By Vijay Shah
For my day job I work as a data integrity assistant for a conferencing, events and training company called Informa plc, one of the world’s largest market share holders in this industry. I originally started out about five years ago as a database researcher for one of Informa’s subsidiaries, IIR Conferences Ltd (once a separate company which was merged into Informa several years ago). The database department guys are a really cool, chatty and lively bunch, and I practically consider them a second family. When you have been working in the same company and even the same office for such a long time, you become ‘part of the furniture’ and you make a lot of friends.
As part of my employer’s worker engagement policy and corporate responsibility initiative, staff get a lot of little bonuses and benefits. It varies from department to department, but in the database division, we have every year a paintballing trip and also a company-wide football tournament which is well received and gets most of the guys here excited. I am not as good at playing football like I was in my youth, and paintballing, while it appeals to the Call of Duty buzzkill psycho in me, is not really my cup of tea. I’m not generally up for bruises, welts and paint stains. For some reason, I am usually iffy about participating in corporate events. It just feels a bit, well, cheesy and brown-nosing. And our department’s football team, though they try their level best, are always ripped to shreds by the more experienced opponents.
Well, something changed all that. Last week my Outlook inbox took receipt of an ‘attention-all-staff’ email circular from none other than our company’s chief executive, who enjoys a comfortable tax-free existence in Switzerland. Informa, it cheerily announced, was to host its first ever indoor cricket championship. The gentleman’s pastime of lush green pitches and leather striking against willow was going to get the Informa treatment. The tournament is going to be held annually, and this year it will take place on the 14th of September here in London. The venue is the Play on Sport indoor arena (100 Preston’s Road, Wood Wharf Business Park, Wood Wharf, London E14 9SB – http://www.playonsports.co.uk/), which has around 3000 square metres of playing space for indoor cricket and net sports like tennis. There’s also facilities included, such as a bar, and a small eaterie. Batting and smashing boundaries does make for a hungry and thirsty cricketer!. All the kit and paraphernalia our teams will need is supplied by the venue, so at least I won’t have to spend several frantic hours and a large portion of my salary trying to purchase bats, helmet, shinpads, cricket whites etc etc from Ebay/Amazon/Ian Botham.
Indoor cricket is slightly different from the outdoor version. We can only have ten players, as opposed to the 11 you would find in a Test match, for example. All players, apart from substitutes, must both bowl and bat. Unlike outside cricket, you supposedly cannot get bowled or run out, you simply have runs (points) deducted from your team’s score. I will have to get acquainted with the rest of the rules soon.
Apart from being a good day of fun and exercise (which I badly need), the cricket championship is in aid of charity. Each squad needs to submit a one-off flat payment of £50 to the tournament organiser. All monies collected are for the World Cancer Research Fund (http://www.wcrf-uk.org/) to help them in their goal to research and find cures for this twisted illness. The donation is made online, and this also applies to the squad entry forms and such formalities. Unfortunately, dear Brainiacs, being a company tournament, it’s only open solely to employees of Informa businesses. Sorry.
Upon immediate receipt of the Email, I adjusted my monitor to show it to Noor, my colleague, desk neighbour and very good mate. Noor is from India, where the population is extremely fanatical about cricket, like how Britons consider football their national religion, or how Americans fill out Superbowl stadia to choking point. He lives and breathes cricket. Watches it online, reads about it, plays it. After digested the email, his eyes went uncomfortably wide and within five minutes, he took on the position of team captain with precision and military fervour. He began calling on some of the other cricket fans in our part of the office, convincing potential players and enlisting his troops. Even I, who had hardly played any real sport since my PE lessons in secondary school, was swept along with the buzz.
I was a little worried, and still am about my playing ability though. It has been ages since I last held a cricket bat, and that was only an informal session with some mates at the local park. I had not even watched any televised matches since the World Cup of 2011. Fortunately my niece of nearly 3 years of age gave me substantial catching practice every time she decided to lug one of her milk bottles/toys/trainers at me (thanks Nye-Nye). My many years of beers, and a kebab-infused high carbohydrate diet had not completely taken my almost gazelle-like running speed, and as far as I am aware, I may still have a dangerous overarm bowling technique. Just about. Confidence is the key to winning though, and as we have very few people in our department who understand the rules of cricket – with only a handful of all mixed ability players, I was fine with throwing my weight behind the new squad.
A squad with no name, as of yet. While the Indian Premier League (the FA Cup of Twenty20 cricket) has inspiring ‘go get-’em team names like the Kolkata Knight Riders, Delhi Daredevils and Chennai Super Kings, our team needed a name that could not only sound formidable, but keep us working together and united under a common banner. There is no ‘I’ in ‘team’, as coaches always helpfully point out. Me and Noor did a little brainstorming to find a decent enough name. One suggestion from Jhumur, the only female in our outfit, got shelved by the captain because it did not do it for him. She suggested ‘Informa Super Kings’ like the Chennai Super Kings (her favourite team). Another team member, Rohit, offered up the moniker ‘Tendulkar Re-Ignited’ after the legend that is Sachin. That could work.
Here are the possible names we have as of today’s article publish date. Noor has put me in charge of coming up with some more names, me being creative at that sort of thing. So far we have:
1. Balls of Fury (a suggestion by Rohit)
2. Boundary Killers (my one)
3.Chicken Chasers (my one as well; in honour of Aveer, who is always one to harass hens lol)
4. Knight Riders (as in a certain team from West Bengal, but for some reason I keep thinking of a young, leather jacketted David Hasselhoff and some talking car or whatever)
5. The Wicketmen (my suggestion, an influence from the old British occult film ‘The Wicker Man’ – tres sinister)
6. The Cricketers of Chaos (mine as well, we probably expect to obliterate a few windows or opponents with our sixers, either that or our final score will be so low it will look like it had been tallied up by an umpire from the darkest depths of cricketing Hell)
7. Let’s Play Baseball (from Rohit, perfect for confusing the other teams and throwing them off their game)
8. Tendulkar Re-Ignited (see paragraph above)
The make-up of our team is as follows:
TEAM CAPTAIN: Noor
MAIN PLAYERS: Vijay (me), Rohit, Rahul, Ashley, Mehfuz, Hany, Dewan
SUBSTITUTES: Aveer, Jhumur
POSSIBILITIES: Carol, Sunny, Shady
However, the team lineup could at this early stage still change, you know if someone gets sick, changes their mind or gets fired, but this is how it is shaping up.
With only about five weeks to go before the first ball is bowled at Poplar, we are hurriedly trying to arrange training sessions, scrape the money together and get everyone and everything on side so we can stand with pride at the trophy presentation and say that we made both ourselves and our company achievers. But worse comes to worse, we are having a buffet after the match, so we can drown out our sorrows with sparkling mineral water and reheated chips. Still, at the end of the day, it is not the winning that matters, it is the taking part 🙂