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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Yanking at Cricket

(Written Dec 27, 2005)

Geri's asleep on the hotel room bed, behind me. We're in the middle of nowhere at a "wilderness retreat", a term which apparently means a rustic place to stay in the middle of nowhere. We will be here through New Year's Eve, so it's a fine and fortunate thing that I like being in the middle of nowhere with nowt but my beautiful wife, pen and paper, a few books, an equal quantity of wine -- by which I mean equal to the volume of reading -- and walking trails all 'round. And cricket on the TV.

Yes, there's TV, thanks to satellite reception. And, yes, there's cricket on't. And so there should be. It's the immediate aftermath of Christmas and it was a pre-condition of my Australian citizenship that I should annually watch or listen to the Boxing Day Test match. At least so long as my feet are on Australian soil. As with taxes, there are reprieves granted for those bodily abroad. Those cricket-watching reprieves, however, are no blessing as, on the taking of them, one is accursed with being both away from the summer paradise that is Australia at the close of each year, and also, therefore, by definition, remote from the game that so befits a summer paradise: cricket.

For those of you already with me on this, I don't need to tell you that we're two days in, as I write, extraordinarily grateful for Hussey's unexpected century after the late collapse on the first day, and yet a bit adrift as the South African
batsmen seem to have a pretty solid line on our bowlers. Most distressingly, Warnie seems more talk than spin. Usually a harbinger of trouble to come on Day 3.

For those of you still reading only out of a sense of morbid curiosity about slowly dying cross-cultural anachronisms, allow me to early make the point that those of us who love the game also find it just as easy to mock as anyone else, so don't waste your breath. We know all the jokes, but we feel your derision as a badge of honour. And as for the blinking, yawning apathy of the vast majority of humankind, we find it, at worst, an invitation to expound on how no, actually, it isn't the least bit like baseball and, at best, rather obvious evidence of our superiority.

I shall not, here, enumerate the many types of cricket fan. It will suffice simply to advertise that I am one of the worst.

Most resentably, I came late to the game. A dilettante, I fell like a wicket on a wet pitch, in my twenties, listening on the radio as the then-mighty West Indies side toured Australia. My second sin is that I've never played, save for a few picnic bashes with a rubbish bin serving as stumps. Those properly passionate about the gentlemen's game earned their fandom as boys over a hundred long, sweaty days standing bored under the bursting sun waiting for a cut to come their way, while their parents paid an equal price in patience. My third deficit -- in no way to be equated with strike three -- is one of knowledge. I am merely a fan: no master of the arcana of cricket numerology me.

Yet, in the eyes of almost every fellow fan with whom I have ever had the pleasure to fantasize about watching Bradman bat, what I lack in vital credentials, I make up for with each enthusiastic flap of my mouth. My accent saves me. Never have I been among cricket fans who didn't marvel at hearing passionate patter about their game in an American accent. The sheer novelty even garners forgiveness that I still stumble on the taxonomy of field placement. For my exoticism, I am even forgiven the deficiency of not having abandoned my first love: baseball. Careful I am, however, with diplomatic double-talk, should there be an attempt to name the superior game* among those who've already had a few pints of philosophy.

I am forgiven all, and embraced in my roughness like the fellow colonial I am when I proclaim: "Yeah, mate, Paris is good, but it's great to be back in Oz after so long away, especially as the Boxing Day Test's on!"

* * *

Post Script: We -- Australia -- ended up winning the Boxing Day Test match. The side then went on to win the following test for good measure. Ponting's got a few runs in 'im yet.

(*For the record: Cricket's the far superior game of strategy -- test cricket, mind you, not those silly one-day whack-a-thons. Baseball's the far better day out, especially a dusk-straddling double-header. And neither is a test of athleticism. Stamina, maybe, but, even then, the Tour de France this ain't.)

Comments on "Yanking at Cricket"


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