As I sit squinting at the blanket of smog that engulfs the city of Chiang Mai every April, I’m aware of a faint rumbling. I have had my lunch, so it is not my stomach, and it is not an airplane as it is still seven minutes before the 12.32 Thai Airways flight to Bangkok is due to take off from CNX. It is not my heart either as that has just skipped a beat as I realise it is thunder. Glorious thunder. The harbinger of what, oh hope beyond hope, is a storm.
It’s so horribly hot here. Mind-numbingly hot. Not just “Oh, Thailand is supposed to be warm at this time of year” hot; this is dirty hot. The possibility of a storm, some rain, some wind, some respite is something even the most heretical heathen in this part of the world constantly implores the gods for.
Thankfully there are two major diversions in the Rose of the North at this time of the year to take our minds of the suffocating fog and the blistering heat. The first makes complete sense. Songkran, the biggest water throwing festival on the planet gives us three days of soaking relief. The second makes far less sense, as it is a sporting event in which teams of men and women are required to run around on a cricket pitch for the best part of a week under the unforgiving sun. That being said the Chiang Mai Cricket Sixes is definitely a highlight of the calendar.
Although the mercury consistently tops 40 degrees during the first week of April, the savvy Sixes teams have come up with a novel solution to combating the humidity and high temperatures. Those of you who regularly dip into a copy of Wisden will recognise these words from Golden Globe winner Mr. Mick “Crocodile” Dundee on the subject of cricket: “My solution is to let the players drink at the beginning of the game, not after. It always works in our picnic matches.” Although perhaps not a brilliant idea for those engaged in a five day test against the West Indies, the “solution” for combating the sultriness of the Sixes was very much embraced by the teams who visited Chiang Mai last month to hurl a googly, run around the wicket and whack a couple of full tosses.
The Chiengmai Gymkhana Club, with its echoes of Empire past, least embarrassing of which is arguably cricket, is the perfect stage for more than thirty teams from all corners of the globe to pitch themselves in battle with each other, the searing heat, dust tornados and their livers.
Although, of course, it is the game of cricket that is the priority for the committed combatants, there is a fair amount of focus on the swigging of liquids. And this is a sensible thing. The body is sixty per cent liquid after all, and most experts calculate the average adult needs to consume two litres of water every day in order to remain functional.
This amount obviously increases dramatically when one is sprinting around in the hotness of a hairdryer. Luckily most of the Sixes teams take the welfare of their players extremely seriously, as do tournament sponsors San Miguel.
Although most of you are probably pretty savvy on the rules of cricket and know your silly mid-offs from your sticky wickets, there is one aspect of the Chiang Mai Sixes that is probably not so pellucid to the casual sporting spectator. Knowing the vagaries of the “fining” system for many involved in the tournament is equally as important as whatchamacallits like runs, catches, wickets, fours, sixes, wides and extras. Although the MCC, the official arbiter in all matters cricket, is not specific on the subject, a fine, usually drink related, is levied on any person who is excellent at cricket, rubbish at the game or who simply turned up. Although apparently arbitrary, the regulations of the fining system become more cogent the more one is fined. It seems perfectly fair that the fine of a vodka/soda slammer should be meted out to the player who takes a wicket as well as the player that dropped an easy catch. Anything else would simply not be cricket.
Next year is the 30th anniversary of the Chiang Mai Cricket Sixes, so quit your job, pack up the children, and book a flight to Chiang Mai.
The thunder has passed and the storm did not come. It is still 40 degrees under a mantle of smog. I think my constant whining about the heat deserves a fine. I’m off to the pub.