I’ll Mow the Pitch, You Shine the Cherry

With each step, the toasted grass crunches underfoot. Days upon days of baking under the summer sun have ensured that the outfield will be lightning fast. You’ll want to win the toss today. With all the might of a Roman soldier, the stumps are hammered in to the unforgiving soil. A bail or two may have been lost in the adjoining paddock, but if the ball clips the woodwork, you’re out. The rusted, busted and beaten-up old spring bed frame masquerades as the imaginary wicketkeeper behind the stumps and has never dropped a catch. The scoreboard has been handcrafted from custom wood, painted black with strips of silver gaffer tape having been hand-cut to provide the disguise of a state-of-the-art contemporary electronic model.

A brand-spanking new deep red cherry has been attained as a Christmas present and been expertly shined and cared for with all the love associated with one’s newborn, all with this day in mind. The teams have been selected and scorecards created. This is an extensive process. Not just anybody gains selection for this once-a-summer event. And although this is a Test Match, we are enamoured by the downright pizazz of one-day international uniforms, meaning that appropriate colour co-ordination simply must be applied. Canary yellow for the Aussies, Queensland maroon for the Windies. White trousers are permitted.

As the engine of the trusty ride-on mower grates on ears, I shout to my brother, ‘I’ll mow the pitch, you shine the cherry.’ Adjusting the blades to the lowest of low settings, I cultivate a cricket pitch akin to a sub-continental dustbowl. We like to make high scores. We keep records of our highest scores. We argue over highest scores.

A bucket full of powdery sawdust is collected from the old man’s shed, a result of his long hours spent building wooden toys and furniture. This marks the crease at both ends. The services of our younger sister have been acquired to operate the faux-electronic scoreboard, and as each of the eleven fanciful batsmen depart, the bowler fills the scorebook. ‘Don’t fudge the scores!’

This was the scene of every childhood summer spent in the backyard with my brother. Cricket provided us with the platform for which to build life-long memories and a bond which could never be broken. This nation is synonymous with cricket and vice versa. The game is as much apart of the fabric of this country as Kirribilli House or beer and barbies or a day spent getting sunburnt at the beach. At my post-wedding recovery session earlier this year, a game of cricket formed in the quiet cul-de-sac. Unplanned and delightfully uninhibited. Among the fieldsmen were an Irishman and a Scotsman. Loving it. Loving how quintessentially Australian this moment was. January sunshine, beer in hand, the wireless on and mates playing cricket.

Today, friends, family and the entire cricket community will say goodbye to Phillip Hughes. Two weeks ago, childhood friends and I did the same for a mate who was also tragically taken from us at the same tender age. As our community did, the Macksville community – along with the cricket and entire sporting community – will support, console and care for one another with a love reserved for such harrowing moments.

No man should die at twenty-five. The fact that Phillip Hughes died doing the one thing that he loved above all else, makes it even harder to fathom. I have personally never felt such loss and sadness from the passing of somebody I have never met. I believe this to be by virtue of my connection to the game of cricket and the adoration held for such loveable personalities who have adorned the baggy green cap.

Australians are renowned for a toughness and determination to overcome the odds. When faced with adversity, we bind together to fight the good fight. These tragic recent events provide no answers nor any reasoning or justification. They do, however fill my soul with a sense of pride in my fellow human. Something that had been diminishing among the madness of the current universal climate.

The response to the passing of Phillip Hughes has been remarkable. It is a long, hard road to recovery for the game of cricket, but one that will be travelled together due to the love and respect shown for this little Aussie battler. His memory will be honoured forever, and I am certain that as time passes and the grieving eventually subsides, backyards around our country will again be filled with kids and adults alike, playing the game we love with the reckless abandon that it deserves. The same reckless abandon that Phillip Hughes played with, leaving us all with lasting memories of a wonderful talent. Long live his memory and long live the game we all love.

About Joe Moore

Learned the art of the drop-punt from Derek Kickett as Jamie Lawson watched on. And thus, a Swan for life. @joedmoore1979

Comments

  1. Joe- such loved and universal imagery; there’s nothing like backyard cricket. I can barely wait until my boys are big enough. Great, touching piece. I’d argue that cricket is more essential to our fabric than Kirribilli, but your point is well made! Thanks for this.

  2. Thanks Mickey. Such great memories. Seemed appropriate to relive those somehow today. Absolutely agree that cricket is of much greater importance than the goings on at Kirribilli!

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I blame Don Burke and those Aussie guys who always win at the Chelsea Garden Show, for the paucity of backyard cricket these days. In fact, it’s a clever conspiracy by the Poms to make sure that no Oz child suffers from crunchy backyard grass (or any other grass for that matter), nor do they learn how to keep the ball down. Six and Out indeed.

    To reprise Yusuf from a few weeks back, ‘Where Do The Children Play?’

    Remember linseed oil?

    Thanks Joe

  4. Agree wholeheartedly, Swish. Crunchy grass, barbed wire fences and steaming fresh cow pats made for a different kind of backyard cricket.

  5. Brilliant stuff, Joe.
    I reckon we all have some sort of backyard experience.

  6. Thanks Smokie. Such a wonderful Aussie tradition and for me, the catalyst for everlasting childhood memories. Great days.

  7. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Joe spot on re backyard cricket and yes it is the whole cricketing family in mourning . I went to Ad oval yest felt it was the only place I could be , brilliant speeches by all .

  8. Thanks Rulebook. Would have loved to have been among a crowd such as that which was at Adelaide Oval, SCG etc. An incredibly emotional time for all cricket lovers and players that’s for sure. Feel as though this terrible accident may bring everyone in the game closer together somehow?

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