumpy turf that makes even the worst bowler look like he knows how to spin it.
The most recent edition, played two weeks ago, was a cracking success. With six teams (three from Nanjing, two from Suzhou, and one from Shanghai) present, the day had a real carnival feel.
Jimmy’s Bar put on an all day grill with ice cold beers, hot dogs, and burgers; but the real highlight for me was the welcome package that the Bogan’s Heroes put on for every team. It was a crate of ice featuring:
- Four different kinds of beer
- A Bloody Mary Kit
To say the 9am start was quickly forgotten in a blur of booze and bad cricket is an understatement, and although my team (the Nanjing Disco Ducks) weren’t able to grab a single win, we had a hell of a good time in failing.
The Luchadore rule, in which a random player had to bat and field with a luchadore mask on, made things extra interesting – with the luchadore’s runs counting for double, it could be a real game-changer if fate favoured you.
By the end of the day, Shanghai (the teetotalling wankers) had won, but the real winners were those too drunk to make it out to the bar later that night.
Want to Know More?
Interested in playing some cricket in China? Check out the links below to find out more.
- Shanghai Bashers Cricket Club
- Nanjing Cricket Facebook Page
- Xiamen Typhoons Cricket Club
- Pudong Power Cricket Club
- Hangzhou Cricket Club
Have you played a sport from home in an exotic land? Rugby in South Korea? American Football in Zimbabwe? Baseball in Belarus?
I’d love to hear your story!
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