Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Woodcutters Revolution - nestaquin

There is a myth that has penetrated the media that the International Cricket Council are the custodians of cricket. This fancy waxes that the ICC, from their majestic ivory towers, dispense their wisdom to all the cricketing world. The benevolent bureaucrats rule and the cricket family humbly obeys. Leather hits willow and we all live happily ever after, picnicking under a shady pavilion on a field of green.

What poppycock and cowpats. If the spinners at the ICC ever took up cricket, batsman would find them unplayable. Corporate giants may sit at their feet paying tribute for little more than a big name tag, a few nibblies and an airconditioned box but many in the cricketing world know better.

For those that still hold to the myth, the current World Cup serves as a reminder to its fallacy. Without going into details, it is obvious to most that the ICC have little compassion for the good cricketing folk of the Caribbean. Ridiculous ticket prices, draconian rules of stadia entry and disrespect for the local cricket culture all serve as evidence of the ICC’s true agenda. To feather their own nests and be damned with the cricket. Entrusting the smart suited, tax evading bourgeois of the ICC to care for cricket is akin to permissing mining companies the right to veto environmental legislation.

“Tis an outrage, mon,” shouts Jimmy Mackintosh above the cacophony of traffic in Factory Road outside the splendidly titled Recreation Ground. “Here in Saint Johns cricket is as natural as breathin’ de air.” He pauses and stares with fiery bloodshot eyes as a truck rumbles past and then shouts: "Ja Ja give us all de air we need. We have bats and balls. We need no ICC. We join with our brothers an’ sisters not de oppressor.” The seabreeze blows a rope of salt and pepper hair across his face and he moves closer. “Listen to me when I tell you mon, Babylon will fall when da revolution come.”

Jimmy knows a secret. The revolution has begun and unsurprisingly has its roots in the seemingly quiet hamlet of Franklin, Tasmania. The art of civil disobedience runs strong through families in the area and has been practised for near on two centuries. Thoreau’s Walden is a popular bedtime story and many a house has a picture of Mahatma on the back of the toilet door. Considering that nearby Port Arthur was a keener nineteenth century version of Guantanamo Bay, the art probably has Celtic origins which the prisoners mischieviously transplanted upon arrival.

The headquarters of this new revolution is in the solar powered, weatherboard clubrooms of the Woodcutters Cricket Club. The Green political movement accidently began its journey in the same clubrooms in 1968. At the season ending presentation dinner, under a banner that read, ‘POSSUMS ARE PEOPLE TOO!’, Dr Robert Brown, the flamboyant pediatrician and slow medium trundler presented the riddle that still remains unsolved: “We use the air as a sewer and piss in the water. We enthusiastically poison the earth. We destroy a forest and a desert appears. So where the fuck is a tired possom supposed to kip?”

The Woodcutters as it is commonly known was established by the brothers Flynn in 1824. During the early decades of the colony, the population in the Channel was sparse and predominately male. Denied the opportunity to compete for mates, the brothers, during one particuarly boozy and sexually violent evening with a crew of whalers, wisely decided to express their manliness with bat and ball. For twenty seven long months, with axe and pick they cleared the ancient Antarctic Beech forest beside the Huon River at Franklin, and created the Woodcutters Cricket Ground. The ground’s dimensions remained intact until 1975, when the southern boundary was shortened to accommodate a permaculture garden to provide fresh salads at the lunch interval. The Woodcutters are fiercely independent and have had numerous run ins with the ICC since its invention in 1909 as the Imperial Cricket Council and it would seem, they are finally fed up.

Peg Milkinghorne, alpaca stud owner and current club secretary explains: "Our troubles with the ICC go back along way.” Methodically searching through a battered, olive green filing cabinet she produces a yellowing document and sighs, “here it is”. She sits at her sassafras desk: “This was the first letter we received from London. It is dated the sixth of May, 1910. It basically says that the king has appointed the men of the ICC as the guardians of cricket and that we must follow their direction. It ends with the phrase For King and Empire.” A little giggle escapes Peg’s lips, "Always get a chuckle around here", smiling she continues: “England is a fair stretch from Franklin, love. Did you know that outer space is closer?”

Between satellite video calls to Antigua and Barbados, Peg gave me a summary of the many disputes The Woodcutters have had with the burghers of Lords. She told of the axing of the back foot law and how it ignited an umpire strike and caused more than a few retirements. “It was a terrible time, dear. More than one match ended unfinished in fisticuffs.”

The season in which field restrictions arrived caused even more confusion and consternation. “They have no respect for the conventions.” Peg explained how the Woodcutters still used the ‘Code of 1744’ for cricket related measurements. “We have a Gunter’s chain to measure the pitch and use an ell-wand for other measurements. We could find no Saxon measuring implement that was the required length for the inner circle. Despite many letters back and forth to London and more recently Dubai, we still have no resolution to this problem.” She sheepishly added: “The ICC eventually sent a measuring tape and a box of white Kookaburras. The tape was quite useful for indoor bowls and renovating the club kitchen but the white balls proved difficult to see against the sightboard. The club donated the balls to the widow Bella Hunt.” She paused to look through the window at a flock of Red Breasted Black Cockatoo descending on the outfield before continuing: “Her husband Ted was an opening bat in the tragic premiership winning 1964/65 team that was decimated by conscription and Vietnam.” Another mournful peek through the pane. “Anyway, she had plenty of room in the shed and wrote the club a lovely thankyou saying how useful they were in training cattledog pups, growing tomatoes and drowning feral cats.”

The recent law change that restricts the number of bouncers per over produced such outrage within the Woodcutters that counselling sessions with Helen Evenstar, the local aromatherapist were made available. Fast bowlers like Bluey Thomson were even more angry than usual. “The bats have helmets, what’s their problem?”. He spat on the ground and rubbed the congealed saliva into the dirt with his sole. “My old man Nobby, who took 426 wickets for the ‘Cutters would be rolling in his grave. I’m pissed off. Helen gave me a lavender pouch to put under my pillow but all it does is make my dog sneeze all bloody night. I had to chain him to the ute. I can tell you, it’s bloody cold in bed without Max.”

Action was needed. In fine democratic tradition the Woodcutters lobbied their rival clubs’ fast bowlers and stacked the Channel Association election. Their charismatic former champion all rounder Hugo Churchill stood as a candidate. Hugo quoted Edmund Burke ad nauseum and won the top job in a landslide. Immediately, the restriction on short pitched bowling was scrapped as was the free hit for overstepping the crease. Other changes soon followed to even up the battle between bat and ball.

Whilst travelling the state classing wool, mulesing and comparing Merino scrotums, Hugo convinced others to thumb their nose at the ICC. Using the slogan "If it wasn’t for bumpers Hilfy would be bricklaying”, he convinced every Association on the island to reject the ICC missive. Soon mainland associations joined the insurrection. Kalgoorlie was first and Cootamundra, Wee Waa and Mullumbimby soon followed. Antiguan Jimmy Mackintosh, a cousin of Curtly Ambrose and brother in law to Andy Roberts, heard of the grassroots campaign against the ICC at the Cornerstone Roots reggae festival and quietly convinced the Saint Johns cricket association to get on board. Similar grassroots campaigns are beginning to take root in Matabo, Stanley, Bridgetown and Invercargill.

The Tasmanian Cricket Board elections are slated for May 2007 and Hugo with team of burly fast men, is standing. The word around the traps is that Hugo is becoming a megolamaniac that will win hands down. The suits are worried and currently they are running a series of unprecedented political propaganda advertisements between overs during the World Cup. Whilst images of Tasmania’s win in the Sheffield Shield final flitter across the screen, an insincere voiceover informs of the inspiring work the current administation are doing. Incredibly the commercial finishes with Ben Hilfenhaus clocking Simon Katich with a bouncer!

The Woodcutters expect that they will have control of Cricket Australia within the decade, not from violent resistance but from stacking elections with disgruntled fast bowlers. As an opening batsman I find this political situation a bit like taking strike on the first morning of a match. Disturbing and yet thrilling. The thought of the unknown always is.

The ICC have failed to heed the first lesson that cricket teaches. Watch the ball. Or as Hugo Churchill so eloquently puts it: “The good shepherds of the Weald invented the grand game of cricket and not one member of the ICC has ever sheared a sheep. It’s a bloody disgrace. Their days are numbered. The revolution has begun."

18 comments:

offside said...

Nesta,

fascinating stuff! I might need Chantal and Alison to translate some of the Crickettalk into English yeah? But I was lol, even though I'm sure a lot of witticrickettisms flew by me like the Red Breasted Black Cockatoo, only more discreetly.

Seriously, it's a well crafted, gripping read that held my interest through to the end, like a cricket match just can't.

More about Tasmania, please, if you're so inclined. I'm sure you've made greengrass very happy too with Wee Waa and Mullumbimby, even though they don't rhyme with Mahalo.

Cheers

nestaqquin said...

Thank you for the kind words offside. Being a lazy sod I'd never felt the compulsion to write creatively. Greengrass' 'Why I Love Pseudscorner' article from earlier in the week inspired me to have a go. I promise another Tasmanian article in a week or two.

And Lord Ebren you have my gratitude for the time and effort given. Thank you

Zephirine said...

Nestaquin, I really enjoyed this! Though I agree that the thought of world domination by fast bowlers is a little...disquieting.

You may not have thought about writing creatively, but you can certainly do it. More please.

As I reported earlier this year, current research indicates that the evidence for cricket being invented by shepherds is slender, while there is plentiful evidence that it was invented by milkmaids. But don't tell the Woodcutters that, we don't want any gender anxiety at this stage of their campaign.

nestaquin said...

zeph, too kind. thankyou.

The Woodcutters are aware of the revised history concerning milkmaids. According to club records milkmaids invented girl's cricket. Men's cricket has a different history altogether.

Also I have an invitation for Gav and the girls to attend the Woodcutters season opening 20/20 fixture in September.

Bluey read your last effort and has volunteered to help the girls understand the hidden mysteries of the game if they come.

Zeph said...

Thanks for the invite, Nesta, I think the girls may well prefer 20/20 owing to their somewhat short attention span.
It will probably depend on whether Gavin's prepared to cough up for the fares.

greengrass said...

Nesta,

a grand read!

My etymological nostril strongly suspects that Wee Waa was originally settled by the "Wee Frees", but Mullumbimby has me stumped.

As a former closing bat, I well know that those fat bowlers can be quite terrifying. The old pro at my childhood cricket club, Sid Ceasar, was an Aussie (a Tasmanian?); he used to say "Let me have men about me that are fat."
I do my best to heed him.

I'm in! When you get some of those Che Guevara t-shirts done with a photo of Hugo, please send me one (a black one, please, size FE).

Yours upside-down,

gg

MotM said...

Nesta - You write this straight off the bat, no nets, no taking guard, just boundary after boundary?

Absolutely blinding stuff - so blinding that I have just spent ten minutes googling!

I look forward to more Pontingesque quantities of Tassie-related stuff!

nestaquin said...

motm and green

A big thankyou for taking the time to read it and I am thrilled that you enjoyed it.

I took up the greengrass challenge of writing for other writers enjoyment.

A grand idea and a dangerous one. The pen being mightier than the sword and sport a universal language.

peace and pleasure
Happy Easter

nestaquin said...

Motm,

A few came off the sweet spot but I had a short net a day or two before. I posted the following at the GU and this sparked the idea of overthrowing the ICC by democratic means.
---------------------------
There seems to be a myth floating around that the ICC are the custodians of the game. I could probably make an argument to show this is the case but like Agnew's writing and bowling, it wouldn't be strong.
The true custodians of the game are people like Marcus' dear mother making the tea and sandwiches at Taunton and Stan the local plumber, who I see each afternoon watering the pitch, painting the lines and mowing the outfield after work at my local ground.
Lovable rogues like the elderly Lily Duggan, who whist chainsmoking and drinking tea with a nip of scotch, neatly fills in the scorebook in a kaleidoscope of colours for the kid's match on Saturday morning then backs up again in the afternoon for the firsts, seconds or thirds.
Blokes like Haggis who claims to have played for decades and finds time to pass on his experience to the U/10's and anyone else that will listen. And good men like Mouth, who believe that cricket can teach a lad the important lessons of life.
There are tens of thousands of people the world over that are cricket's custodians. I'm confident the game's in safe hands no matter what mess the ICC creates internationally.
---------------------------

MotM said...

More insightful, not to say inciteful, stuff. And thanks for the very kind words.

Over at GU SlimJim and I have posted this

slimjim68
You'll find the address here folks:
http://www.icc-cricket.com/icc/contact-us.html


MouthoftheMersey

I shall be copying my letter to the Chief Executives of these companies http://www.icc-cricket.com/icc/partners/

for those naive enough to think that letters might make a difference.

Slim also posted this
http://content-uk.cricinfo.com/wc2007/content/current/story/288885.html which made me half sad and half angry.

Great to have you aboard.

greengrass said...

nestaquin,
this is seriously good writing.

You are an entertaining writer with something to say.

Though Pseuds' Corner is a site for sore eyes - probably the best site in the vicinity of the moon - I am sadly aware that by far from everyone has seen the site.

If I were in your shoes, I would be looking to make a bob or two from having this - and other pieces - printed in, for example, those funny old things made from pulped timber.

gg

nestaquin said...

gg

Perhaps we could all make a few bob. "The Best of Psuedscorner Vol 1" has a nice ring to it.

Sporting stories with a twist from every corner of the globe.

This is what people who have read it say!

Gripping

More discreet than an airborne Cockatoo

More please

Disquieting

yours upside down

Absolutely blinding stuff

those funny old things

Do yourself a favour and buy it. You won't regret it.

mimi said...

nesta: this had me transfixed! Beautiful writing and a lovely story to tell. I don't want to google to know what's fact or fiction, it's just all wonderful.
If you want to know a bit more about girls and the cricket, send me your email and I'll send you the adventures of Posh Girl in the Caribbean.
mimi@lydcott-house.co.uk

BlueinBetis said...

A great read Nesta, truly fantastic.

Lovely to see that the spirit of taking on the suits is still alive and kicking in cricket. I haven't seen any of world cup matches; living as I do in a country that doesn't play the BEST sport ever.

Offside, believe me, this is your sport, you have to learn how to play and appreciate the game. It's the only game in the world I believe where drinking alcohol is compulsory, and I also think that pakaloo just makes it better. Football just goes too quickly when pakaloo'd...

Thanks for this Mr Nesta, wonderful stuff. I would say 10 not out so far, and he looks like he's got his eye in.

nestaquin said...

thank you betis and mimi

To save on stamps you can send any correspondence to

nestaquin@yahoo.com.au

postern said...

Nes, arguably the best we've seen on Pseuds (though we're not awarding medals, right?). Thank you; a lovely read.

How small is Tassie? Do you Matt Febey?

nestaquin said...

Thank you again for all the comments.

Medals? Over rated. An ex olympic rower ebayed his gold medal. He got 2250 AUD. For all that slog. The taste of success doesn't last long. He's on the dole, now. Surprisingly there are no real jobs for strong rowers since the invention of the outboard. They should award Olympians (and others) big fat cheques or a plot of land or a few cows. Just give them something useful!

The Mattfebey is a popular dance at the Snug Bowling Club. Especially on 'Back to the Fifties' nights. Those blue haired ladies smoke up the dancefloor. Tassie is about as small as England only bigger. There's also 60 million less people and 20 million more wallabies.
Keep on Postern

pepp said...

Ilook forward to your expose of various private 'tours' by AU cricketers, nesta.
peppi7@tpg.com.au

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