“I can’t wait to see us bowl, Dad”

A number of years ago – I can’t remember if it was just prior to or just after the birth of our now almost 7-year old eldest – Mrs EPO and I were watching Offsiders when Gerard Whateley pleaded with Australian parents, suggesting that they had the fate of Test cricket in their hands. To paraphrase, he argued that we Aussie parents needed to raise our children on Test cricket if the sport was to have any chance of capturing the interest and passion of the next generation.

 

At the time, we turned to each other and agreed that we’d never thought of raising kids any other way. Test cricket would be a staple of our child’s summers, regardless of how deeply they chose to engage with it. It was the first time, though, we’d comprehended that we would be part of a minority of 21st Century Australian parents.

 

To say that the kid fell for Test cricket in a way that would make Gerard bow to our parenting is a massive understatement. The first people he ever pretended to be were various Indian and Australian bowlers during India’s last Aussie tour, when he was just turning 3 and spent what seemed like hours storming down the hallway to bowl to whichever relative felt like holding the little indoor bat he received for Christmas that summer.

 

This year, when signing him up for his second summer of kids’ cricket at his local club, we were required to nominate his favourite Big Bash League team so that the playing cap he’d receive would be of an appropriate colour. We parents turned to each other once again, this time agreeing we’d done our bit for Gerard’s Australia. Test cricket appeared ingrained in our boy, and with the BBL having successfully embedded itself in the mainstream of Australia’s summer, it was only fair on the kid that we allowed 2018-2019 to include his introduction to the short form of the game.

 

So it was that we found ourselves lying on the bed late in footy season, handing him a phone with the logos of all of the BBL teams so that he could select an allegiance – one he’d share with his father, as I figured we may as well embark upon T20 together. After a short process, he chose his team smartly. As a Richmond supporter with a Hawthorn supporting Dad, he felt it only right that we became the newest fans of the team whose home ground is the MCG, a venue that was also the focus of the kid’s “My Favourite Place” poster at primary school this year. We didn’t know who was on their team or what their history was, but we became Melbourne Stars.

 

Incredibly, the Big Bash Gods smiled upon the kid’s choice. As Canberrans, we learnt that the first game for the Stars with our fanhood on board would be at Manuka Oval, as one of the two games the Thunder play in town this season. Tickets were purchased.

 

Regardless of the excitement once the day of the game arrived last week, the traditionally unstoppable chatter from the backseat was instead all about next February’s test in Canberra, when we’re off to the kid’s first day of live Test cricket. The talk was all about Starc, Cummins, Hazlewood and Lyon. “I hope we’re bowling on the day we’re there, Dad!”

 

It’s this more than anything that I wonder about Australian kids growing up in a BBL world. Test cricket has enabled our boy to discover a passion for bowling and bowlers – they are the reason he watches cricket. Our playroom is still filled with imitations, although nowadays they are hilariously nuanced: the way Nathan Lyon stretches his left arm out to the side before trundling in his few steps; the exaggerated straight arm of Bumrah. And the greatest respect for the opposition so far this summer wasn’t for Kohli’s impeccable century, but rather for Shami’s spell of intimidating pace in Adelaide.

 

At first glance, the BBL doesn’t appear to be a vehicle through which kids will be inspired to dream of a future as a bowler. From the name “Big Bash” on down, there are endless suggestions that a good tight over goes against the wishes of every administrator, every advertiser, and every kid in the crowd who has been handed a card to hold up mid-match with “4” on one side and “6” on the other.

 

Of course, while we know that it’s Test cricket’s bowlers who have inspired our boy, we can’t speak for the thousands of Aussie kids whose first exposure to cricket is through the BBL. Perhaps there are still endless numbers of kids around the country who are just like ours, asking to spend twice as much time bowling in their playrooms and the local nets as they do batting. Perhaps the way the short form of the game appears to tilt the game towards the glory of the run scorers rather than the wicket takers hasn’t influenced too many kids away from the ball and towards the bat. Perhaps.

 

As it turned out, the night at Manuka wasn’t a great reflection on T20 cricket, mostly thanks to a rain delay that left the Stars with only 8 overs to chase down what always felt like an unreachable total. The kid was able to watch the Stars bowl, though, and came home enthused by the spin of Zampa and Sandeep, both of whom bowled effectively and efficiently. The next morning, he made sure his parents were aware that he wants to bowl for the Stars one day, but not when tests are on and he’s elsewhere wearing his Baggy Green.

 

Thanks to the rain delay, the kid didn’t hit bed until 11:15pm after the game – a time that caused great excitement as it was his latest bedtime ever, breaking the record set after last year’s Giants-Crows night game at Manuka. He was desperately struggling for form the next morning, though, so a nap was suggested by the umpires and accepted by the batsman.

 

Climbing into bed, the conversation was still about cricket:

 

“Dad, when the Stars play at the same time as a Test match, we’ll need to choose which one to watch.”

 

“Really, mate?”

 

“Nah, not really, Dad. Boxing Day is going to be awesome.”

 

“It sure is, mate.”

 

“I can’t wait to see us bowl, Dad.”

 

“Neither can I, mate. Neither can I.”

 

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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. Timely writing .,, I’m at the g with another 39 overs to go .. we need a wicket badly…and a 13 yo ,, a habit now for last few years,,, good news is he’s now old enough to take next step,,, that being with friends for the remaining 3/4 days. It’s been worth the time. Perfect weather today,,morning sun afternoon shade in the pond ford stand.
    Cheers and hope your boy keeps up his enthusiasm.

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