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Howzat? It's Cricket : Popular From Karachi to Kingston, the Sport Is Also Alive and Well in the Southland

October 07, 1989|GRAHAME L. JONES | Times Staff Writer

There is the tale, for example, of the Englishman who tried to get his cricket bat through French Customs several years ago. Failing to grasp the visitor's explanation of the bat's use, the inspector simply handed him a form listing dozens of descriptions and asked him to check the appropriate one. The cricket bat eventually entered France as an engine sportif sans movement mecanique.

Or what about this one from Germany, where cricket is played in Munich in the Englischer Garten, a public park where, as one writer put it, "the German penchant for cavorting about naked prevails."

This habit has necessitated a slight altering of the rules of the game as they are observed in Munich: A batsman cannot be dismissed if, in the opinion of the umpires, he was hopelessly distracted by an unclad Fraulein jogging in the outfield. That, it is felt, just wouldn't be cricket.

Or there is this delightful tale involving C. Aubrey Smith himself.

A Dropped Catch

It seems that Smith, the team captain, was fielding in a match in Los Angeles one day when he dropped a catch. He immediately stopped the game and called for his butler, who was instructed to bring Smith his spectacles. The butler returned with the spectacles and the game continued. A few minutes later, Smith dropped another catch, and, so the story goes, was heard to curse: "The damn fool brought my reading glasses."

Lastly, there is the story of the Rev. Elisha Fawcett, an English cleric who, early last century, devoted his life to teaching the natives of the Admiralty Islands Christianity and cricket, perhaps not in that order.

The islanders were not wealthy and, when Fawcett died, they cast about for a suitable monument to place over his grave. They chose the good clergyman's wooden leg. Well, what with a nurturing climate and plenty of rain, the leg took root and, in the years ahead, the resultant tree produced a whole harvest of new bats for the islanders.

Now that's a cricket story.

Those curious enough to want to see a game in person can best do so by heading out to Woodley Park in Van Nuys between now and Oct. 22, when the current season ends.

There are three cricket fields there, with matches being played simultaneously starting at about 11 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Allowing time for the traditional break for tea, the games can last until dusk. If the action seems a bit baffling, ask a player what's going on. You might even learn that a duck is zero, and the trip will not have been for nought.

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