Diary of a Mongolian Cricket Tour: 2017 reflections on Ulaanbaatar in Whites
As a dedicated park cricketer what else could spring to mind when faced with the endless grassy vistas of the Mongolian Steppe but the strike of leather ball on willow bat.
After another flagless year of senior cricket at Parkdale United in the iceless wetlands of the Carrum Carrum swamp, this year presented the opportunity to instead pursue cricket success overseas. Rumors were afoot of a diplomatic push to help bring cricket to Mongolia. The tour to Ulaanbaatar was on.
After intensive medical tests, dubious cultural training, and extensive googling, I arrived at Chinggis’ International Airport in time for Mongolian pre-season try outs. This was the big time. Top level grade cricket in Ulaanbaatar. Surely they needed an umpire or scorer.
Pre-season fitness work consisted of the long march from the French Quarter of Sukhbaatar district to the National Garden Park. The club ground lay almost hidden in the farthest spot from roads and buildings, and I really do mean far. Along the endless looping running and bicycling track, sloping gently away from the stark canopy of apartment buildings and the Ger districts on hills to the North, the new Garden Park is one the few public green spaces in the Ulaanbaatar urban jungle. The cricket pitch was constructed in late 2016, near the banks of the pretty Tuul river to the south, nestled at the base of the Bogd Khan mountains, the world’s oldest National Park. The striking ground was bordered by neat mounds of stones curving graciously around the boundary line. Did I mention the stones? From deep within the alluvial floodplain, spat up by the annual freeze and thaw, like some ancient Ovoo celebrating the sacredness of cricket, grew stones. Many stones. Round and smooth. Big and small. White and grey. Stoned in Ulaanbaatar has new meaning.
Despite the shoot-on-sight warning signs, sternly discouraging any misstep from the paved paths, there were signs that the great grass game has finally reached Mongolia. Vast practice nets sprawled on a concrete slab that would make a Greek concreter weep. A wide artificial turf wicket was guarded by cows. An obligatory green shipping container equipment-shed was mounted on Bessa bricks. All the signs screamed out ‘park cricket’ except for those that said we will shoot you for walking on the grass. But we’ve all known curators like that.
Like a modern Aladdin’s cave, the shed was bulging with donated kit, mainly from Australia but with growing English and Indian supplies too. Discovered later were dozens of donated bat grippers, a lifetime supply one suspects, for all of central Asia. Bats, however, turn out to have very limited lifetimes in Mongolia, at least when left in a metal container for months on end at minus 40 degrees Celsius. Now at least any new bats shipped in from all corners of the world can be re-gripped without much waiting. The fabled bat stash from the Lord’s Taverners donation simply requires passing traffic through Heathrow airport grabbing a bat from a local obliging London garden shed, then jumping on the plane bat-in-hand straight to Ulaanbaatar. On with a new grip, and game on.
In the thawing conditions, the nets get a refurb after cable ties succumb to wind. Gantamur, an early pre-season trainer, prepares his new bat by knocking it in with steel hammer. Grass tentatively comes to life after a frozen sojourn and the snows slowly dissolve on the surrounding peaks.
My trips to the country side, the beautiful and historic Selenge, Terelj and Kharkhorum, leave the impression of a few spots in Mongolia for future cricket grounds too. I’ve seen worse toilets at many Australian park-cricket grounds which is scary. The Erdene Zuu monastery in Kharkhorum, surrounded by pickets of white stupas, seems tailor-made made for the great game of grass-top meditation and comfort deprivation.
The impressive nets in Mongolia inspire great commitment to training, though seldom enough to get underway before midday. A mandated 10 am start is always loosely interpreted as a guide only. Mongolian time they call it. There was general and successful consensus that the action would be on Sundays. No-one turned up on Mondays. Saturdays were for junior cricket. The Mongolian kids, from school #34 in the Ger District, and Christina Noble orphanage, faced long bus rides to the Park entrance, then further long walks to the ground, and arrived in dribs and drabs to begin drills. I always arrived worn out. Festooned with multi-coloured cones, plastic, rubber and leather balls, plastic stumps and bats, spring-loaded wooden stumps, fragile and brittle bats from a curious assortment of donated fourth-eleven kit bags from obscure Melbourne clubs, the astro-turf resounded with pointless English commands and with projectiles like a North Korean missile site, but order gradually emerged.
The cow pats were dispersed, stones were collected. Trees were planted. Long lost Milo-have-a-Go cricket drills were revived on the grass of Mongolia. The joy of cricket was born in some new Mongolian children and the seasoned school #34 boys and the squad of police cadets were honing their skills.
Club Cricketers – the basis of civilization
Gradually the battle-weary Ulaanbaatar cricket tragics emerged from the winter layoff and a selection of Indian, Sri-Lankan, Australian, English, Bangladesh, Pakistani talent ventured to the ground, together with the Mongolian players who have lived amongst the cricket playing nations and become afflicted.
Every profession and vocation, size and fitness level, and quantum of cricket ability is represented.
People were conveyed by bikes and by feet. The Embassy staff sometimes had cars. Tulga and Chris had nervous deals for their vehicle access, but brought life sustaining drinking water. There was a mysterious track cross country and a vast looping paved track where you needed to dodge the deadly four-wheeler green bikes conveying groups of cheerful Mongolians. One way or another, the players came.
Subs came in and Mongolian Cricket club shirts were handed out. New friendships were made. A warm and welcoming club became my weekend home for my time in Mongolia. The hardened brains trust, led by the redoubtable Tulga, inspired the winter weary troops.
The Bojangles fundraiser saw the time-honored Club Cricket tactic of imploring if not insisting all players to attend the event and raise funds, but eliciting the usual dismal response. They just wanted to play.
Apart from offering to help with coaching and umpiring (following indifferent net form and beep tests), I made vague suggestions about administration. This wisdom was confirmed when I discovered this mainly occurs in the pub with beers: from within the The Steppe Inn, Double Shot, Ich Mongol and The Grand Khan, plans were hatched. Universal truths dictate that collecting membership dues is the main practical task, but this is always hard work and therefore low priority. Fund raising was more interesting, with grants to write, a paid volunteer from an Australian overseas aid program coming, employees to prepare for, and commercial sponsorship in the winds. Visiting international teams also needed the social committee to kick into action. The real movers and shakers of Mongolian cricket are great do-ers and fantastic people to be around. Like all club cricket committees, the few work hard for the many. They deserve to feel proud of what they are achieving particularly because of the amount of fun that is had on the journey. May your days end with vultures and not wolves.
As the warmth comes, the National Garden comes alive. Birds are everywhere, and I think some vultures may have spotted me limping. Wildflowers come in wave after wave, changing every week, and the trees in the Park get leaves. Crickets and butterflies invade the park. The winter browns are washed away by vibrancy. People fill the park.
Let the Games Begin
The early games featured the drama of the Ambassadorial cars running the gauntlet of police barricades banning vehicle access to the ground. Diplomatic plates were not always sufficient. The Australian and Indian Ambassadors both had impressive intentions of participation and organization. Suresh’s competitive drive and the strong Indian contingent were the dominant early season force in close competitive games. John put in a few net spells, but mainly umpired and dictated and gave wise counsel on ground maintenance. Tulga takes me with Anand, Amra and Tuluu to Nairamdal Zuslan Children’s camp North West of the city, a vast Soviet-era Children’s international gathering place in the beautiful Bayangol valley, now a place of cricket learning. We ate a hearty meal of Choco Pies for a late lunch after a long day of coaching.
The first big challenge loomed: the mine-hardened Australians from Oyu Tolgoi were coming to play. The MACA nomads rose to the occasion, facing down a fierce Oyu Tolgoi batsman replete with smoldering durry hanging in the corner of his mouth. Against the odds, and in tight competition, the Nomads completed a shock win. The early season development also introduced Tulga’s crack squad of cadets: The Eagles. Actual fit human beings learning to be club cricketers, a novelty that may catch on. Notable too was the first ever hattrick in the National Park, with Gantamur, a Pakistan-trained Mongolian welder, pinging his right arm around-the-wicket sliders into the stumps thrice.
Further enjoyable debriefing occurs at Ich Mongol with the glorious steins of unfiltered beer locking in my devotion to Mongolian cricket.
Following an alarming toll of shattered bats and growing awareness that protectors are not just for soft cocks, much speculation ensued about the impact of Mongolian extreme weather and the hardness of cricket(ers) balls.
It is also clear how remarkably dry it is in Mongolia. As they say: a man is not a camel. Balloons of water begin to turn up, yet the thirst is only slaked for a few of us in the city bars after long hot days in the field, and seemingly even longer treks or journeys out of the park to sanctuary. I can’t remember when beer ever tasted so good.
As the grass struggles in the dry weather the winter crop of stones becomes more evident. The consequent stern edicts from Australian Ambassador John Langtry leads to the imposition of the hardrock policy in Mongolia: pick up and dispose of 5 stones upon dismissal. A pile of stones grew at the batsman’s gate.
In many ways the highlight of the season was the hosting of games for the visiting Hong Kong teams.
Craigengower is an old and distinguished club who have played international teams and have ranking in the international tables. In early July they toured Mongolia to face and defeat the Eagles and the Nomads in a double header. In a historic opening ceremony for the first genuine international match on Mongolian soil (and stones), saw impressive performances of the Mongolian horse-head fiddle and speeches from Ambassadors and respective club leaders. Sturdy Mongolian horses were available for rides and gave much joy to spectating orphanage kids. Great fellowship and action was had. TV cameras from the Mongolian National Broadcaster recorded it all, and Mongolia now has international ranking and a long term 15-year plan to rise up the list. Coincidentally, 15 years is almost the time it took for the bus trip to fabled tourist-resort Ger camp in the Bogd Khan mountains for Khorkhog (Mongolian Barbecue) after the game. Did I mention traffic in Mongolia? A long but necessary journey to provide access to beverages of choice on July the 1st after a thirsty day of cricket was a memorable experience.
The Steppe Inn
One of the unique challenges in Mongolian cricket, at least for those countries whose traditions include alcohol, is the first of the month alcohol ban. Truth be said it is the cricket administrator’s greatest nightmare to get that late-night phone call: ‘there’s been an incident. Alcohol was involved.’ However, all cultures develop their own way to manage the human condition. Mongolia deems it fit to ban alcohol sales on the first day of every month, unfortunate if that is when your international cricket team is visiting and a trap for the unwary. The indefatigable British, to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for sharing the game of cricket with the world, solve this issue with their own club tucked away in the backyard of the Embassy. Members and guests may purchase vouchers for fellowship and ales when appropriate, and never is it more so than with a visiting cricket team on ‘tour.’ We’ve all been there. Dry Days
Lamma cricket club was the second Hong Kong team to visit the very next weekend. Unfortunately, this was election re-run weekend for the Mongolian Presidency. Now came a three-day alcohol ban to aid democracy: what were they thinking! Lamma represents a more spiritual return to club cricket ethos in the park, with a worthy reputation of being founded by a hippy commune. A foreboding nervous start preceded festivities. After abortive landing attempts at Chinggis International, air traffic control diverted most of our touring visitors to Irkutsk in Russia instead, to pass some hours with their duty free. A small contingent waited nervously at The Steppe Inn, planning cricket and parties for the next few ‘dry’ days. The solutions were amazing: Mongolian throat singing and cultural entertainments in an Art Gallery, plenty of beer on ice, Sri Lankan curry buffet expertly provided by Dhan and his wife, and bus home for the wise as the vodka bottles came out. A great night, shared with my awe-struck family visiting from Melbourne.
The Nomads faced a powerful if lubricated Lamma on the Sunday, with the Nomads losing after a good early start and having runs on the board. The fellowship post-game was remarkably finished off with Absinthe shots in equal measure for cricket debacles and triumphs. I’m not sure we’ve all been there.
The Nomads realized they had experienced a lost opportunity for cricket success, clutching defeat from the jaws of victory (now we have all been there) and had witnessed a resolute cricket lesson from a good cricket team. None were too pretty in the Lamma side, but they were outstanding characters and good tough players nonetheless, having fun and performing when they needed to.
The wounded Nomads resolved to improve their own cricket and eagerly awaited the new coach.
With opportune timing Australian Coach Rob Moran arrives in early July too, with the club ripe for his skills and leadership. Together with Anand, the rapidly developing Mongolian professional, and later on Davaa who specializes in taking cricket to Mongolian schools, and on the back of enormous interest generated by the visiting internationals, cricket development in Mongolia was set to explode.
Cocktails and Coopers home brew at the Australian Ambassadors’ reception for Rob brings together the Australian, Indian and English Ambassadors, school principals and teachers, National Park management, orphanage directors, corporate sponsors, Embassy staff, players, the club administrators and me. This is getting big.
Then came Nadaam. Then Rob did his shoulder.
Nadaam is a country wide celebration of wrestling, archery, and horse racing and Airag, fermented mares milk. It’s worse than Christmas for getting a game of cricket together. People flock to the countryside and, while the traffic is more manageable, it is also quiet for cricket in Ulaanbaatar.
This was recovery time for Mongolian cricket at least for administrators weary from the logistical nightmare of touring teams coincident with alcohol bans. Chris has headed for Croatia and Adam for London. Tulga is in the countryside. A few double wicket efforts come together as the club began to plan the remainder of the season and improve the competitive cricket in Mongolia. Captains were selected and the Marmots and Tigers were born: new teams to compete through the coming months to be Champions of Mongolia. The Wolves were added later and excitement grew.
To cope with the lull, ongoing games required upskilling to combine my umpiring with scoring and the occasional cameo as batsman at number eleven. Perhaps a strategy of just improving the umpiring would have been enough personal development, but the tragic scrawling on some of the score sheets told another story. Remarkably, I was also able to hit few fours, but quick singles eluded me throughout the season with a few ‘short runs’ and slow ones instead. It was great fun to play games with my visiting son Scott, who loved Mongolia as much as me and also found great friendship at the ground and in the nets.
Genuine upskilling at the club occurred when Rob’s wife Toni turned up to tidy up the container, organize, and cut fresh fruit for the children and the games. Cricket in Mongolia was going to another level. Rob was recovering. Players were returning. The sun was shining.
Then Anand sliced his leg open.
My family returned to Australia after a visit to lake Khovsgol and many other great experiences in Mongolia. They were happy that I had my Cricket club to keep me company while here without them.
Meg, from Meg’s Tours, took my family to Lake Khovsgol as personal guide. She has had a long involvement with Mongolian cricket and was instrumental in funding new uniforms for school #34 boys. Their participation in July had been limited because they needed to wash cars on weekends to raise money for their school uniforms for the coming year. Growth spurts had seen shirt sleeves shrink from wrists to elbows and pants from ankles to knees. It was touching to have a session for them with Rob and Tulga explaining cricket to their parents while learning the traditions of Mattack, a traditional Mongolian bat and ball game, as well as the ceremonial handing over of school uniforms. Hopefully the donations free up time for the boys and continue to build more community involvement.
The orphanages ongoing engagement with the plastic form of the game continues to see the Christina Noble kids turning up more-or-less on time each Saturday, eagerly anticipating ‘being a team’ and ‘getting caps’ and competing. The challenge was on: a match was planned between the Mongolian orphanage cricket powerhouses of Lotus and Christina Noble.
Fauna of Mongolia
The Marmots, Tigers, Eagles and Wolves emerge as competitive forces. As with all club cricket, the team of Unavailables is a pervasive force and an intensive player trading period with liberal transfer widows is implemented to deliver teams to the Captains: Dhan, Mohan and Adam. All are advised and wisely mentored by the master tactician Rob. The Eagles, it turns out, have farm-work duties throughout most of the summer and it was left to league of Marmots, Tigers and Wolves to fight out the season.
Curry and Drinks
For me one of the magical things about my Mongolian cricket experience were the lunch breaks. The closest kitchen to the ground is miles away, and with even our ‘short-form’ twenty-twenty games taking a good four hours to play, nourishment was a necessity. Requests for drinks breaks usually started at the completion of ten overs, but efficiency and discipline saw this improve towards the end of the season. Toilet breaks were another matter, but we won’t go there.
With extensive contacts in the world of professional curry making in Ulaanbaatar, the weekly ritual began of curry delivery for lunch break. Many enjoyable, chicken, vegetable, dhal, naan, chapatis, basmati rice dishes were eagerly consumed. They were delivered on bikes, in cars (rarely), in shopping trolleys, and my favourite by far, in the little remote control electric cars for children more often seen buzzing across Chinggis square. Next it will be drone delivery if the local eagles can be managed. The logistical mastery of our curry lunches was another Mongolian triumph and has transformed my views on afternoon teas at the cricket (trust me I’ve done hundreds of them).
Save Your Legs
My pattern of cricket days evolved to using taxis to and from the National Garden Park entrance, although I sometimes got rides out with either one of the Ambassadors, Tulga or Chris. I took every possible route from my apartment (actually from outside Urguu Cinema #2) to the Park for about 3000 Tugs (just under $2 Australian). Wise investments to preserve my legs. The main problem was to dodge the traffic jams around the Narantuul market and to cross the Trans-Siberian railway track. However, one Sunday while waiting to leave on a slow day for taxis (almost every car in UB is available as a taxi), I was waiting behind a group of about nine Mongolian kids. I was rushing to a gathering of friends, and running a bit late and was frustrated to wait for maybe the fourth taxi to turn up. No need to worry. The first car that stopped proceeded to see all nine kids pile in, much to my amazement. I felt a bit indulgent in the next taxi by myself.
One of the striking things for me was the bloom of Autumn colours on the flanks of the Bogd Khan mountains and all along the tree-lined Tuul river. Never has it been more pleasant to pass the time between overs gazing over the splendid vista. Mordialloc creek it wasn’t, but in Melbourne we have more grass and no stones!
A Plague of Marmots
The season developed with the Marmots staking their claim for both top Mongolian rodent and cricket team. The Wolves struggled to make an impression and need priority draft picks next season. The Tigers loomed as the threat to the Marmots and interest rose on how to resolve the championship. Oyu Tolgui were thrown into the mix, with earlier promises of a re-challenge after the narrow June loss to the powerful Nomads. Perhaps they could handle the Marmots with their underground knowledge and expertise?
Some rain comes and hampers the Wolves run at the title. The Tigers continued to out gun the Wolves, and a showdown between two potential champion sides was looming.
The Orphanage Challenge
The great orphanage challenge [ed. AKA Mader Gobi Watermelon Trophy] came too. Christina Noble, well drilled and more experienced defeats a big effort and big turnout from Lotus. A great crowd packed the sidelines in addition to the hundreds of bemused cyclists, joggers and walkers that regularly witness the strange weekend spectacle of grass ballet. Watermelon and awards for participants made everyone happy, and Lotus children vowed to practice more. Rob handed out Cricket Australia lime-green fluorescent caps that could be seen from space with sunglasses on, a form of punishment he was to repeat on many other occasions. Two of the Lotus girls were more engaged in discussions with the umpire about theoretical physics than with watching the ball and the diamond-cricket run fest. I related my experiences with Stephen Hawking from when I studied at Cambridge, not a conversation I have very often on the cricket pitch. However, my observation is that the girls take to cricket very readily and offer a good, and perhaps the best, opportunity for rapid development of the game in Mongolia.
Champions of Mongolia
After attempts to arrange a tournament for the Champions of Mongolia, it was resolved that the Marmots and the Tigers would play for glory and an impressive trophy. The game was to witness a mighty first ton on the new ground as Namit dispatched bowlers to all parts of the ground, often through the hands of obliging fielders. The climactic game was powerfully won by the Marmots cementing them as champions in both rhetoric and outcomes. The game was also notable for the rules committee deeming a new policy of punishment by stone collection for dropped catches. Subject to appeal at the ICC this was endorsed by Ambassador John Langtry as the way to go. However, I am not sure that many hands-full of stones will make it to the boundary through some of those slippery fingers.
One great Ulaanbaatar innovation, of great interest to dedicated social club cricketers from Australia holding current accreditation in Responsible serving of Alcohol, and Working with Children clearances, is the UB system of designated drivers. For low cost and a phone call a (sober) driver will take your car and passengers home and keep the world and community a safer place, but importantly also encourage socialization as an important part of cricket life. Great system.
Cricket promotion also went viral at the Seoul street education expo: artificial turf cricket in front of the UB Jazz bar, bowling to the British Ambassador and the Captain of the Mongolian Polo team, balls pinging everywhere and with a line of new kids padding and helmeting up for some soft ball mayhem.
A Man Walks into a Bar
To top it all off, a post promotion de-brief in Revolution for refreshments was a bizarre highlight. A man walked into a bar in cricket pads, cricket sweater and creams. What happens next? He plays the drums on stage of course. Such is life in Ulaanbaatar, even when it snows.
Rob brings MACA to MACCA. Australia All Over is an iconic national radio show hosted by the laconic Ian McNamara and generally targeted at the most Aussie of Aussies in Australia. My mother in Port Augusta would be impressed with such (partly dubious) recognition. Mongolian cricket is on the map in rural and regional Australia! From the Illawarra to Port Augusta cricket is on the minds of Australians.
The weather turns, but the Gobi is dry. Mighty dry.
Travel is supposed to expand your mind and horizons, but I think why meditate in a cave when you can play or watch cricket? Deep questions I know.
Planning now turned to post season events, particularly for those living on here through the winter.
Rob and his crack team now have indoor cricket pumping in many schools. His work is nearly done. He refuses to go outside without a gas mask.
Parties are planned.
On the back of fierce Marmot, Tigers and Wolves rivalry, many want indoor cricket for adults too.
The Indian embassy party celebrates the success of the season, and brings together players, officials, sponsors and newly cricket-trained physical-education teachers from a host of participating schools. The management of the National Garden Park is also thanked and gives gifts. The MACA leadership gives gracious thanks to Rob for his outstanding work and kind words for me too for whatever help I have been able to give this year. I am most humbled to receive the gratitude and will treasure the gifts but also every kind word and friendly smile and chat through the course of the season. The Indian Ambassador Suresh puts on a great night and ‘Mr Mike’ appreciated the thoughts. The best thanks I had all year though was whenever the children from Christina Noble orphanage would march up one after another to say thank you. I still tear up whenever I think how easily they would line up and wait their turn and all say thank you, coming after decades of ‘experience’ coaching kids cricket in Australia. On the other hand, once your back was turned they would tear into each other.
The beer and curry in the Indian Embassy, together with cricket on the big screen (ever the diplomat the Ambassador was showing tied games) could lead to only one outcome. A choir of voices with ‘Let’s have a game on Sunday: the six-day forecast is a heat wave of 8 degrees.’ This led to plans. We’ve all been there. Nervously I thought: this could be like the Peter Sellers movie, still one of my favorites.
Further beer-driven strategizing also led to an apparent international challenge for next year. The legendary powerful Russian cricket league in Moscow, through Suresh’s contacts in his previous diplomatic posting, would surely be up to challenge MACA. That is a game I’d love to see. I suggested a four-day test match on the train from Ulaanbaatar to Moscow.
A New Container and Treasures
Walking to the ground on perhaps my final cricket weekend, it was with frost on the ground and snow on the surrounding mountain peaks, but with encouraging blue skies and sunshine. The growing pall of pollution to the North of the city was gradually pushed away by a gentle breeze from the east and the haze over the mountains gradually cleared. Players slowly congregated in gloves and thick jackets to both welcome the new container (thanks to corporate sponsor, Thiess, and John Langtry’s tireless lobbying) and play.
The re-organisation of gear uncovers a stash of 24 bat-grip changers from some benevolent and wise donor in Australia. What were they thinking? Bags of new children’s bats are also uncovered and plans are made and executed to stash precious willow in houses for the coming winter. A vast cauldron of cricket balls likewise heads for winter warmth. Gradually the nets refill with batters and bowlers, swathed in down jackets, gloves and beanies, somewhat jokingly and optimistically warming up.
More good news from corporate sponsors too, with reports of advanced plans for a Ger-vilion, a massive Ger on wheels and platform, fit for Chinggis to watch the game of gentlemen on grass with lavish curries and afternoon tea. Thanks to Oyu Tolgoi for this great community initiative and benefit.
I am sure many Mongolians will enjoy the developing facilities for years to come in what is surely to become one of the most iconic and spectacular cricket grounds in the world.
Signs are going up. The cricket ground is on the new city maps. Mongolians are learning about cricket from videos and promotions. The world is a better place.
It all comes down to this
One final game to culminate the season. Rob versus Mohan. Brother against little brother. Australia versus India? Fifteen overs a side for glory and history. Mongolians are opening the batting and bowling. Great to see Anand back playing. White balls are swinging and darting about out of snowcapped peaks. The frost has taken the sting out of the astro-turf with the ball not coming on and shot making is difficult. The struggle ensues with Rob’s side building a steady total and all the players are getting a chance to bat. Rob graciously lets me have the last over and I manage a four and two singles, the latter easily the more impressive achievements. Chasing 85, Mohan’s mob are soon in trouble and in a dire predicament when I manage an over of straight-breaks conceding just one run. Behind the stumps Rob steers us through to a win without breaking any more fingers, and more importantly another game of cricket is completed. We all have thoughts and words about Dhan, fighting hard against illness, and we are all grateful for health and friendship whenever we are blessed by both. Drinks are at The Grand Khan after the winter stash of bats and balls find a new Bayangol home, and Daniel is abused for Chris’ triple parking or being a foreigner or corporate lawyer or maybe all three.
Guilty of attempted cricket
One final cameo at the club’s first winter indoor session. The gymnasium lay nestled in Zaisan right at the foot of the Bodg Khan mountain in a juvenile remand centre, otherwise known as the ‘Children’s Palace.’ Enclosed by massive brick walls, iron bars, guard towers and tanks it makes an unlikely venue for the red & white ball game. Batting last, after bowling a few thrifty overs and taking a few catches, I hit the ball unusually well for an umpire. Tulga and I manage to win. School #120 boys were impressed. We were all were released for good behavior.
End of Season Party
The final formal gathering of the summer season at least. Convened at the UB Jazz Bar, with Gabba’s ten dish Indian Curry feast and seasoned statistics, expertly deciphered from the assortment of score sheets by the patient business acumen of Adam. A rich diet for any cricket lover in any language, and there were a lot of languages this season. I am not sure what some of Rob’s words were when he broke his fingers. Swahili perhaps? Christina Noble kids sing and entertain us and beautiful embossed bats and trophies are presented. What a way to wrap up a great experience. A touching farewell for both Rob and myself and a chance to think about the past year. For me certainly one of the special times of my life.
Rob appears for a long interview on the Mongolian National Broadcast service who gleefully show video footage of him getting hit without a gentleman’s protector and the consequent suffering. I thought it was out.
The tour Ends. I have gathered many cherished memories and new friends. I am sad to go, but hope that I may come back, but for now I am following the fabled Mongolian plover to Corner Inlet to fish.
The eternal blue skies and sunshine for most of the time, framing the magnificent backdrop of the Bogd Khan Mountains, will forever be fond images in my mind, with the rich overlay of great cricketing moments and action and great new friendships.
Thank you Tulga, Chris, Adam, Rob, John, Jai, Mohan, Dhan, Atul, Suresh, Mintu, Rakesh, Gantamur, Anand, Davaa, Daniel, Harsh, Hitesh, Namit, Zorro, Meg, Anna, Emily, Puuji, Andrew, Leigh, Oliver, the Mongolian bloke walking past who fielded for 40 overs, Arun, Amra, Chuluu, Tuluu, Tom, Tamir, Same, Gamage, Shivage, the police cadets, Craigengower cricket club, Lamma cricket club, the Oyu Tolgoi “Aussies”, schools #34 and #120, Christina Noble Foundation orphanage teachers and kids, Lotus Foundation Orphanage teachers and kids,…and any others I have forgotten.
Get well soon Dhan.
Thank you Mongolia.
Mike Borgas (firstname.lastname@example.org) Meeniyan Wilson’s Prom Road Yanakie, Victoria