By VINCENT CARDEGIN
AWARD WINNING COLUMNIST
What I use to play "Two Points Wicket," a cross between cricket and ping pong
Last week my two youngest grandsons were out of school and at my house for the day, so I ask what they’d like to do: have me instruct them like a teacher or play Ping Pong. Spud the elder wanted to know what I was going to teach, and I explained it was a rhetorical question, that we were going to play Ping Pong, which Rex the younger was fine with since he’d rather play baseball, or any sport I’m sure, than sit in class. While we were rolling the folded-up table from the garage (it’s still too hot to play out there) to the living room and moving furniture out of the way, I thought about how to combine Cricket with Ping Pong. After all, there are many smaller versions of big games played on fields and courts and rinks. While we were attaching the net, the answer suddenly came to me.
Eight years or so ago my wife had me install in the backyard of Old House an umbrella clothesline. She then proceeded to not use it very often. But because of that, we still have lots of wooden clothespins, of the wire-spring kind. Ah ha, wickets! I grabbed five pins from the bag hanging on the cabinet in the garage, set two of them on the center line at both ends of the table, took one apart and balanced a half pin across the two uprights, and there you go: stumps and bails.
I watched my grandsons play for forty minutes, a game I now call Two Points Wicket. It’s regular Ping Pong with regular scoring, but if you knock down your opponent’s clothespins (wicket) that’s an additional point. When I finally insisted on playing, I lost to both of them. I freaking invent the game and I can’t win?
Little by little over the course of seven hours the rules and versions emerged. The location of the wicket is ten inches from the end of the table, the length of my paddle. You must position your paddle above the wicket or anywhere above or behind but not in front of it when defending. If you knock your wicket over during play, that’s your opponent’s point. Someone suggested putting two wickets at each end, centered on the left and right side, and we played that for a while. Next came four wickets each end (I have plenty of clothespins) and that became a new game: no points, just whoever knocked all the other’s wickets down won a thimble. We played a game of whoever was first to get six thimbles won the owl. Later we played first to four thimbles. You can decide however many you want.
The next morning I went to Hobby Lobby to find something that looked more professional than clothespins. I bought little dowels, and things that look to me like they were meant for lamps or miniature bedposts. I cut grooves in the tops with my Dremel to hold the dowels (bails), and then cut a half-inch from the sides of two old paddles to turn them into Cricket Paddles. (We are not batsmen, we are paddlesmen.) I discovered that the sound of clothespins clacking apart on the table was a lot more exciting than the thonk of the new stumps, so I might drill holes in them so they reverberate better.
It was a half-day, so Spud and Rex were back at my house, and they brought a friend, Twain. We all played for five hours, and the last game was the most intense. I call it Three Stumps. In the one-and-a-half day-old tradition of Cricket Ping Pong, a wicket has only two stumps (which we use when playing Wickets Two and Four, and I’ve since drawn silver Sharpie lines on the table for Wickets Three, Five, Six, and Seven, which we haven’t played yet and I’m looking forward to) but the most stressful game is three stumps and two bails on the centerline. The only goal is to knock your opponent’s wicket down. I wound up playing against Twain, and it lasted thirty minutes, until he inexplicably (he’s a newbie even at Ping Pong) hit the ball so fast and with just the right curve to pass around and under my paddle to take out my wicket. Naturally I went into my Sumo rage, grabbing my knees and stomping around the room. Then, as per the tradition established the day before, the loser high-fived the winner, and the winner patted the loser, me, on the back and said “There, there, you’ll win next time.” I hate that tradition!
P.S. I’m now working on Basket Ping Pong.