Almanac Cricket: Should I go to the cricket on Tuesday?

Should I go to the cricket on Tuesday?

 

Tuesday is 26 January. Or I could call it Australia Day.

 

Usually on this holiday every year, I go to my friend’s place for his Australia Day BBQ. He’s very patriotic. I remember when he bought his house, the first thing he did was attach a flag pole, and he loves using it, and not just for the Australian flag. He proudly flies a red, yellow and navy flag on days when the Adelaide Crows win. He has also travelled overseas, and loves other cultures. He has a policy that if a friend is visiting from overseas, then he’ll fly the flag of that nation, at least for the first day of their arrival.

 

But on Australia Day, it’s what happens between our vast and beautiful shores that we celebrate. And we do it very simply; snags and salad around the BBQ. With perfect weather almost guaranteed, it’s a carefree day. No one bothers talking politics, who cares? We know we live in the best country.

 

This year, it’s a little different. I’m a cricket lover, and there’s a Big Bash double-header at the MCG; a ghost of a stadium in need of awakening after a compulsory closure of nearly all of the last 12 months. The ‘G is the heart of Melbourne and we need it pumping again to bring us all back to life.

 

So, should I go to the cricket?

 

Actually, I’m not even sure my if my friend is holding his BBQ this year. After all, there are still legal limits on how many people you are allowed to welcome into your house. What is it, 15 or 30? Who can keep track? But he usually would get more than 30 each year, so he’d have to choose between his friends. Remember, just a couple of weeks ago, right on New Year’s Eve, on the day itself, without warning, the government reduced the limit on guests allowed in your home down to 15. So your New Year’s Eve party with folks already arriving at the door suddenly became an illegal gathering, or at least ours was.

 

And what of the flag that’s usually flapping happily on top of his house? When anti-lockdown protestors came onto the streets last year to remind the government about democracy, proper civil functioning, and basic human rights, the Premier’s ‘Finest’ (in every sense of the word,) in their new riot gear, would usually start by targeting the ones who obviously cherished their freedoms the most, that is, those carrying the Australian flag. That was often how ‘illegal’ protesters were being identified before being bullied or tackled. So the flag itself has taken a battering.

 

So, if there’s no BBQ, should I go to the cricket?

 

Cricket has always had the power to unite, despite our differences. As a boy, the most exciting fixture imaginable was the when the West Indian cricket team came on tour. They were the calypso kings, the best cricketers in the world; cavalier batsmen, and the world’s fastest bowlers, no helmets, against our best Eleven. Yet it was also quite obviously black versus white, as much as any chess game, and no one cared less.

 

Cricket has that universal quality, now being played on every continent. Did we not see the significance when the ICC recently announced its teams of the decade, that the best T20 cricketer in the world plays for Afghanistan, Rashid Khan? Can we imagine that the best Test cricket team in the world, the Indian national team, struggles to find one common language amongst all of its players? I speak French, and once found a French sports manual, describing all the sports played on continental Europe. To my surprise, cricket had its own double-page spread, complete with all the cricketing terminology in French.

 

Yet cricket is its own language. Look at the way park cricket is played in Melbourne these days. Quite a bit of ethnic mix among the teams. Yet there are also teams made up of one strong ethnic leaning. You can find a game where it’s only Hindi or Urdu dominating the cries of ‘catch it’, and ‘bowler’s end’, where the only English spoken for the day is the discussion directed towards the two umpires. Cricket is the language that unites our differences.

 

The MCG brings its own great feelings of universal escape, into a field of dreams, where anything can happen, unscripted: the game changing run-out; the impossible comeback from nowhere; the unlikely hero. It begins on that great level playing field, and it doesn’t matter where they went to school, nor their hairdo, tattoos, the colour of their skin, or what party they were brought up to vote for. Those things don’t count, as the scores for the day begin on zero.

 

So, to escape the machinations of politics, shouldn’t I go to the cricket?

 

Unfortunately, not so much this Tuesday. For we’ve all, including Cricket Australia, been trapped in a bind. For the date itself has become a political football, to be announced as either ‘Australia Day’ or ‘January 26’. Call it one, and you’re a white supremacist, or assuming a privilege not afforded to the original inhabitants of the land. Call it the other, and you’re unpatriotic, ungrateful for all the accomplishments of those who have sacrificed and built this great nation. So, do we join with the players and drop one knee, or wave the flag in pride, or support whatever other symbolic representation that will virtue signal that we’re ‘doing the right thing’? I don’t know anymore. It’s all a bit much for someone that just wants to enjoy the game.

 

So, should I go to the cricket, just for sake of the game itself?

 

For the play on the field this year has been as spectacular as ever, to mention a few examples:

 

  • Dan Christian, who proudly displays his Aboriginal colours on his playing equipment, dragged his team over the line against the Brisbane heat, performing with both bat and ball, a remarkable athletic dive to avoid his own run-out, before hitting victory with a last-ball boundary, taking his Sydney Sixers team to the top of the BBL table.

 

  • Mackenzie Harvey, carrying the honour of his family name, being the nephew of former Australian ODI all-rounder, Ian Harvey. In an earlier game taking possibly catch of the year, hanging onto a greasy ball with two hands, horizontal at full stretch. Then when all looked lost in the Renegades’ all-important home derby against the Stars, needing 13 runs per over from the last five, the youngster hit his highest ever BBL score of 47 off just 21 balls to somehow steal victory.

 

  • The Indian Test team, after their total embarrassment of being bowled out for 36 in the First Test in Adelaide, turned everything around to win the series 2-1, when every indicator was saying that this couldn’t be done. They were without several star players, including their captain, Virat Kohli. Suffering a string of injuries, they had to bring in untried players from the IPL for the deciding Test in Brisbane. Perhaps they were too young to have read enough history, that no visiting Test team had beaten Australia at the Gabba in over thirty years, no Asian team had ever beaten Australia there, and no team had ever won by scoring more than 300 in the 4th innings.

 

 

So, I want to go to the cricket on Tuesday. But what other politic impositions will I have to endure for the pleasure?

 

The Covid requirements mean that I won’t be allowed several freedoms that I’ve enjoyed in past years, including; waiting until the day to buy a ticket at the gate, and sitting anywhere you like in the general seating areas, with the stadium listing only specific limited reasons for even getting out of your seat at all. Just going to stretch your legs, and see what the cricket looks like from a different part of the stadium, either higher, lower, sunnier, shadier, squarer, or more straight onto the wicket, wasn’t on the list. And, if this was for a genuine health purposes, everyone would be all too willing to comply. But yet again, are these decisions truly based around health, how much of it is political?

 

Returning to park cricket out in the suburbs, last Sunday I saw a batsman hit three boundaries in one over. Each time the rolling ball was noticed by a passing onlooker, or someone watching seated on a park bench, and thrown back onto the field. Each time the umpire took the ball and sprayed it with a bottle of hand-sanitiser, three times in three minutes. Is that science, or is it politics, or is it paranoia? I guess you don’t exactly know just how many deaths have been attributed to unsanitised cricket balls. But you can’t argue. These rules are developed by experts in virology.

 

Yet, as much as they try, they will never be able to totally sanitize the game. It’s too virulent. It will go around and one day infect the whole world.

 

So, should I go to the cricket on Tuesday. Frankly, it all sounds a bit too much. I probably won’t bother.

 

 

 

For more from Michael, click HERE.

 

 

 

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About Michael Viljoen

Michael was born in the Nelson Mandela Bay area, the same as Siya Kolisi, the successful World Cup winning Springbok captain, but was raised in Melbourne with a love for Australian Rules. He has worked as a linguist in Africa with Wycliffe Bible Translators Australia, where he wrote a booklet on the history of Cameroon's Indomitable Lions, which was translated into several Cameroonian languages.

Comments

  1. george smith says

    Australia Day, like most Liberal Party hi-jinks, is best expressed by ignoring it…

  2. Daryl Schramm says

    For me, Australia day and cricket go hand in hand Michael. So I went as a neutral to the oval today in the hope Perth would beat Brisbane to help Adelaide qualify for the finals. As I type Sydney look like helping Adelaide qualify after the earlier match went against expectations. A thought provoking post. Thank you.

  3. Almanacas, the last time I went to the cricket on Australia was in ’66 with my then current girl friend at the Adelaide Oval test match.Over my working years the Australia day holiday was a day for me to enjoy FISHING. I had many numerous excellent catches on that day. Also, before I began working, the Australia Day long weekend was the time to enjoy the Henley Beach Carnival. Great memories. In those days I never gave a thought about all the kerfuffle that is going on these days.

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