by Ian Gason
Tokyo Dingbats (aka Tokyo Wombats) made another successful trip to Thailand, their 9th tour to the Chiang Mai Sixes. More laughs were had than runs were scored, and more vodka was drunk than wickets taken. Like the Wombats in Tokyo, cricket in Chiang Mai is only part of what we do, but without it we wouldn’t be there.
Damien Fuller made this his farewell to Tokyo tour, off to an uncertain future in Africa. Phil Walker was back in his old stomping ground of Northern Thailand, seeking out a good bowl of khao soi. Marty and myself, much like old clocks, wind us up and we’ll give you the time of day, but expect us to break down sooner or later. Our local recruits from 2012 were back. Monty, threatening to stay fit all week and keep the scorers busy. Max Coombes, a year older and about a foot taller, and more confident playing in his second sixes at age 13. Paul Knighton, quiz dominator and veteran of veterans, left the playing to the mad dogs and Englishmen this year.
The tour troubles began before the tour even began, with Damien getting a leg up in the Golden Thong betting, by going to Narita and missing his Air Asia flight…..from Haneda. Full credit to him, he was up there in Chiang Mai when Marty, Phil, and myself rolled into town, hungover and battle-scarred on Friday. And he was still there at 5am bumping and grinding away at Spiceys that night. By which time, we had already had enough material for a full fine session. I mean, since when does a cupboard even look like a toilet?? Come Saturday though, Damien had been christened Harry for his Houdini trick, sensing (rightly) that Gavin Shaw (Yarrambat) spelled trouble. It’s a surprise though that the nickname hadn’t been claimed already when we found ourselves one man down on the streets of Bangkok.
Cricket began Sunday, after yet another late night involving cheap tequila and the usual bars. By now we were already at about our third spew for the week, and with a game against Awali, more to come. Awali are also struggling for numbers, and their team was Big Bob plus 5 good young Thai cricketers. We came out winners on the field, but had Awali not unknowingly left out their best batsmen, the result may have been different. The off-field result was never in doubt: Big Bob wielding the vodka, Marty head-first over the boundary. To his credit, Marty never took a backward step, even when on his knees. Getting off the mark with a Trevor Chappell-style push for one, off the bowling of a 4 foot Thai lass earned Phil a slammer, but not as many as did his dreadlocks! Sunday night, more bars, more laughs, more old friends in the spotlight. Another sleepless night followed by that famous Porn Ping breakfast.
Game Two was against Thai Thevada, the best of the local Thai talent. At 16, their captain Bank had broken my nose. At 21, he was still sending down the chin music, setting his field for a hook shot which never came (too old, too slow…..). Undeterred, his next bowler gave me three bouncers in a row. Even those extras couldn’t get us a respectable score, their bowling as tidy as our nights were messy, and the Thais passed our total comfortably.
Game Three was against Bangkok Postels. Marty had the mother of all mothers of all hangovers, and when offered the chance to sleep rather than play, was back to the hotel faster than you can say “Porn Ping, 100 baht.” This turned out to be the funniest game of cricket I’ve ever played. Benny Hill music wouldn’t have been out of place for our running between the wickets, with me and stand-in Reshi running multiple over-throws after some classic “Yes..NO…wait….sorry” moments. We even managed to run 4. Ugly but effective, the comedy continued after I retired, with Max and Reshi involved in a last ball run out attempting a 5th. With about 80 on the board, we had Bangkok covered. When their French Cricket technique came to the crease, I employed 2 behind square, short mid-wicket and short cover- probably the strangest field seen at the Sixes. After 3 balls, he popped one up to Reshi. (I did fine myself later for bowling Bodyline to a 73 year old!) 3 ducks for Bangkok made us Jenny’s favourite team for the day.
All this landed us in the Plate, our lowest standing yet, but one that didn’t have a 9am semi-final on Saturday. It was noted that we had thrice contested the Shield final, coming tantalizingly close twice, including the nearest of misses against the highly fancied Surrey Vagrants. Still, after being bundled out in the opening stages last year, we were now two wins from a semi-final.
Darwin and Almar (South Africa) stood between us and that destination. Against Darwin, we made 85 and should have defended it easily. We didn’t start too well, and despite some wickets from Monty and Max, we’d have been stuffed if Harry hadn’t pulled us back. Then came Marty, Dr Death. 12 was the ask (I think) and he copped a harsh wide call (4 runs) and was then hit over the sightscreen. There was a great run-out on the second last ball and Darwin needed 2 to win off the last ball. And Marty threw down a pie, with sauce. And peas and gravy. All the batsman had to do was miss and take the wide, or smash it for four, but he knicked it to Sideshow Bob (Phil) and we snatched victory. Almar proved a little easier, and with another solid all-round performance, we won that to go 2 from 2.
The Taranaki Taverners were our semi-final opponent. We gave them a good towelling. 90 v 40 or so. The top order was amongst the runs (Monty, Sideshow, me) and young Max Coombs finished with 12 from 3 balls, 2, 6, 4. The six was his first in any cricket. I reckon he is still smiling about it, and rightly so. The bowling was tight, and they never really challenged. All was set for a re-match v Darwin in the final.
Then Marty had a brain fart. Marty, owner of Chiang Mai’s most infamous hamstrings, bowling at the death. He was already amongst the wickets, the game well and truly done. On the last ball, the last ball we will play before the final, the last ball of the match, with over 50 runs in the bank, Marty chases after a top edge. The length of the pitch, further than he has run all week- except for the toilets. He dives. The game is won, 50 runs, 49 runs, who cares. He goes down. Everyone senses trouble. I’m hoping for a Merv Hughes style fart & laugh for the commentators, but he doesn’t get up. The saddest sight of the week was Marty hobbling off that ground, one ball from the final. Marty is the Dingbats, and even though he rates cricket well behind a few other activities for the week, he desperately wanted to play that final.
Darwin outplayed us in the final. Our first over with the bat and with the ball didn’t give us the start we needed and we were playing catch up. Unlike the earlier match, we didn’t get wickets, and Darwin won with 2 or 3 balls to spare. Never mind. Mae Pen Rai.
Our cricket was good all week. All of our bowlers took wickets. Sideshow (named for the big head of dreads) took some excellent catches behind the stumps. Three of our batsmen retired (Monty, Phil, me) with Phil getting over 100, me just under. Max also made good contributions with the bat, as did Marty and Damien. Tidy fielding. Blokes walking. I think ever one of the squad could look back at a game, and say “I won that game for us.” Phil took Player of the Day for the finals’ day, and I got one for beating up the old blokes of Bangkok.
We get a lot of respect for our cricket. We aren’t a team of super-stars, but we always give 100%. There’s a lot of CM6s old-timers supporting us. Our two games against the Thai kids (not kids anymore- slammer session next year for them!) were highlights. They are producing good cricketers in Chiang Mai. Nok, playing for Awali, started the week with overs of 4 (v us) and 6 runs, and she is only 15! Watching their batsmen hit straight sixes, as well as cow corner shots is inspiring. Seeing Max run out by a direct hit from the boundary reminded me of the Japanese fielding standards. The number of Chiang Mai juniors in the national sides is growing.
The club continues to do what we can to get those kids up to the top. Each year, I drag about 25kgs of used gear from Australia. It might look like a lost cause in Australia, but for kids from the hill tribes, its all better than nothing. Last year, I brought 9 bats, this year 3.
The biggest donation was from Marty, who secured three Paceman bowling machines for the junior cricket program. With more facilities in and around Chiang Mai for young cricketers, these machines will increase the number of kids getting quality practice. The day we set up the machine for the kids was the best day of the week. The kids were excited, taking turns taking on the machine. The coaches were grateful, and the other teams took note.
Of course, cricket is only part of what we do in Chiang Mai! We had serious fine sessions with our oldest combatants, Awali. Our first fine session with Bangkok Postels (no Cat) and Almar. We had several post-game chunders, as well as more civilised drinking sessions with Darwin, Almar, Taranaki. The Thai Thevada lads are all on the beers post game these days, too. We had a nervous cold war shot session or two with Yarrambat, managing to kidnap their captain the night before their 9am final. We had Gangnam style dancing on the back of bikes at 3am. We had quiet man Damien doing the Patrick Swayze in Spiceys. We had Marty getting kidnapped on cow-corner, first night, first bar. We had Maki talking shit at 4am by the VW bar, Paul dribbling senslessly in his yukata Wednesday. We had a tornado tear down the tents and briefly stop the drinking.
There were tears. Ewoks bursting ear-drums. High-velocity shoe throwing. There was Jager, sambuca, vodka, there was 5 tequilas downed in 23secs, 4 Dingbats ringing the bell in a minute. There was old friends, new friends, forgotten friends, and then there was Ricky talking up a storm. There was erroneous use of a cupboard, a Dingbat running round the pool at 4am, calling all the rooms the find his team-mates (and probbaly doing it from the lobby. naked. again). There were MIAs, more late nights than the Olympic swim team, coming in when the breakfast service starts, playing cricket on an hours sleep and doing it all again. And laughs. Belly-splitting, thigh-slapping, pant-wetting laughs all week. And just when you thought you couldn’t take another day of it, you blink and it’s Saturday and it’s all over for another year.
After 9 tours in 9 years, the Dingbats/Wombats are old timers, veterans, crowd favourites. Many club come and go. 2 have played all 26 Sixes. 10 will be an achievement. We add a lot to the competition, to the week, on the pitch, supporting the kids, making spectacles of ourselves, drinking with our mates, and of course supporting the local economy, one shot at a time.
If you’ve toured before, you know you want to be there in 2014 for the Big Tenth. If you haven’t toured before, there’s no better time to start. March 30th-April 5th 2014.