It seems a little odd to be writing what is intended to be a light-hearted article the day after the massacre of some ‘real’ writers in Paris. I would like to think that they would approve of my attempts at humour and that they would want any writer to continue to ply their trade, whatever their lowly status and standard! I would like to dedicate this week’s Team of the Week to all those who lost their life for utilising their right to freedom of expression.
Cricket of course is a wonderful unifying sport. The Islamic world has a proud tradition, as exemplified by the Pakistan team and gifted individuals such as Moen Ali and Hashim Amla. It somehow seems apt that a bunch of youthful, enthusiastic and talented cricketers from Shrewsbury School travelled to Dubai, the new home of the Pakistan cricket team, where they experienced wonderful hospitality and enjoyed excellent facilities. Having spent several days there, they then journeyed on to South Africa for a tour that would keep them occupied for 17 days before returning home just in time for Christmas.
It has taken me most of the last week to read all the literature compiled by team logistics expert and scoring advisor Rob Morris. If you want a detailed analysis of each ball bowled I would refer you to that blog (http://shrschcricket.wordpress.com/). My aim is to simply try and impart something of the experience that has inspired some gifted and talented young Salopian cricketers.
I had a chance to catch up briefly with some of our talented tourists as they tucked into a tasty turkey tagliatelle. The first victim to catch my eye was George Panayi, who shortly before setting off on tour with the Shrewsbury 1st XI, received an invitation to join another great team: the England under-17s. He will be travelling back to Dubai with them next month to play against the Pakistan U17s.
George enjoyed the hard and bouncy wickets he came across on tour and ended up being the leading wicket taker. His friends at supper were quick to ensure that he is keeping his feet firmly on the ground and that he maintains his modesty and hubris.
George enjoyed the cricket and in particular defeating Harrow in the last game of the tour. I imagine that he will have had benefitted from getting used to the conditions in Dubai in terms of the England tour. I was right; “I will have benefitted from getting used to the conditions in Dubai for the England tournament in February,” he told me.
Another bowler who enjoyed the fast tracks was Charlie Cook. Charlie told me that he had worked up “some serious gas”, which I believe refers to the pace of his bowling rather than another type of delivery. Charlie had been looking forward to having a bat but ended up not making it to the crease, although he did pad up in one game. “I am more of a number 12,” he admitted.
One man who did have an opportunity to perform with the bat was Worcester Academy’s Olli Westbury. Olli topped the run scorers’ charts with a string of consistent performances. As he said himself, “I was pleased to be able to produce a string of good knocks, and we are not talking conkers”.
Charlie Adams also contributed with the bat and his bowling seemed particularly productive. One teammate suggested that when Charlie came to bowl, the fielders patrolled the boundary and the batsmen seemed to find them! Charlie was quick to point to the cunning and guile which he uses to lure batsmen into his carefully laden traps. “I am keen on cunning and guile,” he told me, adding, “I learnt it all from Mr Pridgeon.”
Jamie Humes had a good tour behind the wicket. I hoped he had not resorted to sledging and I was relieved to hear him tell me that “there was no snow so there was no opportunity for sledging”. I asked Jamie if he had any lasting memories of the tour. Jamie was quick to mention the sartorial elegance of Reiss Rashid who turned up with the cricket kit he had remembered in a suitcase rather than the traditional cricket bag. Reiss told me that he has long felt the standard of cricket bags is rather average and he likes to present a more sophisticated style when arriving at cricket grounds, even if he is unable to maintain such standards on the field. Regrettably Reiss was encumbered by a long-standing knee injury. His doctor had told him not to play football at all costs, but sadly Reiss in a moment of uncharacteristic forgetfulness joined in a game on the beach, aggravated the injury and was unable to play again on the tour.
To win 11 out of 12 games on a winter tour suggests promise for the summer, even if it was a bit weird stepping off a plane in Dubai after a hard football season to play cricket in the afternoon. Charlie Home and Dan Lloyd were tough spinners to get away and the whole tour party can take great credit for the manner in which they played their cricket and behaved, according to the very positive and happy Master in Charge of Cricket and Tour Leader, Andy Barnard.
The under-15 viewpoint was similarly up-beat. Although they won fewer games, they performed with great promise and they probably had the win of the tour when they defeated the All Rounder Academy by 9 wickets. Chasing 222, they scored 225 for 1 with Jamie Crawley 119 not out and Jordan Zaza 74 not out.
The overwhelming impression I gleaned from these youthful tourists was that they enjoyed the fabulous scenery. Playing with a backdrop of Table Mountain was clearly quite special. Good beaches and pretty girls were also mentioned but another favourite was their stay with the families of the Bishops School. I asked Nav Hari if there was a pool in the garden of the family where he was staying and was surprised by his reply which was “No sir, but they did have a church.” Perhaps they were the South African equivalent of the Chappell family!
Angus Moore, Jordan Zaza and Nav were all able to compare notes with previous tours they had been on. Angus noticed quite a few differences to the Isle of Man rugby tour he had been on. “There was a long plane journey and I was able to watch ‘Elf’, thus helping me to mentally prepare for Christmas,” he told me. Nav and Jordan had previously travelled to Taunton with the Shropshire under-14s. They too noticed a few differences on this tour. They both enjoyed the free drinks (non-alcoholic) on the plane and the facilities they came across, which included the weather. Nav did feel that the pitches in South Africa were wearing a bit as it was towards the end of their season. This meant that the ball had to be hit a bit harder; “it is important to put pace on the ball if it is to fly to the boundary in an impressive manner!” he said.
All in all I am rather envious of the trip. The squad have come back with a certain swagger and confidence, perhaps because they have been in touch with bigness! As a number of them said having seen the biggest chandelier in the world in the grand Mosque in Dubai, “I have seen the light!” I have too and I am going to try and get on the next tour!
Tom Brunswick, who had toured Antigua with Rokeby School, felt that the food was cheaper and more plentiful in South Africa. He was impressed by Mr Morris’s ability to finish his steaks. He told me that Mr Shantry believed Mr Morris to be a major steak holder in the South African food industry.
There was a visit to the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, and when I saw the photos I was convinced they were taken from the plane! The tour party all went shopping in the biggest mall in the world.
This was a big tour in numerous ways. I hope I am not bigging the lads up when I say I feel confident about the summer. It could be a big one for Shrewsbury School cricket!
(For the official report of the tour, please see Cricket Tour to UAE and South Africa 2014)