Log Cabin Chronicles
Letter From the Oasis #13
Jerry Buzzell
Jerry Buzzell
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Dr. Jerry Buzzell, a Vermonter who now lives away, teaches anatomy at the United Arab Emirates University in Al Ain. For the next 4-5 years, Abu Dhabi will be the home of Jerry and his wife, Linda. He expects to file periodic reports from the region, as he did while living and teaching in Kuwait.

Jerry's previous columns are archived HERE

Posted 02.24.06
Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

JERRY BUZZELL

Road Sport in the Persian Gulf

AL AIN, UAE | As I slip deep into curmudgeonhood, one of my fond memories of the "good old days" of my youth was after school ballgames. There was nothing formal about them; just meet in Owen's field in the spring to play baseball or by the high school in the fall to play football or Bill's driveway to play basketball. No grownups, no uniforms, no umpires or referees. Just pick up sides and play.

Later when I became a parent, unorganized kids' sports seemed to be limited to street hockey. A group of boys set up nets on Beacon Crescent near the foot of our driveway. Some parents were upset and even complained about the kids blocking traffic but we enjoyed seeing them have fun and they did move the nets to let cars by.

Street sports are alive and well here in Al Ain, both with the kids and the adults.

soccer

Kids play soccer anytime and anywhere - streets, parking lots, desert, roundabouts. Some wear a jersey of their favourite team or they may wear a dishdasha and hike it up a bit when running. Footware is optional. Goals may be posts in the ground or schoolbooks or bricks on the road or they may be optional as well.

Not long ago I came upon Road Cricket.

Cricket doesn't show up on the radar screen of the average North American but it is a passion in some parts of the world. In India and Pakistan, cricket stars are idolized and losers may fear for their lives and property. I confess that I became an enthusiast when we lived in Australia.

So, on a recent Friday morning, I decided to try some sports photography. There's a rough cricket oval beside one of the public parks where I thought a weekend league might be in evidence so I headed there. There was no one in evidence. Disappointed, I decided to check out a group of people I'd noticed on my way out, just to see what was happening.

cricket match

It was street cricket. A stretch of the access road beside the main road, with a parking lot on one side and a verge on the other, clear except for the odd tree or bush or lump of concrete. A clot of Indian men were sitting in the road awaiting their turn to bat. Two wickets placed in the road, two batsmen, bowler, wicketkeeper and fielders arranged as appropriate in various spots on both sides of the street. The bowlers delivering, the batsman batting, the fielders fielding. Excitement and cheering.

I hurredly put my camera gear together and headed out to record the action, as unobtrusively as I could. I had my 75-300 lens, 2x lens extender, and monopod with my camera loaded with film and my little digital Christmas present. Take pictures, move to another position.

Focus on the batter. Focus on the bowler. Take a few with the digital zoom. Back to the big camera.

cricket bowler

The match itself was quite enjoyable. The team that was out got the team that was in out so it came in and the other team went out. The team that was in sat on the road as they waited their turns.

cricket batter

The team that was now out had one or two excellent bowlers and wickets fell amazingly rapidly and one and a half rolls of film and thirty-two digital frames later, the team that was in was all out and the game was over.

And the players all ran over to me!

They wanted to see the pictures I'd taken. So I ran through the 32 on the screen, bad ones as well as good ones. Major excitement. All wanted prints, of course. "Come back", they said. Every Friday morning at 7 o'clock. I said I would.

Handshakes all around and head for home.

Jerry & Linda
Al Ain, United Arab Emirates

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