I’m being shouted at; by the grown-ups watching the game, by the people playing the game and now by my team – one of them is waving a bat. They want me to bat now. It’s my turn.
Someone’s Daddy helps me put my hands into gloves. My fingers don’t reach the ends and they feel sticky inside. I walk out to the middle of the field with the boy I’m batting with. He’s bigger than me. He has a loud voice. I don’t want him to shout at me. He points at one of the wickets and says ‘that’s your end’.
I stand in front of the wicket. The umpire moves me to the side. I think it will be hard to hit the ball and stop it bowling me from there. He says it’s not my turn to bat. So I watch.
The bowler runs from behind me and bowls. The ball reaches the boy I’m batting with, who swings his bat, but misses it. That happens again and again. I turn to ask the umpire when it will be my go and then hear the bat hit the ball. I wasn’t expecting that. Then the boy I’m batting with shouts and runs towards me. He stops and I remember I should do some running. He shouts ‘stop, go back’. I do, but I don’t like him shouting at me. I don’t know where the ball is, but suddenly the bowler has it again and he’s running in again.
Then everyone is moving around and there’s an umpire standing at the other wickets facing me. “Are you ready?” he asks me. I nod. He tells me to move – it’s back to where I stood when I first came out, until the other umpire moved me. That umpire is now behind me. He’s also telling me where to stand – closer to the bowler. He wants the white line to go between my feet. I do it, but would feel happier standing close to the wicket.
A different bowler bowls, everything has moved around. He bowls it past me. I can’t reach it, so I let it go. When I look around, there are the other players all around me. They don’t look friendly, apart from the boy laughing at the seagull, which is funny. The umpire shouts, ‘Are you ready?’ and another ball goes past me. I can’t hit it unless he bowls it at me.
One ball comes closer. I push at it, but don’t like the way it bounces up at me. It misses and everyone goes ‘ooh, nearly’. Do they mean I nearly hit it? Now it’s time to switch around again.
This time the boy I’m batting with does hit the ball. It goes past the seagull, which flies away. I’m watching to see how far it goes, when the boy who hit it runs up to me. ‘Run,’ he shouts, right in front of me. My teammates are shouting, too. I drop my bat to run faster and run all the way to the other wicket, making sure I stop just in front of it in case I knock it down and am out.
The umpire picks up my bat and brings it to me. ‘Remember what we practiced last week?’ I don’t know what he means by ‘last week’.
‘Remember how to grip the bat.’
‘It’s an axe,’ I say which makes me laugh and he laughs too. Then he says something about ‘V’s’ which I don’t understand, but I like pretending it’s an axe. I’m going to chop the ball.
The next ball isn’t at me, but I try to chop it, but I can’t reach. It’s still my turn to bat and another ball comes. It’s right in front of me and I chop it and it rolls quickly to one of their players who looks unfriendly. The boy I’m batting with shouts and starts running, but I like this wicket so I stay and he has to run back to his wicket. The umpire makes a thumbs up sign and is smiling.
There’s two more balls I can’t reach. Then there’s one that bounces up and could hit me on the tummy, but I chop it hard. The ball rolls between two of the unfriendly boys. Actually one might be a girl. I like watching it roll away, getting smaller, although it’s quite small to begin with. Then I notice shouting again, at me again. “Run! Run!” The boy I’m batting with is next to me, so I run to the other wicket, holding onto my axe this time.
When I get down there, the umpire holds his hand out in front of me. Have I done something wrong? He seems happy. ‘Great shot. High five,’ he’s saying. My teammates are still making noise, but they’re not shouting at me. Some are clapping. And my Mummy is standing up, so I wave at her.
With thanks and respect to all the youngsters I have coached and seen score their first runs.