Cricket tours are the type of events that generally come around once every annum but their memory seems to last a lifetime. They are the platform where friendships – between both opposition and team mates – are solidified and drinking skills are put under the spotlight. Sure they’re about the game however in the same breath I must add that your performance in the bar is just as important. It could either cost or secure your position on future tours. Tomorrow morning I embark on my annual tour and holy smokes am I excited.
During the glorious Cape summer I run out for a social cricket team based in a beautiful valley about an hour outside of the City. The team is members of the Friendly Cricketers Association which is a league of Cape Town based teams who consist of like-minded cricket players looking to give it horns out in the middle when the match is on yet give an equal amount of horns around the braai with beer in hand once the match is over. We are all competitive chaps at the end of the day and sure a victory is important to us but the camaraderie which comes with competitive sport is as important. I always like to say that I play for a drinking team with a cricket problem. That about sums us up.
For the last four months I have meticulously been planning my team’s annual cricket tour. 2012 was the first time I took on the responsibility and although I found it tough to pull things together – due to a combination of inexperience in the organising department and a serious time constraint – I put my head down and got it done. I was told four things by the senior members of my team once I had put my hand up: Garden Route; two cricket matches; one-times round of golf; good luck. “Cool, no worries” I said. I had given my word that I would produce and nothing would stop me from doing otherwise. In a way I revelled in the knowledge that if I didn’t get my act together I would have ten disappointed mates feeding me beer at our next fines session. Instead of crumbling under the weight of expectation I looked the challenge straight in the eyes and got ‘er done!
Enough with the mumbo jumbo, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Whilst I swore an oath signed in blood that what happened on that tour stays on that tour, I’ll divulge some info in something of a blurred way. No names. No direct implications.
So last year about this time we all jumped into our vehicles and missioned up the N2 to the sleepy hamlet of Knysna. My boet and I left early on the Friday to pave the way for the rest of the tour party who were scheduled to arrive at our destination sometime after 17h00 – the senior members had their own vehicle whilst the rest of the tour party had chipped in and were coming up in their self-professed ‘party bus’. I wanted to check into the backpackers I had booked for us and settle down to a beer or two on the stoep as I had experienced a fair deal of stress in the lead up to the tour as I scrambled to pull a few strings together and so was looking to de-stress as I eased into the weekend. Who better to have alongside you than your brother in such a situation? Once we were settled into our accommodation, we cracked our first beer, lit up a smoke and revelled in the view which lay before us. Knysna is beautiful.
At about 17h00 I got a call from the lead car – the senior members – who informed me that they had passed the ‘party bus’ having a smoke break on the side of the road somewhere outside of Swellendam. We were to meet at Chatters Restaurant as a booking had been made. 18h00 rolled around and my boet and I took a slow walk through the town centre towards the restaurant. We were halfway through our first beer when the lead car arrived. Beers were ordered, banter began and the tour was underway. Stress off. To no one’s surprise the ‘party bus’ arrived 2 hours late filled with a bunch of extremely loud and inebriated passengers with a slightly gatvol and very sober driver. More beers were cracked, a couple of fines were dished out for their degree of tardiness and the degree of hotness of the waitress’ was discussed. The tour was now officially underway. You see the great thing about a team environment is that if you are bleak with someone, you sort it out by having him down a beer. Then it’s done. Effortless. If only life was that simple.
Dinner was chowed and after a quick stop at the backpackers to freshen up we made our way to Zanzibar, a local club which the locals – funny enough – promised us would be ‘pomping’. Yes they said ‘pomping’ and not ‘pumping’. By this stage we were over beer and happily switched to a combination of Sweet Lips – brandy and coke – and shots of tequila. The ladies in that club on that night had no idea what hit them. Eleven revved up okes walked in to their establishment and completely dominated every single aspect of da club. We bought shots, we made friends, we ripped up the dance floor, we laughed, we played pool, we bought shots we made more friends and the night became a hazy blur of revelry.
I woke up bright and early – considering the previous nights antics – and stepped outside with a coffee and smoke in hand. Soon enough I was joined by a couple of the lads who began telling tales about what went down the night before. Stories about chicks in bathrooms and Billy Johnson’s. Soon enough we were on our way to our first match of tour. We bought some cases of beer on the way and arrived at the field ready for whatever was waiting for us. This match was set to be the ‘easier’ of the two so we weren’t too worried. We were sent into bat first and due to the perceived strength – or lack there of – of our opposition we switched our line up around. We were playing on something of a howler of a track and before we knew it we were 30 odd for 3. Luckily enough we – after a concerted effort to shake off the booze – managed to steady our ships and thanks to some power hitting from a couple chaps we ended at about 190/8 after 35. Or was it 25? Either way, our opposition were never going to get this total and it was simply a matter of time before we were cracking a beer with them at a local bush pub laughing and waxing lyrical about the intricacies of the cover drive and the brute power of the front foot pull. What a day it had been.
The night pushed up the day and before we knew it we were back in Knysna gathered around a flat screen watching the Boks take on some European team. Scotland, I think? By that stage the beers were flowing with the few tired bodies having moved onto the Vodka-Red Bulls. Post rugby, dinner was consumed and the Billy Johnson story was retold for all to hear. Back to Zanzibar we went only to find that it wasn’t ‘pomping‘. At this point a few chaps decided to call it a night whilst the rest of us searched for a watering hole to find some culture. Did we ever? I called it a night after a few Sweet Lips.
By this stage it seemed like the best place to pick up inside scoop on the night before was the patio the morning after. I would have to bribe it out of okes with a cigarette here and there but what’s a cigarette at the end of the day? This morning there were tales of dart matches vs local gems, whales and bets regarding said whales. It was awe-inspiring at times. Needless to say before we had time to come to grips with our hangovers we were on our way to our second match of the tour. We wound our way to Abbottsfield in Rheenendal and after one-times flat tyre and one-times empty tank of petrol, we made it to the field. It was kak hot and this was set to be our toughest opposition of the tour. We bowled first and toiled well to restrict them to about 220 in 35. After the lunch break we went in and started well with our openers putting on a handsome opening stand. At one stage wickets began to tumble but we managed to stabilise the ship and by drinks we needed 100 odd in 17 overs with 6 wickets in hand. We looked good but the weekend’s booze was beginning to catch up with us. We took it down to the wire with my boet playing a crucial part in getting us there but stumbled at the last hurdle and ended up losing by less than 10. A valiant effort!
We missioned back to Knysna to find an open bar to dish out some fines as the one next to the field had closed. It was only a matter of time before we were all on it again and many a laugh was had with mate and opposition. We decided due to our unruly behaviour on the Friday night that we needed to make amends at Chatters and so headed back there for dinner. Bread was broken and all was forgiven. We drank red wine with the owner and staff, the Billy Johnson story was retold and a few chaps gave their best in trying to scoop up a home game that evening with one of the waitress’. I called it an early night much to my disappointment.
Back to the patio I went the following morning with coffee and a full box of smoke to hear yarns of the antics the night before. Along the way I heard stories of sokkie dancing, someone loosing their kit, packing eight okes into the back of a bakkie and moving the entire backpackers lounge onto their lawn so as not to wake up any of the other guests whilst many bottles of rouge was consumed. Brilliant.
We packed up, checked out and made our way to Oubaai for our round of golf. I had booked us a round at Ernie Els’ Oubaai Golf Course which is as awesome as it gets in that part of the world. My boet and I were the last to tee off and we were paired with Jaap. We had organised golf carts cause there wasn’t a fuck any of us were prepared to walk 18 after what had been an epic weekend. The course was beautiful whilst some of the shots were not. Yet bets were set and laughs were had. I’m happy to admit that on the tour I broke a 100 in both sporting codes. We had just enough time to have a quick team Energade and a laugh before we had to hit the road home.
And just like that the tour was over. Except it wasn’t. The stories and memories have stuck and the friendships have grown. The Billy Johnson story was retold at every subsequent cricket match and the ‘I wish I could do it again’ line was dropped on many occasions.
The beauty of cricket tour is two-fold: Firstly as mentioned above what happens on tour stays on tour and secondly it is an annual event. After last year’s successful tour we’ve decided to revisit Knysna. We’ve ironed out a few creases and ticked a few boxes in an effort to improve things. Not that any improving is needed. For the most part it’s the same bunch of okes – sans Billy Johnson unfortunately – who are as keen as me for a stella weekend. This time next week we would have crowned a new Billy Johnson. I’ll keep you posted.
You stay classy.