Australia v India – Second Test: Simply being at the G is what has mattered!

The planning started three weeks ago, but many months earlier it was all about hope.

The last time I walked through the gates of the MCG was in March this year, for the T20 Women’s Final. 86,174 of us thrilled at the spectacle and simply took for granted as we left the ground, that we’d be back sooner than later for our sporting highs and lows. Little did we know then what lay ahead for us all.

Nine months later a full footy season has come and gone, and for the first time in many decades I, like thousands of others (especially Victorians), had not been to a single game. Plenty of television mind you, but it just wasn’t the same.

Cricket has become my main sporting focus once footy had finished, but as early as June, the Boxing Day Test was on my mind. I haven’t missed one for nearly 40 years, and was left to wish and hope there would at least be a game and that its devotees would be able to attend.

My wishes and hopes came true!

The day before tickets became available to the public, the ‘Australian Cricket Family’ were given the chance to grab seats in advance. An hour waiting online and there they were: Ponsford Stand, Shade, Alcohol Free. I booked for 3 days.

Day 1

Arrived at the ground early, hoping that Ticketek could sort out why they’d only sent me one ticket via SMS, and not two. Realised there was an issue not long after booking, but “Sorry we’re not taking phone calls” was their response at my first attempt to contact them. Googled Melbourne Ticketek Offices to be told that Exhibition Street was open and would close at 5.30pm. Jumped on the tram, walked up Exhibition St, only to be greeted with discarded mail lying on the floor behind a heavily locked door, with a sign attached: Closed Until Further Notice.

Three days before the game, decided to google again. Went to their website: Exhibition St Office Closed until further Notice; Athenaeum Theatre, Flinders St: Hours: Open 9am, closes 5.30pm. Another tram ride, another waste of time! Closed Until Further Notice

Bloody Ticketek!

Arrived at the ground at 9.30. Went straight to the Ticketek booths at Gate 3 and 6. ALL CLOSED!

Went to Gate 1, Ponsford Stand entry. Found a Supervisor and explained the situation. I’d fortunately brought the printed emails I’d received, showing our seats and payment. “Sorry madam, but you’ll need to go to Ticketek to sort it out.” “The booths here at the ground are all closed,” I replied, trying extremely hard to contain myself. “Gate 6 is definitely open,” he insisted, “there are two lots of booths, try the other one.”

Off we traipsed, knowing full well I was right. I was!

“There has to be some way you can let us in,” I blurted, getting more and more frustrated and angry as the time ticked away. “And my husband needs to sit down, he’s 89 and got dementia and is tired and confused,” I added, hoping that might help. One look at me should have been enough to get some sympathy, I would have thought. “I’m ‘old’ and tired too, and I have an auto–immune illness which involves chronic fatigue, and I also need to sit down,” I added. All to no avail.

I demanded I see another Supervisor. That did the trick. A quick lift of the blue belt at the entrance and “Can you bend down to go under?” he asked. Never bent down so quickly in our lives!

We were in! In at the G. Sitting on an aisle in the Ponsford Stand, no one in front of us, with ten minutes to go before the first ball was bowled.

As the players walk out onto the ground, I’ve calmed down enough to take in the reality. We’re looking at cricketers in creams. What a wonderful sight! We’re looking at a red ball. What a wonderful sight! We’re looking at the three slips and a gully. What a wonderful sight! We’re looking at 11 fielders and two batsmen in one glance, instead of the television’s compressed images. What a wonderful sight!

We’re actually here, at the MCG, being a part of the Boxing Day Test. Part of history. Simply wonderful!

I reach for my radio. Can’t possibly watch cricket without the ABC broadcast. My trusted 20 odd year–old Sony Walkman transistor comes out of its case, ear plugs go into the ears, and it’s switched to ON. No need to find the station. It’s exactly where it was last year, on the final day of the Test against New Zealand. The radio only gets used for the Boxing Day Test – year after year.

Ten minutes later, it goes dead! Time to change battery. Only trouble is that I’ve brought the wrong one with me – Triple A instead of the Double A. Testing time for a person with so many rituals and habits, especially when it involves sport!

Next is the binoculars. Top quality Tasco has done the trick for maybe 15 years now. Again, no need to close one eye to adjust then the other to make perfect. The fine tuning and clarity is as it was that day against New Zealand last year.

The day progresses, the cricket is absorbing and we arrive home looking for an early night in readiness for the next day.

Day 2

We’ve caught the tram instead of driving, and despite signs in the City saying Extra Trams for the Boxing Day Test, we wait 18 minutes in Flinders St for one to the ground. It arrives, jammed pack, but I simply refuse to stay behind and wait another 18 minutes (as 10 people did), so force myself and drag Marshall up the steps and into the masked socially un–distanced mass of humanity.

No Ticketek dramas today. Back to the same seats, radio replenished, binoculars perfectly focused, and ready for another 6 ½ hours of test match cricket.

Half an hour before lunch Marshall wants to go to the loo. I hesitate allowing him to go alone, but don’t want to miss the action, so point him in the right direction and emphasise, “Remember to come back to 28 to come back upstairs, and you’ll see me.” Stupid me! As if I haven’t learnt by now! After 5–10 seconds he will have forgotten. Completely forgotten what he’s heard, been told. And sure enough, after 15 minutes I decide to go looking for him. Not wanting to actually go into the Men’s toilet, I call his name from the outside. No response. I walk around the downstairs area, then walk up into the aisles directly opposite the Men’s, but he’s nowhere in sight. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have his phone on him (very risky with a phone: returning missed calls to places like Nigeria and Tunisia made months earlier), so I go back to my seat, worried. As I chat to one of the Supervisors about what to do, the man himself appears in the distance, looking somewhat lost. Relief! “Where did you go?” “I don’t know,” “Did you remember aisle 28?” “No”. “Have you washed your hands?” “Don’t remember”.

Why haven’t I learnt by now? The last 18 months or so, as the dementia has progressed at an astonishing speed, asking a question is a complete waste of time. There are only three answers “I don’t remember,” “No,” and “Yes.” I’ve discovered that the “No” and “Yes” are purely guesses and uttered as a quick response – perhaps to shut me up!

I’ve also come to learn that so much of human conversation involves a question, but for a person with dementia it means nothing. Hence, very little conversation.

After another absorbing day of cricket, we trundle back to the tram and home at 7.30

An hour before bed, Marsh asks me “What have we got on today?”

Day 3

Bugger the trams, it’s car again today. Melbourne and its weather! 32 yesterday, 17 today! Still can’t get used to it, even though we’ve been back here nearly 20 months.

We park at the G, laden with coats and scarves, even though Melburnians are seen with T–shorts and shorts! We have the same seats.

Marshall wants the loo an hour into play. Telling him I’ll have to come with him, he is staggered, asking “Why?” Despite my re-telling of the day before, he refuses to accept it, saying, “Of course I’ll find my way and remember to come back to Aisle 28.” I lead him down the stairs, repeating “When you come out, turn right,” and I’ll be waiting there. I watch as he comes out. Just stands there looking to the left and straight ahead. Just waiting. Fortunately, I was there.

I need to be there for pretty much everything now. Anyone with a loved one with dementia knows just what I mean. It is absolutely heart–breaking seeing the deterioration happening to these once bright, alert, intelligent, caring and loving people.

Another absorbing day, with India in a commanding position.

Driving home, Marsh asks “Where are we going?” “Home, darling” Oh, good!” A few hours later and he will have forgotten all about today’s cricket.

I’ve never purchased Day 4 tickets in advance, so decide to wait until I get home before going online to Ticketek. Something holds me back.

Day 4

I wake this morning, feeling quite unwell. I do most mornings mind you, and need to wait until the cortisone kicks in before being able to tackle the day. I mention to Marshall that we might not go to the cricket today. “Is there cricket today?” “Why can’t we go?” he asks. “Well, the state of play looks as if it could end very quickly, and I’m really not feeling very well this morning.” “What’s wrong with you?” is his reply. Most days he asks the same question, completely forgetting that my late–onset Lupus has been affecting me for nearly two years now, and many days are a struggle. When I try to explain the state of the game at the moment, “The score is that we’re the equivalent of 6/1 in our final innings, and ….” he has no idea what I’m talking about.

At 10am, still not feeling much better, I record the game on Fox. What happens if Cameron Green gets going and the tailenders stick it out? How could I miss that? How could I miss seeing our quicks take 10 wickets for not so many runs in a miracle? How could I possibly miss a day of a Boxing Day Test? I have never done it before. Never, no matter the state of the game. It’s like not hearing the final Movement of a Beethoven Symphony, or reading the last chapter of a book. A dilemma indeed.

My health takes precedence today, so the television it is, like it or not. I don’t need to prove anything to anybody – just myself, perhaps?

Just before 3pm it’s all over. India has levelled the series.

Win, lose or draw. It hasn’t mattered that much to me this time. What has mattered is that we’ve actually been there to witness it.

And, in this year – 2020 – that is indeed saying something!

 

 

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About Jan Courtin

A Bloods tragic since first game at Lake Oval in 1948. Moved interstate to Sydney to be closer to beloved Swans in 1998. My book "My Lifelong Love Affair with the Swans" was launched by the Swans at their headquarters at the SCG in August 2016. www.myswansloveaffair.com

Comments

  1. Jan,
    I admire you greatly, especially with everything you are doing in regards to Marshall.
    You are truly an amazing woman.

  2. Daryl Schramm says

    Great read Jan. Ticketek have had their problems throughout 2020, cricket and footy. Still adjusting to my mum’s dementia. Thankfully she is in good care. I’m sure my frustrations are nothing like yours. Nothing beats being there.

  3. After a year of lockdown actually going to the G must be very exciting. Never again to be taken for granted.
    Onya Jan and Marsh.
    Jude

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Jan, how wonderful was it to be back at the MCG! My 2 boys and I went on Day 2 and 3, despite India dominating we thoroughly loved being there.

    Well done on keeping your unbeaten streak of MCG Tests going. With the Sheffield Shield fixture extending well into April, we are eyeing off a few of the dates, hope to catch you and Marshall at the Junction Oval again.

  5. Thank you one and all.
    Smokie: Your words are far too generous and there is absolutely nothing remarkable about me!
    Darryl: I’m pleased your Mum is in good hands.
    Jude: Nothing should ever be taken for granted!
    Luke: So pleased you and your boys were able to get tickets, and yes, really looking forward the the Shield (hopefully Qld gets to play here!)

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