Cricket, in some respects, is a game of patience. Batsmen wait for a poor delivery upon which to pounce and score runs. Bowlers require patience whilst attempting to dismiss the batsmen. Fielders require patience in order to maintain concentration during the potentially lengthy periods when the ball may not venture into the area which they are patrolling. Nevertheless, the art of patience is at its most tested for those waiting to bat. Opening batsmen are immediately cognisant of their responsibilities and the short amount of time that will pass prior to their involvement in the contest. For the player listed in the order at number three, the pathway is not quite so clear. The wait could last one delivery. In contrast, if the opening batsmen are particularly pedestrian, the wait could last the whole innings.
Waiting can prove a tricky business. Cricket witnesses a whole range of variations. Some batsmen relax, watch the match unfold and enjoy the anticipation of their latest innings. Those lower down the order often prefer to amuse themselves by scoring the book or umpiring rather than waiting.
For others, waiting is hardest part. Batting is a pastime that is fraught with potential for disappointment. The wait could be lengthy but the end result could last just one delivery. Understandably, the wait and the anticipation are not to everyone’s liking. Clifton Magna’s number three, Elton de Freitas, is the opposite of relaxed. Padded up even before the opening batsmen have sauntered down the small flight of concrete steps that connect the scoring shelter with the outfield, de Freitas is one of cricket’s nervous waiters. Unable to relax as the innings begins, he decides to take a pew in one of the plastic chairs next to the scoreboard and update the various numbers at the terminus of each over. Even that is not enough. He shimmies his legs up and down, under the auspices of keeping the muscles loose but reality dictates the movement is an aid to nervous tension. One of his team-mates offers ‘a few throw-downs’ as a warm up but de Freitas politely declines, the ersatz replica of actual play serving no purpose other than to accentuate the desire to be out in the middle. De Freitas paces slowly around the area in which the players have left their various bags and other accompaniments, ruffling through his own possessions for a quick check of his mobile phone. Clifton’s number four batsman slowly begins the process of padding up, his modus operandi the opposite of his edgy team-mate. Even conversation and banter between the remaining members of the team on the boundary proves peripheral as de Freitas intently watches the game unfold some fifty yards away.
Five overs pass and de Freitas accepts the previous offer of a few throw-downs, the distraction a better option now the tension has risen after fifteen minutes of play. Clifton have begun well, three boundaries in the third over providing a kick-start to their innings, and the scoreboard reads 36-0. De Freitas relaxes a little; some of the pressure of batting at the top of the order eased by the rapid scoring rate. Nevertheless, his keenness to saunter out to the middle remains almost unquenchable.
Another over passes, during which de Freitas sporadically drinks from a bottle of water, not to satiate any particular thirst but merely out of the need for something to distract the mind. His attempts to relax are further inhibited when one of the Clifton openers skies an attempted drive, the ball spiralling into the air and swirling in the breeze. De Freitas prepares himself in readiness to enter the fray but the fielder at mid-off never settles into the correct position to take the catch; the ball tumbles through his outstretched palms and clatters into the turf. Part of De Freitas would have preferred the catch to have been taken, if only for selfish reasons. De Freitas’ wait soon reaches its conclusion though. Three deliveries later, a similar attempted drive results in an inside edge back onto the stumps. Quick as a greyhound, De Freitas is out of his plastic chair and is jogging over the outfield. Cricket’s most intangible, yet most difficult, journey is at an end.