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Former test cricketer joins club with strong sense of community

Suraj Randiv, who played test cricket for Sri Lanka, is Edinburgh Cricket Club's newest recruit


By Charlie Gill


Off stump. Cow corner. Fine leg. Yorker. To many, this bizarre collection of phrases may seem complete gibberish, some strange form of slang with a penchant for surrealist imagery (diamond duck, nightwatchman, chin music, sticky dog). In a sense, that’s exactly what it is: the secret language of cricket, understood by hundreds of millions across the globe.

Suraj Randiv - Edinburgh's newest recruit

The internationality of cricket is one its greatest qualities. From Europe to Africa, Africa to Asia and Asia to Oceania, there are people who presumably understand what a ‘sandshoe crusher’ means, or it’s respective translation. (Admittedly when I checked with a cricketer, he’d never heard of it, but it’s a real term). Resultingly, cricket can unite people from many walks of life, all brought together by a love for the game.

In North Fitzroy, that love is fostered and cherished at the Edinburgh Cricket Club. Since 1978, E.C.C cricketers have donned their whites and walked onto Brunswick Street Oval, raising their bats to the famous grandstand and letting out

wicket-induced cries of joy that can be heard from the village.


They are a large club, having fielded 40 junior teams in 2019 (including four girls’ teams) and nine senior sides (including one women’s team, formed in 2000).

Despite the pandemic, all teams were able to play a season last year (albeit a shortened one) and are currently embarking on the 2021/2022 season in. Their number one men’s team are competing in the second division of the Eastern Cricket, though they’d like “to build a group capable of being competitive at the next level”, according to President Stuart Whiley (also a talented batsman).

 

Suraj playing for Sri Lanka

This pursuit of excellence will no doubt be made easier by the club’s newest recruit, thirty-six-year-old off spinner Suraj Randiv. Moving across from Dandenong Cricket Club, Suraj will be captain coach of the men’s firsts.


It would be reasonable to assume this new role is the most illustrious of his career (such is the prestige of Edinburgh).


Unfortunately, it’s probably just pipped by something else: 12 test match appearances for Sri Lanka (and 31 One Day Internationals).

“I needed to take an opportunity to develop my career as a coach”, he told The Rotunda. “I don’t know much (about the area).”

Suraj currently works as a bus driver for Transdev, and at one stage his depot was in North Fitzroy, so he’s already familiar with Brunswick Street Oval.

“I used to go there and train myself. I had a relationship straight away with the ground, so it’s good for me to get there.”

Do passengers ever recognise him?

“A couple of times it’s happened. Sri Lankans. They ask questions like ‘When did you move here?’ And the Indians as well, because they’re the ones who follow cricket like crazy. They always remember cricketers.”

Suraj says the number one main thing he’ll bring to the team is his experience. He looks forward to working with Edinburgh’s young talent, wanting to “produce some good cricketers for the community.

One such member of this brigade of young talent is Caitlin Jack, currently completing her final Year 12 exams. A medium pace bowler, Caitlin’s been playing cricket for the past six years. “I absolutely love the game – watching, playing, coaching, everything.” She’s competed for both the girls and women’s team and is currently recovering from a long-term back injury, caused by playing too much (otherwise known as an over-dose).

 

“I absolutely love the game – watching, playing, coaching, everything.”

 

It’s clear Caitlin has a lot of success ahead of her (whether that’s a 99 batting average or a 99 ATAR), but she says her favourite memory so far is winning the premiership for the first time – “playing with those girls was so amazing”.


Aside from being a player and coach, she’s also a board member.


The women's team celebrate a wicket

“The club really wanted a younger voice, and another voice for the girls and women”.

The women’s program has grown exponentially in recent years. Since the creation of the inaugural junior girls’ team four years ago, the club has added another three. Edinburgh recently announced that their senior women’s side was merging with Northcote Cricket Club, “to create a new high-performance pathway for female cricketers

in Melbourne’s inner-northern suburbs”. They plan to be playing Premier Cricket by 2023.

COVID-19 has inevitably presented challenges for every community sports club in the country, but Stuart says they’ve has been able to endure the blows inflicted by the pandemic.

“I won’t pretend it’s been easy, there’s been an awful lot of work, but I think for what’s been thrown at us we’ve come through really well.”

Members made contributions to cover lost revenue and support players who were suffering from financial distress. Any concern over the club’s bottom line was compounded by a sudden announcement in March this year – Yarra Council were planning to massively increase ground hire fees.

“It’s a pretty significant threat”, Stuart says. “It worked out to be about a $20,000 per season increase for us, which is just not something we’re in a position to take”.

Thankfully, those plans were eventually withdrawn. The increase in costs would’ve made it difficult for Edinburgh to continue important work it does in the community. For the last ten years they’ve run a clinic for kids from the Atherton Gardens estate, and more recently begun running programs for children with disabilities.


A young batter blocks a ball. Photo courtesy of the Edinburgh Cricket Club.

Clearly, the club has a significant community focus, and Caitlin lauds the club’s “supportive environment” – something that Suraj is likely to appreciate. When asked about any cultural differences between the different places he’s played cricket, he says that in India and Sri Lanka, “cricketers always follow the coach.”

“What the coach says, they do that. Here it’s totally different, you need to set an environment for the player to learn, which I really like.”

Some may be inclined to note that this gentle, understanding philosophy has not been embodied by the Australian men’s team in recent years. Perhaps they could learn a thing or two from a brief trip down to the Edinburgh Gardens nets? (As to my knowledge, Caitlin is yet to be embroiled in any sort of sandpaper-gate type scandal).

 

"I love cricket cos I get to do it with Dad"

 

When pushed for his favourite cricket memory, Stuart says he’ll give me two, first recalling his eight-year-old daughter Lola’s answer when asked why she loved cricket: “I love cricket ‘cos I get to do it with Dad.” Yeah, that’s really lovely, but what’s his actual answer?

“A game 11 years ago. A semi-final, a long weekend, we’d been interrupted by rain…Last over, the scores were level with three balls left and they had two wickets in hand. I was captain of the team, and we got two run outs in two balls to tie the game, and we went through because we were higher on the ladder. Their supporters had already celebrated that they’d levelled…that’s one that I don’t think I’ll forget.”

Jokes aside, Edinburgh does seem the sort of club where an eight-year-old girl from the inner north can brush shoulders (figuratively speaking) with a man who took 43 test wickets for Sri Lanka. Though I’m not sure she’s ready to face him in the nets, yet.


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