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Do You Know Who I Am? I Am The Official Scorer for Cricket Peru! Oops, no I’m not, the babysitter can’t make it.

  Posted on: June 20th, 2010

14th April, 2010. It’s a glorious day for cricket. The groundsmen are refreshing the somewhat meandering boundary line; Vishal is overseeing net practice for the newcomers; Harry is busy on the cell phone routing hungover players out of bed; and Peter, the Chilean cricket convert, is attempting to explain the game in Spanish to some of the Peruvian WAGs. “Well, you see there are two bateadors and the boleador has to try to knock over those palitos…”

I have in my West Indies 2007 World Cup souvenir knapsack my sharpened pencils, my scoresheets, my ‘First Steps to Cricket Scoring’ manual downloaded off the internet, my thermos flask of lime juice and my open-toed sandals for when the score moves into double figures. I really must buy a calculator. 

I have persuaded my husband to look after his son for the day. The sense of liberation is exhilarating.

When Julian, my fellow thespian from the Christmas pantomime, informed me via Google Chat that the cricket season was starting and that I was welcome to come watch any time at the Lima Cricket Club I agreed enthusiastically. So enthusiastically in fact that he ventured tentatively; “You wouldn’t like to be the scorer would you? We’ve been looking for one for ages.” I agreed even more enthusiastically. So enthusiastically in fact that he added – even more tentatively – “you do know how to score don’t you?” 

“Of course!” I lied breezily, frantically entering “how to score a cricket match” into the search box at the top of the webpage.

As every cricket fan like me knows, watching the West Indies get their asses kicked or keeping score for a university pick-up-side match is one thing. Deciphering an official ICC scoresheet and converting results into statistics is entirely another. One might think that cricket in Peru would fall firmly into the “pick-up-side” category but one would be sorely mistaken. 

The Lima Cricket (and Football) Club is the oldest sports club in Peru and one of the oldest in Latin America, having celebrated its 150th anniversary last year. The LCFC was founded in 1859 at the height of the “guano and railway” era, which brought to Lima a great influx of English immigrants. English residents in Lima and Callao in that year rose to 1,397 as opposed to 442 at the start of the 20th century. Over time the LCFC became a multi-sport club and the cricket element waxed and waned, presumably depending on the number of dedicated ex-pats living in Lima at any given time. The first match against a foreign team was against Sir Pelham Warner’s MCC side on its way back from Australia via Chile and Peru in 1927. The former England captain, Freddie Brown, was born in Lima and his father took five wickets against the MCC. 

Today, Cricket Peru – the national cricket association – has a national team plus four registered teams in Lima and one in Tacna that compete in domestic tournaments. After their 2006 season, the association applied for and got affiliate membership of the International Cricket Council (ICC). Peru is now in the ICC Americas Division III and ranked 75th in the world.

But they’ve never had an official scorer before. And believe me, it’s a tough job. Last week I scored for the first ever regional youth tournament held in Peru. “Awwww” you say? “All those Argentinean, Chilean and Peruvian under-13s looking so cute in their oversized sports shorts trotting around with their cricket bats and helmets”. IMG_0712 (smaller)

Ha! You try figuring out who’s who between two completely identical ‘batsmidgets’ wearing identical gear. And the scoring box thronged with eager munchkins impatiently wanting to know their own personal score and fighting to change the scoreboard before the over is finished. Compounded by clueless Peruvian parents – eager to support their sons but having absolutely no idea of the rules of the game – poking their heads in through the window, blocking my view of the pitch and asking hopefully “Is it true the other team beat Peru by only one point?” “Is 16 for 5 off 11 overs a good score?” (Of course, when Peru won their first ever match in a truly nail-biting finish the jubilation was enormous and even the scorer may have shed a few proud tears.)

It’s slightly easier to tell the grown-ups apart. You can generally memorise whose tummy is bigger or who is wearing the Man. U. T-shirt, the wraparound shades or the non-regulation Auzzie beach shorts. 
But you still have to concentrate hard and have a certain mental toughness. A typical day at the office goes something like this:

Tony comes in to bowl, it’s a wide and the batsmen steal a run. Small cross with dot in upper left hand corner. Bowling a bit tighter now, two dot balls and an appeal for LBW. Oh, square cut to the boundary, 4 runs. But wait, umpire signals a no-ball so (tongue sticking out of the side of my mouth) circle with a 4 in it on the cumulative total and in the bowler’s figures, 4 to the batsman, one in the extras and 5 against the bowler – I think. 

Brrringg. 

That’s over, change of bowler, Miles. We’re into double figures now so my shoes are off and my feet up on the table to assist in calculation. 

Brrringg. 

Was that a signal for bye or leg bye? 

Brrringg. 

“Si mi amor?” 

“The baby’s crying” 

“Did you give him milk?” 

Click

An antipodean voice yells “my ball!” Dropped catch. Two singles, a dot ball and what was that last signal? No ball? Leg bye? Short run? Oh, the umpire is just answering his phone. 

Brringg. 

“Si mi amor?” 

“He won’t stop crying. When are you coming home?” 

“Walk him around a bit” 

“I AM walking him around! He’s still crying” 

“Perhaps if you stopped yelling “callate, enano!” at him at the same time?”

Click.

“This is it Lima Cricket!” roars Julian, captain of LCFC and the Napoleon of the pitch, coming in to bowl his speciality: a ball so cunningly mediocre that the batsman invariably loses his wicket through sheer puzzlement. Record time of wicket, cumulative score at fall, how out, bowler’s name, batsman’s total score, time of entry of following batsman, small w in bowler’s box, check how many balls left in over… 

Bbbbrrringg.

“When are you coming home? I gave him medicine and everything but he won’t stop crying.” 

“Don’t give him medicine just to make him sleep! He’s not sick.” 

“But he won’t stop crying. He must be sick!”

“He’s bored. Why don’t you take him to the park? It’s just across the road.” 

Dot ball, a leg bye and, – oh my God – who took that catch? 

“I’m not taking him to the park! I’m watching football! When are you coming home?”

“So you want me to stop watching cricket, leave here now, take a taxi, come home and take him to the park across the road because you’re watching football?”

Click.

Change of bowler. Who’s that? “Bowler’s name!” I yell across the field. “Dinesh” floats back the reply. I have no Dinesh on my team list. “Who??” I yell. “Lakmal!” they shriek “everybody calls him Dinesh.” Except on the team list obviously.

Bbbbrrringgg. 

“Juliet! When are you coming home? What’s more important to you? Cricket or your son?” 

Dot ball, wide, single and over, “Hmmm? Sorry, I didn’t hear you just now.” 

Click.

Brrrrringgg

Brrringggg

Fortunately, Cricket Peru is paying me just enough to cover babysitting fees.

 

“There is a widely held and quite erroneous belief that cricket is just another game”
Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

“I don’t ask my wife to face Michael Holding, so there’s no reason why I should be changing nappies.” 
Ian Botham

 This is an excerpt from Juliet Solomon’s blog on life in Lima: http://peloinformal-livefromlima.blogspot.com.