A tribute to Raymond van Schoor

24 Nov

Cricket Scotland Blogger Sean McPartlin leads the tributes following the tragic loss of Raymond van Schoor. 

The first week of July, and Scotland are involved in a  series of warm up games ahead of the T20 Qualifiers. It’s the first time I’ve been to Goldenacre since I played here against Heriot’s years ago – so long, that I park on Ferry Rd, and, finding the side gate locked, have to walk all the way round to the main entrance.

No matter – the weather, predictably for a Scottish summer,  has been atrocious, but the ground staff have done a great job, and Scotland will play Jersey, even though it will be under threatening clouds. 

It’s good to see the team in action, whatever the competition, and, for all the weather, this is a pleasant spot for spectators. I enjoy the bonus of watching a friendly without any of the nervous tension  which will undoubtedly mark the fixtures later on in the month. 

I would count myself as sociable, and I love going to watch cricket with pals  - for the chat and the discussion and the laughter, but there is also something pleasant about watching cricket solo. The game lends itself to reflection, and, between overs or wickets, the mind tends to wander off along interesting byways, some cricket related, some not. 

I had enjoyed the Scotland innings – a great knock of 75 from George Munsey, and a rain delay at the start of the Jersey innings had only lasted for two overs – when I was distracted by the beeping of reversing vehicles behind me. Two team coaches were carefully backing their way up the main drive. These were Canada and Namibia, arriving for their own game later on. 

They piled out of the coaches as all teams do on arrival at the ground – admins looking for instructions, the players displaying that strange mix of excitement, focus, banter, and reflection which comes before any sporting fixture. 

Once they had settled in the dressing rooms, the teams re-emerged to find seats and watch the Scotland game, and, as I wrote in my blog at the time, I found myself virtually surrounded by the Namibians. I love the company of cricketers and their lifestyle; I am always fascinated to hear their chatter. Who would not be envious of their opportunities to travel and play sport – especially in the Associate world, outwith the more unpleasant aspects of intense pressure which come with Test status. 

As I recorded, the Namibians were chatting in a mix of languages – often within the same sentence – English, German, Afrikaans, Oshiwambo – which made for an interesting backdrop to Jersey’s innings. 

Despite that, it was easy to identify the usual team players – the joker, the introvert, the confident, and the quiet – but the most impressive character was Raymond van Schoor, whom I had watched make a solid 42 against Scotland at Grange the previous day. He had the quiet authority of experience about him – not that he monopolised the chat – but when he did contribute, his team mates tended to listen.

Having seen members of the various international squads walking around west Edinburgh near their hotel in the evenings, I mused for a little about how these guys, all with their different backgrounds in Namibia, were finding Edinburgh. Part of the enjoyment of international cricket and the lifestyle which accompanies it, I thought. 

I wondered about staying for Namibia v Canada, but the storm clouds were gathering and I beat a retreat.

Now Raymond van Schoor is no longer with us, suffering a sudden stroke, as he batted for  Namibia v Free State at Windhoek last week. He was only 25. 

We have discovered in the aftermath of the horrific Paris attacks that the media and the public’s reaction to tragedy is often mediated by circumstances and geography. Raymond’s loss has not received the same attention as that of Phil Hughes a year ago, yet to his family and friends, his team  mates, and the world of Associate cricket, his loss is no less keenly felt and mourned. Perhaps to those of us who saw him play and heard his chat in Edinburgh this summer, the cruelty of his sudden and premature  loss is even harder to understand. 

The beauty of cricket can lie in the reflective atmosphere it carries, the close bonds which are created – on the field and in the pavilion, the time it gives to consider more than just the game. 

We have all cause to wonder at what the game has brought to our lives. In late summer we should look back to spring – and the memories made, the friendships forged. Never should we take them for granted, for they are a privilege. 

In the end, cricket is more than statistics, and playing is more than winning. 

AS CLR James so memorably wrote: “What know they of cricket, who only cricket know?” 

Rest easy, Raymond.

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