Pre-season’s kicking in. My Oral History of Aussie Footy book is bouncing the ute, dog and I between all states and the shittiest jobs to pay for it all. Day to day, hand to mouth, Hey, two coins, off to Adelaide, try and land Ricciuto. Add the personal life and other factors we all have and suddenly I find myself walking the dog through a park in a far off city, rather than having her run behind the ute as we cruise to cut wood.
It’s stressing me. Every step feels slow, like I’m wasting valuable time.
Then I see a small oval buried down the back, trees framing it, city looming, if you care to look, over that. A white-haired man with a corker white beard bowls an off spinner at good speed at some young buck. And the kid doesn’t charge the ball, or seize it, or butt or kick or swallow or smash it. He doesn’t dribble or slam-dunk or lob or strike at it. He doesn’t dominate, thrash, take possession or score. He leaves the pill alone, letting it pass down the leg side. And his teammates are happy with that. Stoked!
“Oh, well done!”
And the grey fox didn’t take his wicket or life, or rip one at his throat, or land a body-blow, he bowled a dot ball, and his teammates are stoked with that.
I decide I like the pace of cricket, that I need it, so stop and watch.
The oval’s small, a school-type thing, everything is ones or fours or leaving the balls just outside the off stump. Mostly leaving. I don’t really care beyond suddenly, time doesn’t matter a damn. Deep backward square leg tells me the fox, Harry Walker, is 76 years old.
“Or 75,” he grins. “Was born in ’39.”
The ground’s too small for an outfield. The batsmen aren’t great, but good enough. Used to bigger grounds, every time they hit the ball through the fielders they’ve already scampered one before it rolls over the flags and is declared a four.
Finally, after thirty minutes of watching, one of them smacks it sweet. He just stands at the crease, like victories, watching it go, then strolls to the middle of the pitch to converse with his batting partner as if he lazily rules the world.
That’s the sort of pace I want to walk at, I think. They’re the sort of airs I want to carry.
“Legend!” his teammates call.
“We’re closing now!”
The opposition, meanwhile, spruik their man.
And I slip off, back into the time stream of the rest of the world.