by Blake Dawson* <email@example.com>
From the Preface to Chapter 1:
If you like to read this kind of story but are concerned about possible legal implications, work to change the law! If you don’t, why are you here?
*Blake Dawson is the person the otherwise anonymous author would be if “trading places” became magically possible.
During the winter terms, football replaced cricket as the dominant lunchtime activity. I avoided most of the more physical side of those games by claiming to be an Australian Rules devotee, which was not exactly fashionable during the Sydney Swans’ lean years but which I was able to get away with because my mother’s families were from the southern states. But Sydney’s brilliant August-September weather coupled with all the news from England brought cricket back into thoughts and conversation, if not into schoolyard activities. I was generally tolerated by the fourth graders at least and spent most of my free time hanging out with those of them who weren’t heavily into football.
On the second last Monday of second term, approaching a knot of my then mates I was asked if I was coming to training on the Wednesday in the clear expectation that I would be. Having no initial idea what they were talking about and being even less inclined to be caught out than your average social climbing eight year old, I parried the question and shifted conversation until I established that the local cricket club, where I knew Hayden played on Saturday mornings, had decided to put in a second Under 12 team to cater for the younger kids around our area, and I was already being counted in. Of course I knew all about it, and that was half true as I had eagerly soaked up the odd mention of anything cricket over the past few months, but I had to keep the lid on the sudden realisation that this was soon to be part of my life too. In total confidence of her support I told rather than asked mum about it. The two days to my first real practice couldn’t pass quickly enough. Fortunately it gave me time to put enough of a lid on my enthusiasm that I did not come across as totally uncool when I finally got there.
During the term hols, a few of us newbies who weren’t going away even got ourselves organised to meet down at the nets during the day for a bit of extra preparation. With my first real match approaching fast, mum came home early on the Friday before school went back and took me down to Harris’s Sports Store to get me some whites so I would at least look like a proper cricketer. She agreed with Mr Harris that I should get things a little of the big side as I would grow into them—they both clearly expected, just as I did, that I would be playing cricket for quite a while. While they were talking at the counter, I took the chance to get a feel of a few of the bats and to look through his new range of pads and gloves. I liked the decorations on one bat and started playing shots with in at imaginary balls, when I noticed they had come back to where I was. The old man stopped me and told me to stand as I would at the crease waiting for the bowler, then stood behind me and held his hands around mine as mine were holding the bat so he could direct me through some batting strokes.
“Just as I thought,” he said, more to mum than to me. “This bat is much too big for Blake. He would not learn to bat properly with it.” He grabbed what looked to me a much lesser bat from the back of the rack and gave it to me then resumed steering me through some ghost shots which felt surprisingly comfortable. “It’s alright to get clothes that you will grow into, but it is not alright to do that with a bat.” He then asked me which pads and gloves I liked and it suddenly dawned on me that mum was going to buy me my own kit of cricket gear. I very consciously chose what I knew to be lower priced brands and Mr Harris added a ball protector, a white floppy hat and the kind of bright red bag that every second cricketer carries to put their gear in. He claimed that the bag from the display was damaged and went out the back to get a replacement. He seemed to be rummaging around forever, but finally came back with one that looked exactly the same and proceeded to put all the other things we had selected into it, including the bat into the special side pocket where all bats go, at the same time telling me how to “play in” my bat and to wear my cricket shoes a couple of times before trusting them for a whole match. I was on such a high, I did not notice how heavy the bag was as I lugged it single handed to mum’s car.
As soon as we arrived home, I just had to unpack the bag so I could look at and feel all “my” gear again. When I had pulled out everything we had chosen, I suddenly noticed that the bag was still far from empty. I quickly found a second tee-shirt, this one with my new club’s logo embroidered on it, a pair of white track pants that might double as cricket pants in an emergency, and then the source of the extra weight—four thick cricket books that I recognised as ones I had often thumbed through when I had hung out at the store during the winter. Without thinking why, I turned the bag upside down and shook it and out dropped a real cricket cap. “Hey mum. When did you pick out this other stuff.” “What other stuff?” she called from the kitchen. Joining me, I pointed, and she claimed not to have seen any of it before. “That Mr Harris must have taken a bit of a shine to you.” I promised to call in at the store after school on Monday, to tell him that he really shouldn’t have.