Someone recently asked me why I bothered staying up all night even though Australia was getting smashed. My response was that cricket is cricket and the Ashes in England comes around just once every four years. Honestly, I do enjoy it when my team wins but I will watch Test cricket no matter what. But how many are truly like that? How many spectators are lost when their team fails? How many fair weather friends does Australian cricket have?
I recently came across a very nice piece written by a girl of almost 20. I’m pleased to say it was my own daughter and while she clearly indicates that she likes her team to win, it is even clearer that “the Game’s the thing”. We must keep in mind that Maddie knew only victory for the first 15 years of her life. She could not appreciate what winning the 1989 Ashes series meant to those who endured the lows of the mid-eighties. Thanks to the current state of Australian cricket, at some point in the future, she can look forward to a similar feeling.
While I admit to being biassed, I thought Maddie’s piece worth posting on this humble blog so here it is:
Some girls love netball. Some love dolls. Some love to dance. Some even love cars. Me, I love cricket. I love everything about it, I love to watch it, I love to play it, I even love to read about it. I love the sound a new, hard, red cricket ball makes when it hits the centre of a bat sweetly. I love the fear induced adrenaline you feel before that little, hard ball stings your hands when you field it, and in my case, sometimes, (almost always), drop it. I love the beauty in a simple cricket ground, with healthy green grass, enclosed by a white, picket fence. I love the roar of a crowd when the much anticipated batsman from a team steps out onto the field to play. I love the moment when that wicket you have been waiting to fall, falls.
I love days in the summer sun, watching cricket at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), and I hate the summer sun. I love cricket so much that I spend hours in the sun that burns my snowflake like skin. I love cricket so much that even if I’m rather sure my country (or team) will lose, I still watch the game, because I just love the beauty of the sport. The way a bowler steams in, and somehow, that little ball flies out of his hand, hits the pitch, and angles in towards the batsman. It may look simple, but I can assure you, it’s not. I’ve heard people remark many times on how “soft” cricket is, and that immediately assures me that they’ve never played a match.
I can tell you I copped a lot of flack over the years for loving cricket. Sometimes people play down their love for something, that isn’t ‘cool’ or actually join in when others mock them for what they love. I don’t, and won’t, do that with cricket. I own my love for it, I love it that much, and it’s hard to explain why sometimes, hence this little epistle.
Over the years I’ve had many a special moment or memory centred on cricket.
There is a photo of me as a baby, in our backyard, with my dad, the man who introduced me to cricket. I’m wearing a frilly, little, pink dress. My daddy is holding me, crouching down next to some dear, old, wooden stumps and bails. No plastic or metal nonsense for us, thank you very much. I look at the picture and think ‘cradle to crave’. I’m not entirely sure when my dad instilled in me the love for cricket, but that photo sure proves he started when I was young. And I’m glad he did.
Cricket was an instrumental part of my childhood. I’m so glad my dad didn’t decide not to share his love of the sport with me because I was a girl, particularly a blonde, fair skinned one too. Gender shouldn’t define what it is alright to love, and that’s all I shall say on that line.
Like I said, cricket and my childhood go hand-in-hand.
On summer evenings, after dad came home from work, we would play backyard cricket. After I turned seven, I was finally old enough to join Dad on the annual pilgrimage to the SCG to watch Australia in what was usually the final test of the summer.
At seven, I wasn’t really old enough to fully appreciate eight hours of test cricket, but Dad packed some colouring things, and some old-school electronic games, and I was just fine. Dad even drew with me. I’m old enough now to realise the sacrifice on his part, to see how much love it showed for me, and for sharing cricket with me.
He could have left me at home, and watched the game in peace. He could’ve just left me to draw on my own, but he didn’t. He could’ve taken me to a One Day International, but he didn’t. My Dad has always maintained that Test cricket is “where it’s at”, so to speak. I heartily share this view, though I will admit I do love a cracking Twenty20.
The next memory I have, isn’t exactly a cricket experience. Rather, it is one that I missed. The Ashes were being played in England, Steve and Mark Waugh were batting together, at Lords, (I believe Steve was into the 100s). It was the middle of the night in Australia, but naturally, my dad was up watching. Thus, this being what he deemed a special moment in cricket, he decided to wake me up, school be damned. But I wouldn’t wake. He got me out of bed, set me up on the lounge, tried to get me to watch, to share the moment with me, but I would not be stirred. So he put me back to bed. I wish I had woken, I hate that I didn’t, I hate that I missed that moment, but I have the next best thing, the memory of what almost was. [Dongles: I’m glad Maddie remembers this because I don’t! Anyway, I’m pretty sure Maddie is referring to 2001 at the Oval when both of the twins made centuries. Steve Waugh, not allowed a runner, hobbled down the pitch and flopped into his ground to complete a suicidal single and make his century. It was a shame Maddie missed that.]
My next key cricket memory is a memory I will hold dear until my dying day. I can pinpoint all the details; day, venue, teams, even the time frame.
January 3rd, 2003, just before stumps on Day 2 of the Sydney Test, against England. Australia was already 4-0 up in the series, we’d secured the Ashes, (though we did go on to lose that test). It had already been a pretty big day, specifically for Steve Waugh, he had passed 10000 Test runs, a momentous feat for any batsman, (at that point, he was only the third man to achieve it).
At the start of the final over of the day’s play Steve was 95, and on strike, with Adam Gilchrist, (who I adore, which I will elaborate on later). The ground was humming with excitement. Five runs off six balls was very achievable. The SCG was Steve’s home ground, he’d been playing beautifully all day, had already achieved one milestone, and if he got the century before the close of play he would equal Sir Donald Bradman’s 29 Test centuries.
On the fourth ball of the over, Steve hit a 3. 98. On the fifth ball of the over Gilly hit a single, (which could have easily been two, but he just took one, to give Steve the strike – just one of many reasons I love Gilly).
The ground roared. I swear, the entire ground was standing, clapping their hands. I was up on my seat, standing next to my Daddy, clapping my little hands too. The atmosphere was incredible, it is really what makes the memory so powerful for me.
The crowd stood, the final ball was bowled, and Steve smacked it out through the covers for four.
I had thought the crowd roared before, but it really roared then. The stands were shaking with people stomping their feet, clapping their hands. The cheering was electrifying.
It’s always a great moment when the ground cheers when there is a wicket, or a century, but this was something else.
I can’t entirely explain it, I mean, theoretically, it was just a man, making a century off the last ball of the day, not even the last day of the match. He still had time to come back the next day and get the century. I guess really it was just a combination of factors, he was the captain, the captain of an incredible team, who’d had incredible success, and a career saving innings (for he’d been in a bit of a slump). Steve Waugh was an iconic player, he may have been rather gruff, but for all that, he held, and holds, a special place in my heart.
In fact, when he the next summer, I sat in my grandparents lounge, and watched his final innings. I watched as Sachin Tendulkar, caught Steve out on the boundary for 80, and I sobbed, bitterly. I’ve never quite forgiven The Little Master for it either, I’ll have you know. I rang my dad, crying my eyes out, because Steve was out for 80. I think I had been holding out for a little bit of that magic he’d produced the year before, I wanted another century. But it was not to be, and I sobbed away, while my dad listened in gentle amusement. I hope he was a little proud too, after all, my love for the game, and the moments it produces, is a product of his love for the game.
From here I guess I move on to Adam Gilchrist, and his retirement. Before I dwell on that particular moment, I just want to reflect on why I love Gilly. I love the flare with which he batted. I loved his athletic ability, particularly in his keeping. Most importantly, I loved his character, his sportsmanship. I loved the way he ‘walked’. If he knew he was out, he just went, even if the umpire hadn’t been going to give him out. This character, was what I briefly mentioned when he just took a single in that Steve Waugh innings.
As my dad said in the article he wrote when Gilly retired, “Gillie was the player of dreams. A player of legend.” I cried, sobbed, really, at age 14, when he announced his retirement. We were holidaying at my grandparents’ lake house. I was up in the top dwelling, watching the news, where I saw his retirement announced. I got up, and ran down to the other dwelling, crying, to tell my dad the devastating news. I shed no tears for Shane Warne or Glenn McGrath, but I loved Gilly, and I still do.
I don’t have too many particularly strong memories for quite some time following this.
I mean, I remember the rise of Michael Clarke, and Michael Hussey. I remember that 6/9 from Pup, and Hussey’s hundred after hundred. These events, and many others, added to my cricketing experiences. I watched an entire Test once. Somewhere around 2005, I guess. I attended the first day at the ground, the SCG, then spent the next few days in front of the TV, just watching, seriously, all day, for the rest of the test. During ‘Schoolies’ I watched hours of cricket, ignoring the ribbing I receive from my friends. I cried and painted ash on my face when we lost The Ashes. I watched Hussey, Clarke and Ponting all play incredible and memorable innings (particularly Clarke) at the SCG in 2012. I played grade cricket myself just this last summer. Mind you, I was not that impressive, but it was the experience, the playing of team sport, of sharing the experience with my dad, that I really enjoyed.
This summer provided me with a couple of memories, all really centring around two main events really. The retirement of Ricky Ponting, and the retirement of Michael Hussey.
For quite some time, I had been quite frustrated with the career of Ricky Ponting. I will never deny that he was an incredible batsmen, honestly, when he was in form, he was beautiful to watch. But I never warmed to him as a player, and certainly not as a leader. Upon his retirement this last summer I was very much relieved. Sadly, I had been eagerly anticipating the event for a number of years. When he retired, my dad wrote an article, as is his habit when a significant player retires.
I have read this article a lot of times since Dad published it. I think it’s the best thing he’s ever written, and he’s written a lot of good things (particularly cricket related). The article perfectly summed up my thoughts and feelings on the career of Ricky Ponting. The article is called A Salute to King Ricky, and can be found here http://www.dongles.org/2012/12/a-salute-to-king-ricky/.
This is my favourite paragraph from the article: “It is my custom to deliver a tribute to an icon when they retire. For most such players, this is usually an easy task. A pleasure. The emotion and the words flow. In some cases, such as Mark Waugh and Gilchrist, I have to admit the tears almost flowed. My daughter actually cried when Gilchrist retired. I have no tears in me for Ponting. Perhaps it is because he stayed too long. There is a sense of relief that he is finally gone, and with the dignity and farewell he deserved (even if it involved no runs for himself or his team). After some reflection, I realise it is because Ricky never had my heart.”
Ricky never had my heart. But I respect his batting ability, and I was touched when the South Africans gave him a guard of honour.
I was also touched this summer by a number of events at the Sydney Test. I found it was very moving, seeing Tony Greig’s iconic hat, balanced on the stumps, before play started for the Test. The tributes to him following his death were very special, and heartfelt. I particularly appreciated the history that was reviewed in the tributes to Tony.
I attended both the first and second day of the Sydney Test, and moved though I was by the afore mentioned matters to do with Tony Greig, I was more moved by the matter of Michael Hussey’s retirement.
When he announced his retirement I was quite upset, concerned, confused and disappointed, but I was not brought to tears. But as I stood and applauded from Brewrongle Stand as Hussey walked out to bat, on Day 2, with the Indians giving him a guard of honour, I was brought to tears, sobs really. I would’ve balled for an extended period of time, had I not been surrounded by dignified SCG members. That being said, I did cry quietly for quite a bit, my eyes conveniently hidden by my sunglasses, my head nestled in Dad’s shoulder.
It was at this point that I realised how attached I am to Mike Hussey. I couldn’t quite explain the sudden uprising of emotion, but luckily, my father wrote another quality article, for Hussey’s retirement, which largely summed up the reason behind my affection for him.
So Hussey retired, and with his retirement went the last team member from the good old days.
I remember the old days very fondly, where run making was frequent, wicket taking plenty, and Australian success almost assured. These days, things are not quite so sunny for Australia. When we win, it is often hard fought for, with one brave innings carrying us through (more often than not, that of Michael Clarke). And yet, cricket does not cease to hold charm for me, I love it no less. Perhaps is it more painful now than when the times were easy, and I was younger. Even so, it does not stop me from anticipating matches, analysing statistics, and discussing the matters of Australia cricket, and international cricket at length (mainly with my father).
Thus ends my thoughts on cricket in my life so far. There is great beauty in the sport, there can be great beauty in the sportsmanship of those who place it. It can great historical moments, great friendships and great memories.
[Dongles: No Maddie, thank you for the memories.]