Tuesday, 6 April 2010
Big Bad Bob (no, it's not his real name) is sitting in a chair on the outer of the lush Gymkhana Club grounds, taking in the beautiful northern Thai summer sun, as a game of cricket unfolds out in the centre. Only problem is: he's actually playing. More than that, he's captain of the fielding team. Jing jing!
'As long as both me feet are inside the boundary when the ball is bowled, it's legal,' the Sumo-proportioned Englishman says. 'The umpires hate me cause I know the rules.'
Welcome to the Chiang Mai Sixes then. Think Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, and you get the spirit of this contest, which dates back 20-odd years (some of them very odd!) now. Bob is part of a team from Bahrain, and there are teams from Australia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, UK, etc. Most return year after year for the limited five overs on-field format, and the unlimited off-field format in the clubs and bars of Chiang Mai (where Bob is seen clutching the team's camel mascot in the wee hours). More than the odd maiden is bowled over, shall we say.
It's typical village green stuff, with quaint nipa-hut style stands erected for the week, colourful G&T-infused PA commentary, and good-natured heckling from the sidelines. Players' ages range from about 20 to around 200. That the club's temporary field-side bar is called 'The Legless Arms' gives you an idea, where expat wives are often seen replenishing a little bit more fluid than they're actually expending.
But it's not just an expat derby. Local development teams, sponsored by San Miguel, play with gusto ... to see teenaged Thai girls playing cricket with all the aspiration of being the next Ricky Ponting is somewhat surreal.
The only other team taking it seriously are the Cricketeers from Bangladesh. They cleaned up in 2009, and returned last weekend with a few ex-test players in their side. Unsurprisingly, they won again.
'Oh, that's just not cricket!' says Big Bad Bob as they hoist the trophy. He's got a point. But what does the rule book have to say about that?