Credo Cricket’s Phil Yew talked with Urban Seed Director, Marcus Curnow about his recent cricket adventures:
So Marcus the last we heard you were playing cricket with ‘gangsters’ and Hollywood Execs in LA. What were the cricketing highlights from your UK travels?
Well the lowlight, without doubt, was having the Aussies lose the Ashes at the same moment I was arriving at Heathrow. Not great timing lads! The highlight was getting to play at the Honorable Artillery Ground.
It’s an amazing paddock near Finsbury Circus, smack bang in the middle of London and so surrounded by buildings that I couldn’t even get a mobile phone signal. It’s perhaps the oldest known venue for cricket, which apparently ceased for a time there in 1780 after a bout of match fixing…. Perhaps they sent the culprits over to Australia with the First Fleet because the MCC and the Lords ground took over from about then.
So how did someone of your cricketing ability get to play at such a distinguished venue?
Now, go easy…I was a guest of Cricket for Change, (C4C) and that was my real reason for being there and the real highlight. They are a fantastic, charity that has been running community cricket programs in the UK since they began as a response to the Brixton riots in 1981. They are a great mix of cricketing characters who have basically made it their mission to be at the forefront of each innovation in community cricket. They’ve run coaching apprenticeships, leagues, and participation programs with at risk youth, in schools and prisons and with multi-ethnic groups from disadvantaged neighbourhoods. They have in many ways pioneered much of women’s and disability cricket at grassroots and higher levels in the UK and now increasingly overseas.
How did you find out about Cricket for Change?
Well Phil “Tuffers” Tuffnell is their President and one of those unique UK style celebs who gets them a lot of publicity through ‘Dancing with the Stars’, performing rap songs or competing with Dizzy Gillespie in ridiculous challenges to promote The Ashes. He had just been part of opening their new Indoor Training facility that I got to visit in Surrey. I was so impressed and more than a little jealous. Their custom made pavilion has the best disability access I have ever seen. The lessons and inspiration for both Urban Seed’s Credo Cricket and some of the community and lifestyle initiatives at Cricket Victoria were apparent.
Tell us about the day.
Surrounded by city buildings it reminded me a lot of a Credo Cricket Laneway Carnival in Melbourne…. all be it in a rather large laneway… with grass…. (laughs). No seriously, the real connection was in the diversity of people they could pull together around a cricket match. These included their staff; a corporate supporter, Investec and some researchers from a London Uni. who are looking at the effectiveness of the Cricket for Change programs. Some of the best cricketers were a ‘World X1’ team from the ‘Street 20 World Cup,’ which they hosted at the Lords Indoor Centre earlier in the year. Teams were made up of young people gleaned from their 20 ball an innings ‘Street Chance’ program which runs through the year across 10 different London housing estate areas.
And your own personal performance?
Well you know it was a charity contest for a bigger cause than me but….The great thing about being a cricket journeyman is that no one has any idea of your actual ability. The Investec finance crew were short so I convinced them to let me bowl at the death. Of course some in Australia would say that letting me bowl is the definition of ‘charity cricket’…
To which I would reply…
“I’m not going to be able to stop you here am I…..”
(laughs)….I’m not sure if it was the pitch that was slowing late in the day or me but when my attempted bouncer hit the bloke in the thigh pad I figured it might be better for all concerned if I just bowled my offies. The bloke was so surprised that he dead set missed it. It’s the only LBW I have ever taken in which I didn’t appeal because I was trying not to laugh. I was so embarrassed that he missed it and it was just too plumb for the umpire to have any other option. This brought in their previously retired gun bat for the last dig, so I went back off my ‘long’ run. He proceeded to hole out to mid off in your classic, “deceived him with the slow one” type dismissal. No one was to know I was bowling full tilt at the time but hey, “Two for none, at the Artillery Ground. You beauty!”
So if you took wickets I assume you won…?
Well, yes… but let’s just say the Artillery Ground is famous for its controversial finishes. Like in 1775, when with 14 runs to get Lumpy Stevens, (who was the Glen McGrath of his day,) ‘bowled’ John Small three times through the wicket without dislodging the bails. It was after that they officially introduced the third stump we have today.
So it was controversial…
Batting in the final over, we thought we were cruising, with only 2 required to win but our batsman, thinking there was another over to go, kept leaving deliveries with all the flourish of an in form Geoffrey Boycott. When we informed him of the true state of the game he went to pieces and couldn’t hit a thing. Running out of deliveries, they were forced to sneak a cheeky bye and luckily for us the wicket keepers throw narrowly missed.
So the game is tied. One required for victory off the final delivery. Swing and a miss and the outcome is reduced to a baseball style contest of the non striker trying to steal home base. The wicket keeper was not going to have a repeat of the previous delivery, nor the controversy of 1775 and with ball in hand, threw his body through the wicket, landing on top of the diving batsman. Time stood still on the ancient ground, the keeper, batsman and stumps strewn over the turf in a scene of destruction, all focus upon the square leg umpire, Tony.
Tony was introduced to me as the ‘best groomed’ staff member at Cricket for Change. He comes with some cricket credentials and emanates a coolness that the kids he coaches love. To be fair to him, they had only struck 8 medallions, so a tie would have proved awkward and it was getting rather late. The pressure slowly turned his custom sauve expression into a rather pained look and, to the disbelief of the fielding World XI side he shook his head and managed to blurt a “not out.”
Of course we reserved our celebrations to polite handshakes and consolation of the losing team. Most we’re younger blokes from some of London’s more difficult neighbourhoods so I had to reassure myself that such close calls are all in the character building nature of the game. I didn’t dare say that to any of them! Having copped it sweet for two weeks in England about Australia’s loss in the Test series I was going to take any victory I could get. The Aussies were not bringing home ‘The Ashes’ so there was no way I was going to pass up a medallion from the Artillery Ground. You could call it patriotism…
Or something else!… Where too from here?
What I’ve learnt from my trip is that there are so many cool, innovative and culturally bizarre cricket expressions that are out there. In my dreams I’d love to find a way to bring some of these grass roots groups from different countries together in a Street Cricket World Cup that celebrates these stories.
Adam Hall, one of Cricket for Change’s young coaches who has come through their program and will be visiting Australia later this year and will work with the Credo Cricket during their Reclink season and teach us some Street 20.
With their expertise in street cricket, apprenticeship programs and in how to develop disability cricket access I feel C4C could offer a lot to community programs here in Victoria. We are hopeful we can get a bigger group of their staff out later in 2010. Having played with Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East they should have some good momentum to reconcile the weird and wonderful petty rivalries that exist within the Credo Cricket Team… (laughs)