When a ball’s thrown at you, you hit it. When it’s hit at you, you catch it.
That was the extent of my cricket knowledge. Nevertheless, I went out to play at the invitation of The Shelter Island Cricket Club in their annual cricket match and fundraiser for the Ambulance Foundation on Saturday, July 27.
Final numbers are not in yet, but organizers said they expected to raise about $12,000, the same as last year. In the past seven years the club has raised more than $100,000 for the Foundation, providing financial support to promote the recruitment, training, and retention of ambulance volunteers and to secure new equipment, primarily ambulances.
Once every summer, the match pits the Island’s club against “The Rest of the World.”
I discovered that I liked the sport so much I played in the blistering sun from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
I started as fourth in line to bat. My learning curve started there and proved to be very steep. Even before stepping up to bat, I managed to incorrectly put on a pair of bulky leg pads running from the ankles past the knees.
Running awkwardly towards the field (pitch, in cricket-speak, excuse me) I knew I was in over my head. That feeling didn’t recede as I stepped up to bat. My hands felt trapped in heavily padded gloves gripping a flat cricket bat as I faced my opponents.
Shelter Island summer resident and my teammate Neil Carragher (who holds Canadian, British, and American passports) said that the day’s match was reflective of how international and multi-cultural cricket truly is. He added that the day’s activities showed the surprising extent of the expat community on the East End.
“These guys just come out of the woodwork,” Neil said.
Those representing “The World” were examples of the far-flung reaches of the British Commonwealth, with players hailing from Jamaica, South Africa and Australia. It was quickly obvious that the bowler (pitcher to you) I was facing had a take-no-prisoners mentality.
Luckily, my opponents were not professionals, but predominantly nostalgic Brits.
I found it hard to resist the intuitive instinct most Americans have to swing my bat like I was playing baseball. But even with the wider surface of the cricket bat, I struggled to hit anything. Elated when I finally made contact and dashed to the wicket across from me, I was greeted with laughter upon my arrival.
Apparently, you carry your bat with you as you run.
When the Shelter Island team went on the pitch to field, I was told to play the “short fine leg position.” I took that to mean I was a left fielder. Whatever that position truly is, I found my cricket legs in the field both figuratively and literally with two running catches.
Cricket is a slow game, and one of intense competition requiring advanced skills. I found it very entertaining.
Shelter Island lost in the morning by four points (runs?).
David Shillingford, an Island resident and one of the club founders and lead organizers of the cricket match, said one of his favorite things about the Shelter Island match is how it compared to those in Britain.
“Back in the U.K., this event wouldn’t have the same novelty as it does here,” he said. “We wouldn’t even register as a very good pub team, but here we’re the best cricket players on the East End of Long Island.”
While no pub was available, delicious food and Pimms, the quintessential British drink, were provided by SALT.