Reflections on cricket, community and connections

Cricket is the heartbeat of communities. PHOTO: RHYVA VAN ONSELEN
Cricket is the heartbeat of communities. PHOTO: RHYVA VAN ONSELEN
Forget the hype, cricket is about community Joss Miller writes.

On a recent trip to Central Otago my wife and I stopped for coffee at a very pleasant cafe in Milton. Having grown up in Balclutha I began reminiscing about cricket in South Otago during the late 1960s, recalling in particular a batsman from the Waihola team with the surname Bungard.

He was a capable player and always posed challenges for our South Otago High School cricket team. It was no easy task dismissing him.

Coincidentally, while enjoying the ambience of the cafe, we took the opportunity to peruse a local newsletter which among other things commented on the weekend performance by the Waihola Swans cricket team. It became apparent that they were one of the best in the competition, with the Owaka Bandits at that time being their main rival.

Notably, their captain and opening batsman’s name was Dylan Bungard. This was intriguing to say the least. We naturally wondered what connection he may have had with the namesake who haunted our bowling attack all those decades earlier.

In our era cricket was a relatively simple game. One of the pitches we played on was located in a farmer’s paddock on the outskirts of Waihola. There was a concrete wicket covered in matting looking rather battered from the elements and activities of sheep grazing.

Boundaries were relatively ill-defined with the outfield having plenty of bumps and indentations. Outfielders had to know the rudimentary hand/arm signals to indicate a four or six. From recollection this was done in a very understated manner in comparison to Billy Bowden’s extravagant gestures and colourful theatrics.

Nor did we indulge in fist pumps and high fives following a dismissal, although there were plenty of loud appeals even when there was no prospect of being given out. Games lasted for most of a Saturday afternoon with a sumptuous afternoon tea always a highlight.

Another player from this period who was very difficult to dismiss was the Reverend Don Phillips, who graced the Milton team for a number of years. His batting technique was extremely sound and he always exuded calmness and composure. He went on to become chaplain at Otago University.

His son Martin is a leading New Zealand musician and songwriter. His band, The Chills, was formed in the mid 1990s.

I recently noted that the Bungard name is not limited to the Waihola team, with Jordie Bungard playing for Milton. It appears there could be a rich history of this family in the Waihola/Tokomairiro district.

How wonderful to have these connections down the decades and observe how cricket can unify communities and bring joy and pleasure. Few become top-level cricketers but the rules and spirit of the game is the same whether played at Waihola or at Lords. When stumps are drawn, camaraderie and memories live on.

The essence of cricket is captured in a poem by Eleanor and Hebert Farjeon containing the following lines:

"Hushed is the umpires call again,

The fielders and the batsman

Cease to run -

But memory will play again

Many and many a day again

The game that’s done, the game 

that’s never done."

— Joss Miller is a retired Dunedin lawyer.