by Ian Gason
There are a lot of good signs pointing to a revival in fortunes for the Tokyo Wombats. When a veteran freak like Luke Ray talks of the old days, people should sit up and listen. To all those newcomers, welcome. You’ve joined something more than a club. The Wombats are family. I can’t imagine life down here in Gotham City without the other Wombats.
Likewise the signs were good for our Chiang Mai Sixes 2012, a full squad of six, coming from all over Australia and Japan. Only three of us made it in 2011, the year which co-incidentally was also a low point for you guys in Tokyo. So we Chiang Mai veterans were confident of a good week in Thailand….until we lost former Prez and much loved bat thrower, Jarrad Shearer. I’ll be going in to bat for the grumpy one, even if that means copping one of Etsuko’s karate kicks to the head. Cos that’s what Wombats do.
Like the Wombats, the Chiang Mai Sixes is family. What is the CM6s? Essentially, it’s an international amateur six-a-side comp, played in northern Thailand for a week at the start of April. The setting is superb, the organization first class. The cricket varies from quality to ordinary, but it’s not about stats and winning. Although Jarrad is so focused on the cricket he might sometimes throw the toys out of the pram, most of the 300 people in town that week are there for fun, for a laugh. Whether you make a quick fire 30 or like me a golden duck, you’ll spend the whole week smiling. For regulars like myself and Marty, the year doesn’t begin in January- it begins in April in Chiang Mai.
This year’s squad was brimming with potential, with lapsed tourist Zulu re-joining us, as well as Guinness Beast Gavin Beath. Once-a-year Wombat Paul Knighton was there as usual. Local boy Monty filled the gap created by Estuko Shearer’s tyranny, and proved to be the best local pick-up yet. On old high school mate of mine, Matt, helped make up the numbers.
Saturday night we caught up with all the people we’d made friends with over the last 8 years, had a laugh about the first tour spew, the stabbing we saw in Nana, and just looked forward to the coming week. CM6s involves a lot of late nights, a fair amount of alcohol, very little sleep, the famously ordinary hotel breakfast, and more alcohol. Cricket is used to give this all some context.
The organisers must have a sense of humour as they put us in the Group Of Death- death by vodka that is. Fortunately local tobacco farmers The Floggers & Robbers started drinking after their 9am game and were truly flogged when we played them. A fine session with those lovable Zimbabweans is something frightening- usually. In a messy but amusing post-game drinks, barely a single bottle of vodka was downed. Oh, and we won the game. Bad news was Marty’s hammy gave out, 4 days ahead of schedule. No more cricket for him.
Marty was replaced by Max Coombes, son of Irish Pub’s Chris. This plucky 12 year old was our player of the week (post-tour nominations withstanding). Not only could he bat and bowl (and run!) but he was a pleasure to have around. A great young man.
He debuted in an un-losable game, v The Stuffed Beavers, proudly no wins from 21 games. An easy win was followed by a tough 4 bottle fine session. Chilli-infused Gilbys vodka. Max’s Dad and Mum (Brazilian Lu) took the many fines (vodka shots) handed out to our new star. Beavers are a social team, so fines were handed out for taking guard, wearing “body armour” (ie thigh pad) or Lance Armstrong glasses, for warming up, for having new shoes, looking like Tony Ramos, not knowing who Tony Ramos is…You get the picture.
The Ios Malakas have one or two good players, but coming into the game, we had just one thought: the fine session. We scratched out 48. Malakas reversed their batting order and made 24. The only cricket I want to mention (it wasn’t a match for the highlight reel) was Zulu’s dropped catch. Having again missed the game plan (actually play to win) Zulu “missed” a skied sitter. So, next ball, I took aim and let rip the effort ball and sconned my keeper in the chest!
Another 4 bottle session followed- our first meeting with these legends of Chiang Mai. Lots of laughs, lots of memories forgotten, and lots of good times. The cost of two casualties a small price to pay. Monty, a tour virgin, and Zulu made the school-boy error of piping up too often and paid the price, their bodies scattered around the ground.
From here on in it was down hill, the wheel nuts loosened and the wheels came duly falling off. We made a great effort v former champs the Gloucester Gypsies, with 12 year old Max dismissing their captain Bill- a former County player. 44 should’ve been an easy task. A dubious LB and a couple of wides not called, well that’s cricket. But the real problem began when Monty’s calf packed up, followed shortly by Zulu’s quad giving in! 2 batsmen batting on one leg, and absurdly denied runners! 2 runs we lost by, which meant our finals hopes hung on a 9am game. Well, you know how that ends. It began with half of our original squad hobbled, no keeper, a 12 year old, and a 60 year old, a broken finger, at least 6 hang-overs, very little sleep, and an unseen ring-in hopefully turning up at 9 to play! The winner advanced to the semis on Saturday at 9am, so the verdict after the inevitable pasting was unanimous: Thank F**k we don’t have to play tomorrow!!
Cricket is an essential part of the week, cos without it we wouldn’t be there. But the 40 minutes of cricket you play a day are the means to an end: making new friends, and catching up with old ones. It’s an extremely social competition, but with some good cricket played (not by us usually…). The blokes you run up against on the field and the blokes you’ll be sharing a laugh with after the game, and running into (and probably doing shots with) in the bars at night. Some of them will become the friends you look up on the other side of the world, the friends you look up when you move to Dhaka, or the blokes who will share a game of footy with you back in Gotham.
Personally, I was glad to see the return of the yukatas for the pig picking night. The pigs might have had too much sauce again, and the band played the same songs, but the sight of 6 or 7 farangs (gaijins) running around Chiang Mai in yukatas at night sure gets a response! Even a few hysterical tears couldn’t put a damper on things. Also, a long over-due first drinks with with the Yarrambat boys was a highlight, despite our fears for what this means for future tours! Seeing young Max, a lad I have known for 6 or 7 years, make his Chiang Mai debut and perform so well was great. I could go on with more stories (and when I see you in August I probably will) but what made the week for me was simple: Marty, Gavin, Zulu, Paul, Monty, Matt and Max.
I hope that some of you new blokes (and some of you lapsed blokes, you know who you are Reggie and Rayos) are interested in coming along. I can’t recommend it enough. Talk to Gavin. Talk to Jarrad. Talk to Rayos or Reggie. And if you can get a week off work, come. You won’t regret it.
March 31 to 6, 2013. (The Smokin’ Pete Tour)