Australia v West Indies – MCG Test, Day 2: Beyond a boundary

Stumps Day 2:
Australia 3d/551 (UT Khawaja 144, SPD Smith 134*, JA Burns 128, AC Voges 106*)
West Indies 6/91

 

“What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?” CLR James wrote famously, paraphrasing R Kipling, in his seminal work of cricket, politics, society and philosophy, Beyond a Boundary.

In it he placed West Indian cricket in the context of colonial England upon Caribbean shores with all of its competing narratives of place, of social order, of upwards mobility, of tradition, of common wealth.

 

Start of play: 3/345 (SPD Smith 32, AC Voges 10)

 

As perfect is the enemy of good, so the past can be the enemy of the present. Everywhere the past is traded upon. Memory begets memory. Are things ever as good in the moment? Does nostalgia come only in sepia? Clive Lloyd, Michael Holding, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, Viv Richards… On it goes.

==

This series is rubbish. Why should this be? Cricket as a game I remember was a game of hierarchy, of egalitarianism, of merit. It mattered not whether you were from Malvern or Mittagong; whether you’d played representative under 16 cricket on manicured inner-suburban fields, nor whether you’d played seniors from a young age in the bush. If you were good enough, you would rise. Through District, Shield and then National sides.

Similarly, it mattered not whether you were from Australia or India, West Indies or South Africa. Sporting pride was the same. Pay packets were of similar (negligible) size. The best played the similarly resourced best. It was on.

 

===

It’s been a big few days. The fierce heat of inland Australia roaring into Melbourne carried by north winds fanning equal parts excitement and fun and lists of jobs to be completed. Buffeted and sweating, we read Christmas stories, we see my sister on TV in the Carols by Candlelight Choir (“there she is”), we have Santa’s annual assertion of magic openly doubted (“Dad, is it you? You ARE a bit cheeky”), we have my father-in-law discharged from hospital on Christmas Day, we feast with family, flake in the heat, listen happily to the southerly change breaking in the early hours, imagine lying in the pre-dawn rain, the post-dawn rain, and we prepare a Boxing Day (other) family feast. (Butterfly leg of lamb marinated in paprika, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice; paste of stuffed green olives (chopped), mayonnaise, lemon juice, paprika. Truffles with peppermint crisp. Much more).

Subsequently my only knowledge of Day 1 comes from Citrus’ report. And those of G Baum, M Knox. But as showers fall on the tin roof again this morning, I buy a ticket anyway. Why am I doing this?

 

===

Cricket is no longer a hierarchy of merit. Perhaps it never was. The dice are loaded now to a kamikaze extent. Do administrators not see that a competition relies upon competitive fixtures? On competitors? (It is the essence of sportsmanship; the very reason for the shaking of hands at the close of play; for without you, dear opponent, I am literally nothing).

Cricket Australia, the England Cricket Board and the Board of Control for Cricket in India are now the benevolent dictators of cricket’s future. None of us should be happy about this. For as we are already seeing, when insufficient incentive exists for players to represent their country in sport, the sport has a problem.

 

===

I’m on the bike.

Today is a typical summer reset day. The first after a Melbourne cool change. Reliably, the next few days will see temperatures climb higher, then higher, then uncomfortably higher as the wind shifts around to the deserted north (37 degrees by Thursday, 36 Friday), before the wind shifts dramatically again to the south (29 for Saturday).

Riding along the Park Street linear park. After a year of low rainfall, parkland native grass has browned off. In the Edinburgh Gardens a father shepherds three kids: “don’t step in the puddle.”
Splash.
“I said don’t.”

Coffee shops are opening on Napier Street. A magpie calls from the trees of Fitzroy Primary School.

The magnificent Fitzroy Gardens glow emerald-green, despite prevailing conditions, in a testament to the miracle of irrigation.

 

==

Members of the Australian squad are throwing balls around. All in blue uniforms. These blokes have probably been wearing uniforms since school days. There remains something juvenile about the need for a uniform. The wearing of it. As if people can’t be trusted to make their own choices.

It’s always particularly odd to see middle-aged hangers-on in the same uniform as the playing squad. There’s Lehmann, McDermott, Blewett, Bruckner. Others. Why do they do it? Is it solidarity? They look like old blokes with misguided ideas of their own youth, or what it is to be young.

 

The players are variously stretching, twisting, running, laughing. Pulling repetitively against a sprung lever. Organised activity. It’s 9:30am. Play doesn’t start for an hour. And even then Australia will be batting. It’s a strange use of time.

DS Lehmann laughs heartily with DA Warner. But then, if you were in charge, how else would you use this time, with a squad of young fit blokes, a long way from home, who happen to be good at cricket? Skype? Spotify? Knitting? Piano? J Buchanan’s ideas were probably different to those of DS Lehmann and SK Warne. We’re all just making up this life; muddling along.

This looks a squad of boys in men’s bodies; like a school camp. It’s easy to imagine them each being closeted along in classes, representative junior squads, teams, since childhood. Still living as children. Life in the bubble.

 

==

What of life for the average the West Indies player? Inside or outside class-sanctioned gates? The economies of Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica are hardly thriving. Trickle down paternalism of the ICC has put a near-fatal sleeper-hold on any health West Indies cricket might ever have enjoyed.

If you were a teenaged boy of the Caribbean with a competitive fire burning in an athletic belly, you’d take up basketball or baseball in a heartbeat. Or Gridiron in a slightly slower heartbeat (or perhaps sprinting in a much faster heartbeat).

 

==

It’s overcast. JO Holder starts a middle and leg stump line.

Batsmen utterly untroubled in the first hour. One inside edge from AC Voges due to shoddy footwork. KAJ Roach and JO Holder bowling same-same. Runs to leg. Runs to off. Ne’er a threat.

Why don’t they try spin?
And now they do.
JA Warrican. Left arm orthodox.

3/405 and counting.

 

==

And here’s Citrus Bob. He’s wandered over from the other side to say g’day. We meet. We chat. Radio, footy, travel, fires, writing, cricket. It’s terrific. (Thanks very much for coming over Citrus; brilliant).

 

==

Why is anyone here? To see the best? To see a contest? To see Australia? To see a massacre?

Nationalism is a powerful force.

Why are people wearing Australian caps? A surprising number of adults are wearing yellow shirts. Supporter gear is surely about creating a point of difference. Maybe this is the other side of wearing a uniform. The seeking to belong. Glory by association.

Lunch arrives without even the sniff of a wicket.
Lunch, 3/473 (SPD Smith 90, AC Voges 74)

 

==

What is the value of a Test century?
What is the value of a Test wicket?
Statisticians aside, today reveals again that all things are not equal.
Bradman’s invincibles for instance, didn’t lose a game touring England in 1948; yet that was a country whose young men had largely been lost to war. (Many Australians were killed, too, but the point stands).

 

==

“Cricket”, CLR James writes, “had plunged me into politics long before I was aware of it. When I did turn to politics, I did not have too much to learn.”

I would very much like to know CLR James’ thoughts on West Indies cricket since 1993. Perhaps he would cast an unhappy glance at the proximate United States and their near ubiquitous export of cultural artefacts to the English-speaking world (and beyond). Perhaps he would describe a growing cultural shift away from that of the colonial English and towards that of the United States. Perhaps this could be seen in the pursuit of individual gain at the expense of the common good. Perhaps this is unfair and simplistic.

I would likewise very much like to know CLR James’ view on ICC governance.

 

==

And here’s L Reynolds. He’s popped over with his sister to say g’day. We meet. We chat. Cricket, footy, beer, Christmas, writing, Surf Coast. (Thanks for coming for over Luke. Brilliant).

 

==

An image of an Australian flag spears on the sight screen with SPD Smith’s century. It’s 3/499; hardly the time for triumphalism. But there’s a roar and a standing ovation.
And again now for AC Voges.
This is Christians versus lions.  But the lions were never given a standing ovation.

Australia declare with a good few overs left in the middle session. 3d/551 (SPD Smith 134*, AC Voges 106*)

Despite a noticeable lift in intensity with the Australians in the field the match wanders to tea without a wicket falling ALL DAY.

Tea, West Indies 0/33

 

==

What then, of the politics of Australian cricket? The politics of J Sutherland. Of P Howard. Of DS Lehmann? All middle-aged well-connected white men holding the reins. And those seeking power should always be treated with caution.

 

==

First wicket of the day at 3:36pm. With the wind whistling across the turf from mid on, NM Lyon throws up his first pill after tea. KC Brathwaite plays outside the line and coughs up a catch to bat pad.

KC Brathwaite c JA Burns b NM Lyon
1/35

 

==

Can Kraigg Brathwaite’s error of judgement be attributed to inequities in the distribution of wealth in international cricket?

Can Kraigg Street’s (fictional character of Sunshine) errors of judgement regarding healthy eating choices be attributed to inequities in the distribution of wealth in Melbourne?

 

==

JL Pattinson, local of the south-east, with rehabilitated back, now provides the first spark of Day 2. He has been the beneficiary of a developed-world education, physical education and rehabilitation. And he’s fast.

R Chandrika lbw b JL Pattinson
2/50

MN Samuels lbw b JL Pattinson 0
3/50

 

==

Like the course of the Lower River Murray, the meandering of this match continues. All that remains, perversely in this game of supposed English common good, is for individuals within the game to carve their own particular stories.

In this age of individual mobile devices, on-demand streaming of entertainment and Big Bash League attention-spans, that should prove interesting enough for those concerned.

(There are 40,516 of us here today).

 

==

With five overs remaining, J Blackwood belts NM Lyon for six. And is out caught in the same over.

J Blackwood c&b NM Lyon 28
4/82

 

==

And yet the wider context is important for watching this rout. There’s no joy in watching a mismatch.

 

==

Having had one denied by video umpire review, JA Burns now takes a beauty at square leg, diving to his right.

D Ramdin c JA Burns b PM Siddle 0
5/83

Next ball PM Siddle bowls a superb full leg cutter to take the off stump.

JO Holder b PM Siddle 0
6/83

CR Brathwaite, on debut, sees off the hat trick.
Then goes the tonk next ball.

What is the value of a Test century?
What is the value of a Test wicket?

 

==

Mercifully, stumps are called.
6/91 (DM Bravo 13, CR Brathwaite 3)

Opportunities for cricketers of Australia and opportunities for cricketers of the West Indies. Spot the difference.
“What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?”

==

Riding past the Fitzroy Town Hall, shadows lengthening, be-suited guests spill stylishly from a double-decker bus, approach the steps. A function is on. Perhaps a wedding. The carnival music of a piano-accordian memorably fills the Napier Street air.

 

About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and a dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.

Comments

  1. What is the value of a Test century?
    What is the value of a Test wicket?
    You may well ask Young Wilson.
    But damn it Man; this is not Test Cricket.
    It’s barely crcket at all.

  2. “Can Kraigg Brathwaite’s error of judgement be attributed to inequities in the distribution of wealth in international cricket?” Question of the summer ER. At least partially, I suspect.

    Fazeer Mohammed, more wearied with each time he approaches the question, is quick to remind his co-commentators of the many and varied complexities that have led West Indies cricket to its current state. I think his essential position is while the administration is such a mess there’s not much point in discussing the other factors, not to dismiss their importance, however.

    While we look back nostalgically to the West Indies of the 1980s, it is worthwhile noting that the almighty dollar was the reason we saw so much of them during that period. Would James think much has changed other than the centre of financial power in world cricket and the quality of the West Indies team? Perhaps the West Indies have never stopped being colonised or maybe the weakness of the team may reflect a weakening of said colonisation.

    If nothing else that’s what, even poor, test cricket can give us. The time and space to reflect. To have a chat to Citrus Bob and Luke as things meander along. It’s pretty clear, however, that the West Indies do not warrant three tests in Australia anymore which is saddening.

  3. Beautifully written ER. I have cumulatively taken in 10 minutes of this “match”. TV (4 – Day 1); Radio (6 – Day 2) for check on relentless progress of humiliation.
    I imagine the folks back home did the same to check on progress at Stalingrad. I can understand the Boxing Day crowd – its a ritual. But Day 2? Melbourne must have the most henpecked husbands in the country.
    Reminds me of Colts footy where I grew up on Yorke Peninsula in SA. The metropolises of Yorketown and Minlaton had enough kids for a Colts team, but Warooka and Edithburgh really struggled. 20 goals to NIL at half time playing full back for Yorketown with the August winds bleeding in off Spencer Gulf was no fun. Our coach would turn the team around at half time so the second half was more even, and I was denied hypothermia but gained ridicule as the most incompetent mark in footy (the spoil was always my go).
    Suggest Warner and Burns open the bowling today, and Australia not enforce the follow on. Lyon and SIddle can open the batting.
    Ring me if it happens and I’ll improve Ch9’s ratings.

  4. David
    great stuff as usual.
    When you said “I came from the other side” did you mean the dark side?
    Great to sit and chat with you yesterday. It was a day for chat and I had more than my share.
    The Cottesloe Grumpler has a good point. Why not make a game of it for us paying spectators and open the batting with Lyon and Siddle (if needed) and bowl Warner et al this morning.
    Only problem with that is Ussie would probably get hurt.
    Better still have Marsh the younger do everything to see if he is foreman material.
    Thanks again
    Citrus

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    Great to catch up Dave.
    I have more issue with the colour of the warm up uniforms than the wearing of them. Blue? To make the NSW players feel more at home? Green and gold are our sporting colours.
    Fantastic to see over 40000 there yesterday. The ritual of Test cricket still means something, even if the contest may not. Long may that continue.
    Excellent write up DJW.

  6. This piece is the highlight of the series. Considerably more engaging than the cricket itself. Glad you had a good day out. Like most country cricket teams I played for the West Indies will continue to fill a side, it just might not be much chop.

    Thanks Dave, a ripper.

  7. Barry McAdam says

    CLR James and the West Indies. Bloody fantastic Mr Regnans. Outside of the trinity (Aust, Ind, Eng) the rest will eventually fade in Test cricket like the Windies have done.

  8. Excellent write-up, e.r.
    And what a book to reference – Beyond a Boundary. Classic.
    Some excellent observations.
    I like your discussion of the uniforms – is it to ensure that there is no chance of individuality as a concept?
    I laugh when I see the EPL managers in track-suits with their initials on the lapels – ridiculous.

  9. G’day all. And thanks.
    Wrapster – barely cricket at all; agreed. There have been one-sided romps in the past, and there will be more in the future, but the trajectory of the Windies, the financial choking, the other options for young ones there, all have the situation looking pretty dire.
    D Brown – I noticed that Fazeer Mohammed has been banned from interviewing Windies players following criticism he levelled via radio. A touch of regressive management there.
    PB – Probably a good time to be focussing on the garden. But the parrot of Test cricket can be revived.
    Citrus – Excellent to meet you. In a way, the MCC Members is the Dark Side to a Collingwood supporter, yes. I’d love to get over there and check out those scenes you describe; of lunch, of the people, of the library. One day…
    Luke – Good point. My guess would be that those tracksuits change every summer. Keep the merchandise ticking over. An old friend of mine’s mum used to work for Cricket Australia. As well as getting some brilliant seats over the time, she also once retrieved an actual training shirt of one of the players. It was emerald green. With “Muller” written across the back.
    Mickey – Very kind. I hope the Windies are competitive enough in the future. Those country teams often fall through the grades, sometimes rising again on the back of a good vintage or two, but that’s not an option for the Windies.
    Barry – That fading seems assured. It will require paternalism to be shown (and received) from the “Greedy3” to anything else.
    Smokie – me too. Ridiculous.

  10. John Butler says

    Acute observation re the warm ups E Reg. There’s much of the adolescent self in many of Australian crickets actions. For that matter, Australian life in general. This plays for and against us.

    I wouldn’t ever get carried away about cricket’s past meritocracy. The first professional was granted the England captaincy only in the 1950’s; the first black captain of the West Indies was Worrell in 1960. Australia’s tradition of the country cricketer gives us a more democratic appearance, but the old school tie, the MCC, and other institutions were always big factors in who got what opportunity.

    Those who want to remove class from the discussion are always the most likely to benefit from that fiction.

    Cheers

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