Cricket The Definition of Cricket as Explained to an American:
You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that's in the side that's in goes out, and when he's out he comes in and the next man goes in until he's out. When they are all out, the side that's out comes in and the side that's been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out. When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay all out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game. Anonymous
The above ‘definition’ is meaningless to the uninitiated, but amusing to a connoisseur of the game. Unless one has been raised playing or watching the game of cricket ‘it is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’, to quote a Churchill speech. I was an avid fan of cricket and watched at every opportunity until I made ‘aliya’ and was cut off from this great game for many years, until cable television and the Internet gave me access once again. My children, having been raised without an understanding of this gentleman’s sport, laugh at their father on the few occasions I have had the opportunity to indulge myself.
Many English metaphors have come from this game with a unique etiquette. ‘A good innings’ refers to longevity. If something is ‘not cricket’ it is deemed as unfair or cheating.
Cricket not only has very fond memories of time spent with my father, a man who rarely relaxed, and may have suffered from P.T.S.D. due to his enduring the ‘Blitz’ which was not understood and not treated at the time, but it also was the matchmaker that united me happily in holy matrimony.
When a schoolboy, sport was the reason most of us enjoyed our days in the classroom. I was certainly no scholar and looked forward to ‘breaks’, the short interval between lessons, from early morning assembly to the home-time bell. ‘Breaks’ were filled with fun and games, such as marbles, ‘stingers’- in which a tennis ball was thrown at competitors attempting to avoid being hit or ‘stung’, football (soccer), and in the summer season, cricket. I was only once chosen to play for the school cricket team and then it was the low-rated third choice side, but I spent many happy hours with classmates and friends in non-competitive play.
The summer period between November and the end of February in South Africa was the time when touring sides from England, Australia and New Zealand came in different years to play against the home team, as the South Africans went on visits to these other countries. The teams from the Southern hemisphere went to England in our winter. Contests between national teams, is called “Test Cricket” and played over five days. We spent many an hour, ear glued to the radio, as play was broadcast from England in the days before we had television and satellite to bring us live events from around the world. Unfortunately the Indians, Pakistanis and particularly the West Indians, who in those years probably had some of the best cricketers who ever played the game, like Garfield Sobers, never played against the South Africans because of their race. Multiracial sport was forbidden in South Africa. It was ironic that a Coloured, who due to apartheid was unable to play in South Africa, and forced to emigrate and continue his career in England, brought about the suspension of South Africa from cricket and eventually all world team sport.
The Dutch Reformed Church, to which most of the political elite of the time belonged, frowned upon sport being played on Sunday, so the only day my father could attend the game he loved, and impart that passion to me, was on a Saturday. He would leave my mother, a very patient soul, to run their business in the morning, it was a half day, and we would go together, to Wanderers Cricket Ground in a very upscale Johannesburg suburb.
Our favourite place to sit was alongside the steps the players used to enter and leave the field. Out on the wide expanse of verdant coiffured grass, eleven men of the fielding side, all in white shirts and trousers, wearing team caps, or floppy white hats, to protect them from the summer sun, took their assigned positions. Two batsmen of the batting team, also in white, bats swinging in their hands, wearing padded gloves and protective pads from boot to thigh; no helmets in those days; took the field. The two umpires in long ‘doctor’s’ white coats stood took their places, one on the batting strip, or wicket, and the other, off to one side at the other end. The view was a thrilling sight. There was no one-day game, a product of the television age, with coloured outfits, in my youth.
Names such as Frank Tyson, Jim Laker, Tony Locke and Peter May for England and South Africans, Peter Heine, Neil Adcock, Trevor Goddard were in front of me in the flesh. I still thrill at the memory and could go on. Those in the know will understand, but, only bore others. We sat in the summer sun, always wearing hats, as sunscreen was still unheard of, watching our heroes of the English team - I was born in London - battling the South Africans. It was a beautiful tranquil day, but exciting as we keenly watched each ball bowled and applauded good play or registered disappointment when our team was on the back foot, on the defensive – another expression derived from the game. My mother perpared smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches, and a thermos of tea, as we did not eat the food sold at the take-a-way stalls. These memories of this precious time I spent with my Dad are etched so deeply in my soul, that if, G-d forbid, I hallucinate in my old age, cricket, salmon sandwiches and tea, will be at the forefront of those ramblings.
When I was an adult, Ali Bacher, a Jewish medical student, had the honour of being elected to captain the South African team against the Australians, causing me, without a moment’s regret, to change my allegiance. In the 1969 – 1970 summer, the Australian team toured South Africa, playing two games in Johannesburg. It was the annual long break from studies and I wanted to spend the day watching cricket, but not alone. My father still worked and could not join me. I phoned Jill, a fellow student with whom I had become friendly, while spending time at the home of a mutual girlfriend studying for the now completed end of year exams. There was no thought of romance – I only wanted company to enjoy my love of cricket. We spent the day together and then I invited her to see a film (movie) together. One thing led to another, love blossomed and now more than forty years later we are still in love, having raised three wonderful children and Andrea, our older daughter, has now given us a beautiful granddaughter. We now only want to see our children content and have the pleasure of spoiling as many grandchildren as possible.
Most of us look for love, sometimes despairingly, but often love finds us when our guard is down. Marriages, it seems, are indeed made in Heaven.
 Basil D’Olivera - who died a few days after I wrote this memoir.
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