Cricket is not an easy sport to grasp

Photo by LumenSoft Technologies on Unsplash

I don’t recall when I first learnt to bowl a cricket ball or bat with some semblance of technique that might lead to some runs being scored. I imagine it must have been when I was eight or nine years old and playing cricket for my primary school in Adelaide. Today the movements required, the angles and contortions that are common when bowling or batting is second nature. I don’t think twice about it now; it is a learned behaviour due to repetition and practice, much like running or walking up a flight of stairs. To learn this behaviour, these motions, as an adult must be incredibly challenging, even if you have watched others make it look natural for years.

This week was a big week for Unicorns cricket. We had our inaugural training session. This was particularly significant because we had never met before, other than on Zoom. To meet each other for the first time was a huge step, taking us to the edge and beyond of comfort zones. It was more than this, though, with only a month to our first match, we had no idea how good, bad, or otherwise we would be when it comes to cricket. Building a sense of team and understanding each other’s strengths is crucial to our development, and this was the first part of that process.

Coming together gave everyone a chance to try out the three main disciplines of the sport, batting, bowling and fielding. All of these can be daunting if you have never tried them before.

I was nervous before training. People said they were going to come, but would they actually turn up?

I knew that if I were in their position, I would have had last-minute doubts. A few years ago, I probably wouldn’t have come. The ground was ready, the nets set up; we just needed people. To everyone’s credit and bravery, they all turned up, early or on time! There were thirteen people altogether, enough for a team and enough to affirm that there is interest in cricket locally and the LGBTQ+ community do have a place in the sport.

A range of people came, some experienced club cricketers while for others this was their first foray into the sport. For those who had not played in a long time, getting back into the swing of the game would take some time. There was laughter as people grappled with the oddities of the sport, but during the two hours, there was genuine improvement and progress. People left smiling, which is exactly what we wanted!

Chatting with my new teammates it was fascinating to hear about the different experiences they have had with cricket. Some currently play but have never come out. Others had a keen interest in the sport but never found an environment where they could start without fear of ridicule.

To come to the session meant overcoming shyness, feelings of shame and not belonging. Some have had bad experiences in the past with as little as one homophobic or transphobic incident colouring their time in the game, while for others, there has been a longstanding feeling of not quite being part of the team. Many not willing to reveal their full selves.

None of this was surprising to me, having experienced many of these emotions over many years while being in and around cricket. What was revealing to me was the willingness of people to share now they were in an inclusive and supportive club environment. The conversations flowed easily with a sense of camaradarie; a chance to learn, share and grow together.

I was incredibly proud to be with them all and talk to them about the significance of the season ahead and, in particular, the match against Graces Cricket Club in May. This will be the first time two LGBTQ+ cricket clubs have played a game against each other. Every single one of the Unicorns has already played a part. They are all part of something historic.

I was asked later in the week how I felt about the game, what it meant to the community, and honestly, it was hard to put into words.

It is exciting, terrifying, nerve-wracking and amazing all at the same time.

We have stepped into the unknown and are forging a new path.

Next week brings more exciting opportunities — watch this space.

Reflections on LGBTQ+ life and experiences playing club cricket in England — the only Aussie + gay cricketer at the club! Contact: lachlantsmith@gmail.com