By Vijay Shah and Dewan Rahman
Since my first article on the Informa indoor cricket tournament that I blogged about on the 5th August (GOOGLIES & DOOSRAS: The first ever Informa Cricket Championship), there have many changes and things had now crystallised. Our team for the match acquired a couple of extra players including our second female participant. We eventually somehow found an answer to our dilemma over the team name. Our boss, the database manager settled on ‘Jelly Daredevils’ (a jokey pun on the Indian Premier League team, Delhi Daredevils). I took a while to get this name right, and kept referring to ourselves as the Jelly Doughnuts for some strange, non-sugar-rush-related reason. Our first ever cricket team was rearing and ready to go, hopefully to turn our opponents’ legs into quivering jelly as we let fly our fury at the pitch boundaries. We weren’t going to be shaken by anyone…
Soon we got ready for the battle of bats and balls that would soon steamroll through our peaceful little existence on the 14th of September. A month of preparation took the Daredevils on regular trips to first Green Park, then Regent’s Park – both in central London. Our sojourns amongst the greenery of Her Majesty’s public gardens were an opportunity to hone and refine our batting and bowling skills. We blew away sixes that terrified squirrels and disturbed amorous couples trying to make the most of the late summer sunshine. There were plenty of boundaries to keep our fielders on their toes, as well as quite a few wides and no-balls. Surprises came thick and fast from a colleague named Jack, who initially tagged along to one of our training sessions, and then blew everyone away with his fast speed and brilliant bowling. The James brothers, Rohit and Rahul just kept on keeping our yellow and red tennis balls permanently suspended in mid-air, a feat also accomplished in devastating style by this article’s guest contributor Dewan. Jhumur and new member Yuri did the Informa database ladies proud and both really picked up the game well and got into the spirit of the team beautifully. I myself really improved too, my bowling became more finely-tuned, even helping get one unlucky guy stumped out and catching the ball deftly when it came and dropped down towards me from a great height, like a round red furry Scud missile. My confidence increased in leaps and bounds rather like those poor tennis balls.
We had a great time with the training sessions. We got some fresh air and some freedom from being chained to our desks. We supported and encouraged each other. We helped each other to improve. The JDD team became as tight as a close-knit cricketing family – close to the point where we even shared the deodorants. The dog-walkers and school children who shared the park with us at lunchtimes must have wondered what the hell was going on as balls tore like missiles through the air and loud cheers followed in their wake like sonic booms.
There were some downs too. Noor Malick, who helped organise the Jelly Daredevils and coordinated the training sessions in our early days, had to leave for India because of a family emergency. Then there was finding time for the training, very difficult when you have 37.5 hours of work to fit them around. Despite everything, we simply just pushed ahead and getting more improved. We knew in advance that some of the other fifteen teams who also entered into the Play on Sports tournament were semi-professionals who played on the Sunday League. We knew that these teams were probably made up of muscular steak-eating hunks who blasted sixes before some of the Jelly Daredevils were even potty-trained, but we were going to do our level best.
THE LINE-UP FOR THE INFORMA JELLY DAREDEVILS:
Team Captain: Dewan
Team (main players): Hany, Dewan, Rohit, Rahul, Shady, Jack and Mehfuz
Team (substitutes/part-timers): Vijay, Yuri and Jhumur
There were altogether 16 teams entered for the charity cricket match, some of them with very witty, if controversial, outfit names. Off the top of my head I remember:
- The Singh Stars
- Matthews Can’t Catch
- The Cobbled Together TCC
- Sons of Pitches
- T&F Tossers
- Adam Smith Bunnies
- Terminal 5
- Bouncers & Blockers
- Smack My Pitch Up
With the exception of the Adam Smith Bunnies, who were drawn from the Russian and Ukrainian conference sales part of the office, we had no real idea what the other teams would be like apart from the fact that a few were scarily good. We were walking in with our eyes closed, but our confidence was sky-high. We were not going to let sleepless nights and nervous jitters get us down.
The teams would be split into four groups who would bat and bowl against each other strictly in these groups. Those teams that won all their matches would progress to the semi-finals. Once there, the survivors would clash it out to see who would be crowned Informa cricket champions and receive the gallant honour of taking home one of those shiny gold mini-trophies, after feasting at a free celebratory buffet like ye olde gods of Valhalla.
First up against the Jelly Daredevils were the Adam Smith Bunnies. Despite their cutesy-cuddly team name, these guys were tough soldiers, raised in the grey streets of Moscow and lashed by the ice-cold Siberian winds – to be fair maybe some of them were actually as English as a cheese and cucumber sandwich, but I am trying to convey an atmosphere here. We had some experience with the Bunnies at our Regent’s Park training grounds and we managed to chase these rabbits back into their warrens. But this was no five-minute Bugs Bunny cartoon, rather something more sinister like the deranged General Woundwort of Watership Down. They knew our tactics and weaknesses and we needed to end this Cold War before we ended up as wet jelly and ice-cream.
The Adam Smith Bunnies tried very hard to keep up as ball after ball dropped into Shady’s open hands. They held it together nicely but braised (and bruised) rabbit was clearly dish-of-the-day on the Daredevil menu, as my team took it to a respectable 27 runs or so while the Bunnies were regularly stumped, bowled and caught out leaving them with a paltry minus 7 runs. With a target of below zero, we were already set to take on the Burners.
Dressed in black, the Bouncers were your typical well-built, highly experienced county cricketers, or so we thought. They were good, but we were better, at least in this match. They elected to bat after the toss and made 20 runs to keep things safe in the early playoffs. We responded with double that. Forty-five runs from a succession of master batsmen and numerous strikes down the boundary end helped quench the Bouncers’ fire.
Our last and expectedly most crucial match was against the mysterious Terminal 5. Not a ragtag bunch of baggage handlers from Heathrow but a dedicated and skilled collective of men who seemed to live and breathe cricket. Buoyed by the two previous victories, the Daredevils went in on a tide of high expectations and euphoria. The toss between the captains meant we were fielding first. But whereas we were supping tea and cream cakes in a teddy bear’s picnic as we demolished the Bunnies and Bouncers, this felt like the Blitz and Baghdad wrapped up in one. The screen above the umpire flashed FOUR and FIVE as balls whizzed up to where I was holding onto the net with trepidation. As hard as we tried, butterfingers set in and the Daredevils soon folded as Terminal 5 took the score to an eye-watering sixty runs. This seemed an impossible target to top, and indeed it was. Not even a wicket from one of my underarm bowls could make a dent in Terminal 5’s score tally.
I think it was the first time we were seeing minuses instead of double figures and we managed to at least bring the score to zero, with a little push from the last batting pair (me and Mehfuz) who despite myself being caught twice, made at least a handful of runs between us. We managed to save face.
The English novelist John Robert Fowles once said “Cricket remains … the game of games, the sans pareil, the great metaphor, the best marriage ever devised of mind and body… it remains the Proust of pastimes, the subtlest and most poetic, the most past- and-present; whose beauty can lie equally in days, in a whole, or in one tiny phrase, a blinding split second”. The Informa charity match certainly had this in buckets and spades and put us through a rollercoaster of emotions as we veered and tensed between victory and defeat. As Daredevils’ captain Dewan also noted post-match “at least we had fun that’s all and we did our best”, we played to our maximum best and it was a thoughtful, humbling but still exciting experience. Though defeat took away the prize, we enjoyed the cordial and humane spirit that cricket endows upon its players. Magnanimous in defeat and exuberant in victory, we gladly shook hands with the Terminals; congratulating them on a game well-played. We bonded as a team over pitchers of beer. Then later some of us commiserated over hot chai lattes and coffees courtesy of Dewan’s friend at Costa Canary Wharf. At the end of the day, it is not winning that counts, but the taking part. A team of different backgrounds and playing abilities, the Daredevils rose to the challenge and played their very best. We have learnt a great deal from the experience and come 2013, and come whatever may, I can honestly say that our humble team of database researchers can dare. Dare to win.
ADDITIONAL SOURCES: LoveToKnow Corp. / Your Dictionary.