Double Edged Passion drives Doig to be one ‘Aus-some Aussie'
By Joel Priest
Michael Doig hadn't left home at four in the morning, driven five hours to the Memorial Park pitch, to tally just eight runs before falling prey to an official's perception.
"Eight runs is not a good score," he said removing his protective gear, "and I was hoping for a lot more. This was unacceptable."
Wait a second.
Only if you're playing cricket, as Doig does--or, in this case, was.
"He ruled I intentionally used my body to block the wickets when the bowled [thrown] ball hit my leg," Doig said in his defense, "and I know I didn't because of where I was standing. Bad calls are part of the game sometimes just like in softball, though they're hard to swallow."
"In cricket it's very different," he reminded me. "You can spend an hour or two batting straight if you do well--the rule is if you don't get out, you keep batting--but if you get out you don't bat again. So normally you make the most of it, but this time it just didn‘t happen."
But the scene was set the night before in the southwestern Colorado city of Durango.
In coed league play, trailing the Dirt Bags 3-2 in the bottom of the fourth, the 26-year old Australia native swiftly cracked a leadoff double. Teammate Gene Dwinell followed with an RBI single and the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory Bears finished the half-inning leading 5-3.
The visitors responded with three runs to regain the lead in the top of the fifth, 6-5.
But after the Bears' bottom third of the order reached base, sparking the eventual game-winning rally, it was up to Doig to slam the door. Which he did with an RBI triple, capping the RMCF five-run frame, leading the 5-0 (as of this writing) Bears to a 10-6 defense-heavy win.
Regarded as one of the elite glove-men in the league, Doig finished the game 3-3 (a single shy of the cycle), but greatly influenced the outcome by his defensive presence--a calling card in both his selected sports.
"There is nobody better," Colorado Springs Cricket Club ‘mate Keshav Murthy, originally from India, said, "In this league. Hands down, he is the finest fielder."
"A lot of times he makes ‘SportsCenter' catches," RMCF Bears second baseman Jaimee Callies said, "Those ones where you go ‘Da-da-da, da-da-da!' And it really motivates the rest of the team when they see that."
"I've been told that by various softball and cricket players--even been called the best cricket fieldsman in Texas and Colorado--but I wish I could be known as the batsman everyone's afraid of," Doig said. "But when a batsman says they're scared to hit to you, you like having that edge when they have that dread, that fear of you."
Born in Melbourne in Australia's southern Victoria state, raised in the coastal Queensland cities of Brisbane and Townsville near the famed Great Barrier Reef, Doig started playing softball after coming to California in 1998.
"Growing up in Australia, cricket's a national sport while softball and baseball are usually pastimes, so cricket comes more naturally," said Doig, now residing in Bayfield, Colo., with wife Jenifer and sons Nevan and Liam. "It's a six- or seven-hour sport, and I can go out there and give 150% for the whole game."
But on June 18th's 10:00 A.M. match against the Fort Collins Cricket Club, Doig's team struggled for just 22 runs against three outs in 15 overs (groups of six thrown ‘bowled' balls).
"Usually it's best to have 50 or 60 runs by this point," he said during the first morning water break, "so we definitely have to pick up the pace against their second-line bowlers."
By the second water break, following the 28th over--two and a half hours into the match--Doig's team's production had increased to 85, though he himself had been out since the 25th. But the problem facing Doig's team was the mounting number of wickets taken from them--the number of outs. For in cricket, a team's turn at bat ends when the opponents have taken ten wickets--retired ten batsmen--or the number of overs has been played.
"In baseball or softball, there's going to be three outs, no matter what happens, in an inning. It can be three-up-three-down or it can take a while," he explained. "In cricket, one team bats for three hours then the other team also bats for three hours [in the one-day version]. It might take an hour or more just to get one out, so you can really score a lot of runs!"
Taking a lunch break after the CSCC's 40th and final over, Doig's team had produced a total of 125 runs, losing nine wickets. Robert Lezama (originally from the West Indian island of Trinidad in the Caribbean Sea) led the way with 34 runs before being retired.
Like against the Dirt Bags in coed softball the previous night before rallying, the tense mood was such that Doig and his crew doubted their lead's surety, with the enemy set to take their forty overs.
"The Fort Collins club," Doig said during the nourishing intermission, "is very good. They won the league tournament last year after taking second in the regular season, much like our Bears did in Durango softball. And they've been a tough opponent for about five years now."
By the first water break of the afternoon, the Fort Collins team had traded just one wicket for 60 runs, and the concern on Doig's face was visible from afar. Chances to record outs continued to slip through the cracks (or hands) and by the 21st over, Fort Collins had already ran up 95 runs while surrendering only three outs.
And they would surrender no more.
At about 4:30 PM, six and a half hours after the one-day match began, Fort Collins recorded its 126th run, ending the match with overs to spare, giving the Colorado Springs Cricket Club their first loss of the season (4-1-0, with one postponement) at the time of this writing.
"Though the score looks close," Doig lamented, "cricket observers will look at the number of overs played, and the number of wickets taken from them. Since we only took three from them--got three outs--cricket fans will say Fort Collins won by seven wickets, the number they had left. We didn't play well today."
Though the outcome was bitter, the time spent under perfect skies was sweet for all.
"Cricket is a great sport to watch," said Murthy. "You're outside for hours, and you can bring your family, friends, and just enjoy socializing while watching the game. And it‘s quite fun to learn if you‘ve never played or seen it."
"The traditional form of cricket takes five days to play, and might be considered slow and boring. So about 25 years ago a one-day version was invented," Doig explained.
"And to penetrate the U.S. market and other world markets, a version was invented called "Twenty-Twenty" and is more geared towards baseball, where a result is achieved in about three hours. Often in America people want results quickly, so it might be harder to embrace the five-day version, more so than countries that have had it for a hundred years."
Five days, 100 years, three hours, one hour...it doesn't matter to Doig, whose softball world tends to overlap his more familiar cricket world, producing positive results.
"With no cricket in Bayfield or Durango, I obviously can't go to practice. So I use softball as a way to practice as well as enjoyment of the sport. The batting aspect of softball is actually bad for a cricket technique so adjusting between the two is very difficult, and I work hardest on my batting for cricket," Doig said.
"He's got this set-up in his garage," Callies said, "where he has a ball tied up like how people do with a baseball or softball, to practice his swing with a cricket bat. It's cool that he's so passionate about how he plays."
"On the other side, the cricket aspect that helps me in softball is being able to place the ball left, right, and center when I hit. With a cricket bat--which has a flat blade-like side and is more like a paddle--you have to learn to hit the ball where it's thrown," Doig said. "The ‘softball' in me makes me want to hit home runs sometimes, and then I pop up, but typically I can hit the ball anywhere."
"I'm glad I don't hit behind him," Callies said with a laugh, "because he hits so well, hits home runs a lot, runs very fast, and when he‘s fielding he‘s got a great glove and an incredible arm. Sometimes you ask, ‘How do you follow that?' He's really confident in his ability."
"A misconception might be that cricket's like baseball or softball, but it really isn't. Baseball was partly derived from cricket," Doig said, "which came from English colonials who brought the game over in the 1800's. But what's really neat, that people probably don't realize, is that the first international cricket match ever was played between the U.S.A. and Canada! Also, the United States was represented in an international tournament for the first time ever just last September. So interest is starting to pick up again, which is great for the sport."
That interest has also reached Major League Baseball ranks, where the Boston Red Sox have expressed desire to acquire 33-year-old Australian national team cricketer Adam Gilchrist.
"Recently he was voted the World's Most Destructive Batsman," Doig informed, "in a poll of the world's top bowlers. He's just an incredible all-around player."
‘All-around' himself, Doig suits up for his Colorado Cricket League team and three softball teams this summer: Pine Valley Church in the Ignacio, Colo., men's competitive division; Applebee's in Durango's Men's Rec 2 class; and the RMCF Bears in Durango's Friday Coed 1-2 league. With some of his remaining free time he maintains a Yahoo! Groups website for the Bears, but it's his www.coloradocricket.org site that really turns cyber-heads.
"I've heard it's one of the most comprehensive for stats and information about the sport anywhere," Doig said, "which is great because I put the same passion into it that I do playing."
"I think he annoys a lot of teams just because of how hard he plays," Callies said. "He's one of those players where if you're on the other team, you hate him. But if you could get him on your team you'd take him in a heartbeat because of his enthusiasm."
"It's really a positive thing and I think it helps lift my teammates up. In softball, when I see a teammate turn a double play, make a great catch, whatever--even if I'm not involved--I'm extremely excited for them, and I'll give a high-ten or cheer loudly," Doig said.
"And in cricket too. When I drive a great distance to be first to the grounds just to warm up and stretch out, it shows enthusiasm that can be contagious. But sometimes it's not as contagious as I would like."
A blown leg-before-wicket ruling can help kill that buzz....