by Ian Gason
The scoreboard only ever tells half the story, which is probably just as well given the mediocre efforts we put in in Chiang Mai this year. Looking at the results, you’d probably think the tour was a bit of a disappointment. Nothing could be further from the truth. OK, maybe, just maybe it’s true that the cricket we played was a bit disappointing. But every one of us involved in the tour had a marvelous time, and would do it all again tomorrow if we could. Well, maybe not wander off into the Floggers & Robbers tent again…..
“There’s more to playing cricket than just playing cricket,” is one of the core beliefs of the Tokyo Wombats, and the Chiang Mai Sixes tour embodies that. Good weather? Great food? Catching up with great friends from round the world? Making new ones? Playing a bit of cricket? Nights out on the town? What’s not to like?
OK, so the Dingbats (as we Wombats are known over there) didn’t cover themselves in glory. In fact the only thing that got covered was Gavin Beath’s clothing….and a tuk-tuk….but let’s not go there.
With the Tokyo contingent being just Jarrad, we were again forced into the roulette wheel of free-agents, but picked up two great lads to fill the sqaud. Two English lads living in Chiang Mai took the numbers to the required six. (Max, 4th tour, who lives in CM; myself and Marty 11 tours each being the rest. Gavin Beath did join us from Bangkok for a few days, but as a non-playing specialist drinker)
Keen to have a look at Matt and Dan, I invited them to open the batting in the first game. Sixes is a fast-paced 5 over game, where batsmen retire at 30, and a score of 60 is competitive. So, while carrying your bat in a Test is a great effort, in Sixes, it’s pretty dire. Both lads did just that, and while we ended up losing that game, that gave Marty plenty of opportunity to introduce them to vodka slammers.
Funnily, of our first three games, the only one we won was probably against our toughest opponent. It was a topsy-turvy week. Max and Jarrad batted well in the second, but in game three (which experienced punters had penned in as a Dingbat win), me and Marty couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo. Every single ball we hit went straight to a fielder – and there’s only four fielders in Sixes. I carried my bat. Marty fell 3 balls short, and yep, you guessed it, more vodka slammers. A truly unexpected loss.
Well, tours to Thailand aren’t just about scoring. It’s about friends and family. And I need to keep saying that, because in three days, we’d gone from defending Bowl Champions to genuine Spoon contenders. (Spoon being the lowest of the 5 second round divisions).
Some of our best friends are the Stuffed Beavers (no, really, that’s a cricket team….) who are some of the most ordinary cricketers and wonderful people you could hope to meet. They were our first Spoon opponent, setting up one of the highlights of the week, Coombes v Coombes: Max would be playing his Dad, Chris. The captains duly conspired – we’d bat first so the game would go the distance, and the opposing Coombes would open the batting and bowling. Extras chipped in a lot (common in Beaver games) of our 100 (from 30 balls that is!). Max didn’t get out to his Dad, and Chris didn’t get out to his son, although he did gave a tough chance down the ground which wasn’t held (common occurrence when catching with feet……).
We followed that win up with a very solid bowling performance against Perth Postels, keeping them to 36 and chasing it down in 14 balls. In fact, our bowling was tight all week. A captains’ (fine masters’?) agreement NOT to indulge in vodka slammers didn’t last long. But given it was Sixes legend Cat at the helm, it was never going to. Luckily it didn’t get as messy as the Beavers’ post-game carry-on had. Having a drink and a laugh with the opposition is the essence of the Sixes (vodka is the spirit of the Sixes) and drinking with the Beavers goes on long and late into the night. Sadly one Dingbat found himself in the wrong area (Zimbabwe) and didn’t go quite as long and late as the rest of them. (Sorry Gavin.) Perhaps someone else will be able to tell you about the Pig Picking night? Music, dancing, laughing, eating, then off into the Chiang Mai night perhaps?
Our two recruits, Matt and Dan were a welcome addition to the squad. Sharing their insights into Chiang Mai, hearing ours, joining us for nights out and taking us to places where 3 tequilas are just B100. Two very different types – Dan’s monstrous 1100cc Kawasaki a big contrast to Matt’s slightly less manly scooter- but just like us united by a love of two things: cricket and Thailand.. It was a refreshing change to have new team-mates asking us “where we off to tonight?”. And Matt’s fried chicken has made him a friend for life.
The sad passing of Richie Benaud during the week was marked, with play stopped at, yes 2:22 for two minutes, as players and spectators ringed the ground and applauded. It was marvelous. Even though Max asked who Richie Benaud was! (He’s grown up all his life in Thailand, OK?)
Those two wins put us in a semi for a rematch versus the Kimberly Crusaders, a mix of wily old salts and young lads. Another good bowling performance was backed up by some good batting from Jarrad, Max, Matt and Dan (me and Marty banished after our last effort). We had redeemed ourselves somewhat: we may have been in the Spoon, but we were at least in the Spoon final. In the Spoon final with the usual Dingbat injury curse. Jarrad was on one leg, limping, hobbling, shuffling, and Marty and myself weren’t far behind.
Sadly though that is as far as our redemption went. It was a case of “two out, all out” most of the week, and the two (Jarrad and Max) didn’t score enough to make up for the rest of us. The game did produce wonderful quote from the commentator, Chops: “Have you ever known a team to have so many injuries? They should be sponsored by the Red Cross.” Try as we always would, defending 45 just wasn’t going to happen. We started well, but I bowled the worst over I have in two years, and the Armadillos were crowned Spoon champions a few full toss/no balls into the 4th over.
Each and every one of us walked away from the ground smiling and laughing. We’d all made a whole bunch of new friends over the week, and carried on with some stupid shit with some old friends. Whether it’s those bad boys from Yarrambat, Ged and Sat-Nav from Bahrain, Shafil and his Bangladeshi boys, the mad Zimbabweans, the Irish and the Irishstanis, God-knows-who in Spiceys, there’s a story, a laugh, a joke, a friend, a memory lurking behind every bar, round every corner in Chiang Mai. It keeps us coming back.
If that wasn’t enough, there was Songkran. Songkran is the Thai water festival, which has become a nationwide water fight. Imagine a whole city dressed in floral shirts, armed to the teeth with pump-action water bazookas. Throw in a few stages where girls in white T-shirts dance to Thai pop, traffic jams, floods, drink-driving….and you have Songkran. It is insane. Awesome fun. 3 of us got bucketed in a tuk-tuk on the way to meet Matt for lunch, and walked in to a restaurant soaked head to toe, and no-one gave it a second thought. After lunch, we joined the arms race, and prowled the streets of the old city blasting and getting blasted with water. The crowds are like Grand Final day (without the bogans, and lots of fit young lasses in wet T-shirts….so nothing like GF day really…..but there were lots of people though.). We found a reliable re-filling station at one of our favourite bars, and took in and partook (Shax? Partaked?) in the spectacle. Eventually we ended up in Loi Kroi Rd (aka cow corner), which was ankle deep in water, and conducted guerilla raids while nursing a few cold beverages. This would be the last some Dingbats would see of each other for a year, but we’d had a year’s worth of fun in a week. Again.
Will I be back in 2016? Does Rose Kennedy own a black dress? Songkran may be a stretch for me in 2016, but the tour is booked in. You’d be wise to do the same. TOKYO DINGBATS 2016 CHIANG MAI SIXES TOUR: APRIL 3RD TO 9TH.