• Published 14th Apr 2013
  • 228 Views, 7 Comments

The Cricketers in the Rye - Earth Writer



Two Canterlotian collegiate cricketers decide to spend their vacation in Ponyville, and coach a team. What could go wrong? Answer: Ask the last pony from Canterlot who came here to set up a recreational event for the locals...

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Prologue

Until it opened its collective morning paper on that bright, early summer day, the sporting world of Canterlot had no idea of the great blow set in store for it. Set in boldface type, above even the perennially popular racing reports, was the sensational account of the greatest scandal to hit the cricket world since the Trottingham club spiked the ginger-beer of the Equestrian National team’s lunch on the last day of a hotly-contested set (first noticed when the star batsman attempted to hit at the bowler’s volley with a wooden spoon).

It was nothing short of the discovery that the two premier upper-class Universities, Clopsford and Canterbridge, had secretly arranged to fix their rivalry match at the behest of ponies unknown, speculation centering around a high-stakes betting ring. The editorials were full of shocked statements written in the stuffiest language possible, all about the “death of sportsponyship” and “the fall of the game into the hooves of the money-grubbing classes.”

A more eloquent summation of the situation was given by the chief batter of the Canterbridge team, as he stewed in one of the student studies, “It’s all rot!”

He, Might Batsman, was an Earth Pony built according to the rural, economy-size model, with as much polish as Trottingham country gentility could give. His chocolate coat kept decently clean, his straw-colored mane no more than tolerably messy, and a friendly, open countenance was the general rule of his existence. Now, however, the he was sulking.

“ I say, the whole bally business is rotten!” Might was not a pony to vary heavily upon an established theme.

“Undoubtedly so, comrade Batsman.” A long, lavender unicorn, the only other occupant of the study, looked up from the book he was studying, fixing Might in a patient stare.

“I mean, I would never have thrown a game for anypony! If I ever came away from a game with less runs than I should have, you’d jolly well know I didn’t do it on purpose.” The sulking batsman paused near an inkstand, staring at it as if it had committed some personal offense before upsetting it in a fit of pique.

The observing unicorn clicked his tongue in deprecation. “Just so, though I must confess I hardly see that upsetting ink-pots are to get us anywhere. If we took all the ink in Canterbridge, we might just flood the Cricket-master’s office, but as he won’t be in it for some time, it doesn’t seem worth the effort.” He ended with a luxuriant yawn.

Might took a seat by the sofa arm in a huff, looking down upon his languid room-mate. “Barring all this nonsense, Psmith, it’s just not fair. I can understand them calling off the match, but suspension for the following term for all the team? We didn’t do anything! And I was going to be captain next term, too.”

Wordsworth Psmith, for that was he, put down the book on the end table, and gave his comrade a sympathetic look. Might Batsman had come from a family of strong cricketers, and promised to be the best of the lot. He could be regularly counted on for big scores and stands at the wicket, but through one circumstance or another, he’d always been denied the one validation of leadership, captaining a cricket team. “Indeed, it is a problem, comrade Batsman. The cry goes ‘round the college quad: Injustice has been perpetrated on the cricket pitch! Batsman is out of sorts! Hum,” He sat back with a sigh, flicking an invisible speck of dust off his jacket sleeve. “And now the question comes: what do you propose to do about it?”

Too busy wallowing in his sulk to see anything more than the mud of despondency, Might had formed no plan of action, so the question caught him off-guard. “I dunno, really. I’m hanged if I see any way out; the commission’s already made the decision, and even if I do prove my innocence, I can’t fill a cricket 11 by myself, even if I bring you in to bowl. I’m even barred from playing for any of the county teams. I’ll be lucky if I’m ever allowed to lift a bat on the grounds here again, let alone captain anything.” The situation was indeed bleak, but the sulky expression had been replaced with a more thoughtful one. Was there actually a way out of this mess? Might had to admit he didn’t see one, but maybe Psmith did?

“The way I read it,” Psmith began, levitating a monocle from his jacket pocket, giving it a good rub on his waistcoat before putting it in his eye, “Is that you have been barred from playing in any established team in the official leagues. Does it not occur to you that nothing in Equestria prevents you from starting an unofficial team? If nothing else, it would keep you in form during your imposed hiatus, as well as demonstrate your captaining skills and sportsponyship to any who would doubt them. After all, is not the game key, and the venue irrelevant?”

“Not if the pitch is badly kept.” Might rejoindered, but kept his thoughtful expression. He looked back to the mark on his flank, showing a flat wooden bat striking a red leather ball. It was something more than a mark of special talent for him, it was connected to his family honor. “I suppose we’d do it during the Long Vacation, but where? Anypony around Trottingham who wants to play cricket can generally join the county team, and as for Canterlot, there’s enough space in the league to fit any gentlecolt who can afford the flannels. Who’d join an unofficial team?”

Psmith remained undaunted by this objection. “Ah, therein lies the idea! We simply go to the nearest town untouched by the leagues, and offer ourselves as coaches, at a pro bono rate. You shall be untouchable, legally, and no pony alive would refuse such a deal as that. The great Batsman, here to teach our colts and fillies the noble game of cricket, for free! ‘It is a crime,’ they shall say, ‘To take advantage of such a poor lad in his time of need.’ We must use all our eloquence, comrade Jackson, to overcome their native sense of pity, but I believe we shall win through with persistence.”

The self-satisfied weirdness of his friend had often given Might cause to chuckle, and little trace of his former funk now remained. “I’d often wondered why you chose to study law. To help out chumps like me, I suppose.”

“Say rather, ‘innocent defendant,’ comrade, do not sell yourself short.” With a slow, careful movement, the long-legged colt dismounted from the sofa, replacing his eyeglass into his pocket. “I have heard tale of a cricketless town down the railway line, called Ponyville if I remember right, that may suit our needs. The first thing to do is establish that such a place exists, and is not a myth that railway-conductors tell to their foals as they’re tucked into bed. Having done so, we shall secure two tickets at the end of the term, and set to our task.”

“The long vacation’s ten weeks,” Might mused as he followed his friend out the study door. “Think we’ll be able to build a team in that amount of time?”

“Barring any unforeseen complications, I do not see why we should not find our way as smooth as Lord’s Cricket grounds.”

It was afterwards agreed by both of them that such a remark was only giving to Fate the most irresistible temptations.

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