With a scandal-plagued 2008 season all but forgotten, the HSRCL resumed operations in 2009 with the kind of renewed hope and excitement that only a single-game-winner-take-all season can produce.
“Is this not the most exciting sports league on Earth?” asked eccentric league commissioner Kevin Bell rhetorically. “Yes, it is not!” he replied, probably not realizing that it wasn’t really the answer he was looking for.
“What happened in 2008 will stay in 2008” he continued with a wink. “It’s time to restore this great league to its rightful glory, and watch these two great rivals play a match that is certain to entertain and excite as only HSRCL cricket can!”
Heavy Sunday Rains threatened to scuttle the season altogether, with the Alumni Players’ Union demanding assurances that the field would be safe. “We’re, like, ten times older than our opponents as it is” said Alumni Captain and Player Rep Gordon Fleming. “If we fall, we may never get up again. Half of us already have different hips than the ones we were born with. I have to put my team’s safety first.”
The field was deemed acceptable for play mere moments from the scheduled first bowl, and the squads finally took their positions on the field. Stepping into competition for the first time in over a year is hard on any athlete, so no one was expecting the entertainment and excitement to start right away. Long time fans were not expecting it to start at all, but they, as always, kept their thoughts private.
The Alumni team entered the match as heavy underdogs. This is a team of veterans whose best days are long, long, long behind them, and none of them was expected to add much more to their individual lists of accomplishments. If this wasn’t enough, the team continued to have hard luck at the crucial position of bowler, with injuries and holdouts constantly draining the pool. Facing a staff team with a very deep bench, the odds were not in their favour.
As with any sporting event however, there are always intangibles that prevent anything from being a sure thing. Premier race car drivers crash, ace goaltenders have off-nights, star quarterbacks throw ill-timed interceptions. In today’s HSRCL Final, it would be the hard sucking sound coming from the bats of both teams.
At the end of the first innings, the score was 11-8 in favour of the Staff. This should not be mistaken for an indication of a tight contest with outstanding defensive displays or Halladay-like bowling. The story of this match was the bats, and the bats were as cold as a shaved Yak.
This continued through the second and final innings, with no player making any sort of case for match MVP. The match was played in record time and the score was a record low for both teams Alumni – 43, Staff -35. It would be nice to report that the Alumni Team staged a dramatic come-from-behind win, but there was no drama here. “Our strategy was simple – score more runs than the other team, and we did that today” said Fleming. “If anyone asks you about the fundamentals of the game, those are them”.
So, indeed, mothers of losers everywhere: it’s whether you win or lose, not how you play the game.