Almanac (Cricket) Reflection: Taking the kid to the Test

 

I don’t remember much of the first day I ever spent at a Test match, an Ashes test at the SCG when I was 7 years old. I remember the hotel my family stayed in. I remember sitting not far back from the fence. I remember Graeme Dilley’s ridiculously long run up. I remember being allowed to purchase cricket cards during at least one of the breaks in play. I remember joining my mates in the schoolyard soon after to imitate the bowling actions of Peter Sleep, Peter Taylor, and – with shoulders raised to our ears, of course – Gladstone Small. I remember feeling disbelief at seeing these men in real life rather than on tv, especially stunned by just how far back from the pitch the wicket-keeper had to stand.

 

Despite not having thought about that day for years, these snippets of memory materialised in strangely immense colour last weekend, as I took my own seven year old boy to what was his first day at a Test, the third day at Manuka, just a 15 minute drive from home.

 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the day reminded me once again of the petrifying speed of parenthood, with all of the cliches about the rapid passing of time ringing horrifyingly true.

 

In the aftermath of the beautiful day of cricket, I found myself pondering on this far more regularly than I’d have liked. For I didn’t want to think about how much he’ll forget – or, ultimately, how much I’ll forget – about such a spectacularly enjoyable experience. Nor did I want to truly comprehend that what is so vivid now will become but snippets of memory. I did comprehend it, though. I knew the details would be forgotten quickly enough, almost as soon as he had excitedly recounted the day’s play to his mother at the dinner table and his grandfather on the phone, and once he had re-lived the highlights prior to watching the fourth day.

 

Of course, it’s impossible to guess what he’ll remember. Will it be that the first wicket he ever saw live was a Hit Wicket? Will it be Starc’s 5 wicket haul, mostly taken in a spell of intense and intimidating bowling? Will it be Khawaja’s century? Will it be one of Canberra’s best thickshakes that we shared before the game? Will it be hanging with one of his mates who came to sit with us for an hour in the afternoon session, the two of them comparing hilariously strident opinions on all things Aussie cricket while watching the game and flicking through the kid’s cricket magazines? Will it be anything?

 

My wife and I have always tried to ensure that the little fella has had some understanding that a love and admiration of Test cricket has coursed through the veins of his family over time. On our annual footy pilgrimage to the MCG, he and his kid sister always proudly visit two statues in particular: Keith Miller, the sporting hero of their paternal grandfather, and Dennis Lillee, the sporting hero of their maternal grandfather. But it wasn’t until he was at Manuka that I realised he was never going to truly understand the sense that we were trying to impart until he had been there to witness the game himself.

 

On Sunday, it was all in the kid’s face as he naturally rose from his seat to join the crowd in applauding Khawaja’s century late in the day. It was yet another reminder that the older we become, the more we understand that the details are irrelevant…it’s the feeling that truly matters. And in that moment, the beaming little face standing alongside me reflected a sense of awe as untarnished and pure as every child deserves to experience.

 

In that moment, he was in awe of a sportsman’s brilliance, in awe of being there, and in awe of being inducted into this world where cricket fans from all walks of life rise as one. As he looked between the two much larger bodies standing in front of him so that he could see Khawaja’s celebration, the kid appeared once again to be soaking in perhaps the greatest of lessons that sport has taught him, or any of us, thus far. The joy, honour, excitement, and humility of being a part of something that is infinitely bigger than ourselves.

 

It wasn’t until I reflected on this in the days after the test that I realised that these experiences of mine – the parenthood experiences, that is – are also my induction to another timeless tradition. For I, too, have entered a new, awe-inspiring world.

 

Yes, my experience is incredibly similar to that of so many who have come before. Like them, it’s impossible for me not to be slightly emotional as I see generations of my family being reflected in my boy’s eyes as he gazes around the field in wonder. Like them, I can’t help but think about my own childhood, and how much my grandfather – the man at whose side I spent countless hours of Test viewing every summer as a kid – would have taken such joy at seeing the awe on his great-grandson’s face. And like them, I can’t help but succumb to the petrifying speed of parenthood…this catalyst for my knowledge that I’m already well on the way to a stage of life in which my son will be texting me about the Aussie Test team rather than relishing the shared nature of the experience while sitting alongside and often on top of me.

 

Many details of the day have already been forgotten. But, of course, that doesn’t matter. I’ll never forget the feeling.

 

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About Edward P. Olsen

EPO is equally passionate about sport and sports writing. While others toil away at the local indoor sports centre re-living their futile childhood dreams of being one of the best of all time, he types away at home re-living his futile childhood dream of being one of the world’s great columnists.

Comments

  1. Welcome to the club, EPO! My father took me to the Gabba in 1962/63 to see the Poms. I was about 11 years old. It was a big trip to ‘the big smoke’ for a country boy. I saw my hero Ian Redpath bat, it showered on and off, and play was cut short. But the feeling of the importance of the occasion is still there. Fast forward to the late 80s and I’m taking my lad to the same, if much changed, ground. I can’t remember what the game was (not a Test) but I do recall clearly in my mind’s eye his awe and wonder as he lined up with hundreds of other kids for the autograph of his then favourite player, Stuart Law. Thirty years later, it’s still one of our favourite things to do together – go to the cricket, be it Shield or Test. Treasure the moments and the feelings.

  2. Great stuff!!

  3. Ritual. The mystic chords of memory. Powerful and important stuff Edward. Eloquently told and reflected. 1963 with my father and paternal grandfather at Adelaide Oval. My first day – an Ashes Test. All detail lost in the fog of memory. But I remember exactly where we sat and the perspective of my view. And Simpson and Lawry dropping it at their feet for quick singles. Miraculous. Nothing is ever wasted on a child.

  4. This is a mighty fine piece. Thanks EPO. What you describe is so true. You generated some intense feelings in this Northcote study. Apart from the cricket element (not insignificant!) I reckon that reminder of your own childhood has a remarkable intensity. I had forgotten so many things from being a little kid/toddler/and even infant. One that stopped me in my tracks was washing Theo’s face with a washer in the bath. The way his head wriggled back. I had a vivid memory of that, locked away, and it returned to the surface.

    I think everyone relates to your observation/feeling about the fleeting nature of it all. The underlying sadness makes your piece all the more powerful.

    Thanks for lifting my spirits EPO.

  5. PS. First day at a Test match – MCG 1970-71. vEngland. Got Colin Cowdrey’s autograph. Australia batted. WM Lawry declares on the second day with Marsh on 92! Froggy Thompson and Ross Duncan open the bowling for Australia. With Dad, uncle and cousins.

  6. Superb EPO,my 1st was 74-75 I remember vividly getting to Ad oval as a family by 9 am waiting 2 hours for play to start I can remember exactly where we were on the concrete in front of the Victor Richardson gates
    and Ian Chappell my hero catching,Amiss in the 1st over of the day and just how ridiculously quick,Jeff Thompson was.The previous season against,Pakistan was meant to be my 1st time going to a test match but instead in hospital alas unfortunately no experience like that with my children zero.zero interest in cricket

  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Top stuff indeed EPO

    My earliest Test memory is Day 2 of the 70/71 Ashes Test in Adelaide. I thought that it was really clever to yell out to Bill Lawry “avagoyamug” from up on the grassy knoll at what is now known as the Riverbank End. The Bishop boys thought it was funny, but the selectors may have taken me a bit more seriously than was necessary.

    As always, none of my family was with me. I did take Mrs Swish to an Aus v SL one-dayer in the mid 80s

  8. Thanks for all of the comments, folks – it’s bloody brilliant to read your reminiscences about your first tests, and the way that your own childhood memories can still be so powerful so many years later. Special thanks to you, Ian, for welcoming me to the club!

  9. E.regnans says:

    Love it, E.P. Olsen.
    I was expecting a gentle away-swinger but your observations jagged back into me off a length.
    You’ve taken middle and off.

    Beautifully played.

  10. Ian Hauser says:

    Rulebook, I went to the last day of that Fifth Test early in 1975. I was 22. It was a hell of a hot day with the Australians looking to pick up the last 5 wickets. Knott superb! I think that the entrance fee was either reduced or waived – otherwise, as poor students, we wouldn’t have been able to afford to go! The Aussies won easily by early afternoon but, with the heat, looked very bedraggled in their victory. My mates and I sat out on the eastern wing (excuse the mixed metaphor) and suffered appropriately as there was no escape from the sun. Great memories.

    EPO, thanks for the credit. The opportunity can be all too fleeting. Pack as much in while you can – and may that be for decades for you and the boy.

  11. Magnificent. So much to consider and enjoy.

    First Test was Ashes in 1974. Australia rolled cheaply. Lillee and Thompson had an over each to conclude the day. No wickets but the impact was astonishing.

    Thanks.

  12. Ian yes I remember vividly the Knott century yet we were always going to win.Mickey yes Underwood went thru us on the old wet wicket we were rescued by Walters and Jenner my debut was day 2

  13. Colin Ritchie says:

    Fab read Edward! I remember well my first Test match that dad took me to. It was something special for a kid from the bush going to the big smoke with his dad. It was the 1962/63 Ashes Series, third day of the Second Test at the MCG. I have fond memories of that Test especially the exploits of Fred Trueman. You can read about my memories published previously on the Footy Almanac site by clicking the following link.
    https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/almanac-cricket-john-arlott-and-fred-trueman/

  14. Fantastic piece, Edward. A wonderful read.

    This certainly struck a chord with me (I was most recently at the first two days of the Boxing Day test with my 22-y-o son). And it has obviously resonated with many other readers also.

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