Pre-season’s kicking in. My Oral History of Aussie Footy book is bouncing the ute, dog and I between all states and the shittiest jobs to pay for it all. Day to day, hand to mouth, Hey, two coins, off to Adelaide, try and land Ricciuto. Add the personal life and other factors we all have and suddenly I find myself walking the dog through a park in a far off city, rather than having her run behind the ute as we cruise to cut wood.

It’s stressing me. Every step feels slow, like I’m wasting valuable time.

Then I see a small oval buried down the back, trees framing it, city looming, if you care to look, over that. A white-haired man with a corker white beard bowls an off spinner at good speed at some young buck. And the kid doesn’t charge the ball, or seize it, or butt or kick or swallow or smash it. He doesn’t dribble or slam-dunk or lob or strike at it. He doesn’t dominate, thrash, take possession or score. He leaves the pill alone, letting it pass down the leg side. And his teammates are happy with that. Stoked!

“Oh, well done!”

“Well left!”

And the grey fox didn’t take his wicket or life, or rip one at his throat, or land a body-blow, he bowled a dot ball, and his teammates are stoked with that.

“No run!”

“Nothing happened!”

“Top stuff!”

I decide I like the pace of cricket, that I need it, so stop and watch.

The oval’s small, a school-type thing, everything is ones or fours or leaving the balls just outside the off stump. Mostly leaving. I don’t really care beyond suddenly, time doesn’t matter a damn. Deep backward square leg tells me the fox, Harry Walker, is 76 years old.

“Or 75,” he grins. “Was born in ’39.”

The ground’s too small for an outfield. The batsmen aren’t great, but good enough. Used to bigger grounds, every time they hit the ball through the fielders they’ve already scampered one before it rolls over the flags and is declared a four.

Finally, after thirty minutes of watching, one of them smacks it sweet. He just stands at the crease, like victories, watching it go, then strolls to the middle of the pitch to converse with his batting partner as if he lazily rules the world.

That’s the sort of pace I want to walk at, I think. They’re the sort of airs I want to carry.

“Ripper shot!”

“Legend!” his teammates call.

“We’re closing now!”

The opposition, meanwhile, spruik their man.


“Well bowled.”

“Panic shot.”
“Stay calm.”

And I slip off, back into the time stream of the rest of the world.


  1. Lovely piece Matt. You are right that the languid pace of the game is brilliant at that level.
    I had 2 brief encounters on Saturday. Walking my dog around the local oval on Saturday morning while kids that looked about 12 played. They all looked so good when the ball wasn’t there. You could tell the batsman’s stance or bowler’s action they were mimicking from TV. But the red ball was too big and heavy for the small hands of bowlers, and the classic practice strokes gave way to cross-batted swipes when the ball was actually delivered.
    All good stuff until one lad lobbed a skier out into the covers. The fieldsmen ran around and waited under it – then FALCONED it. Went down like a sack of potatoes. Parents, umpires and players all running in very concerned. I started pissing myself, and then hurried off with the dog as it is not very PC.
    In my day the poor kid would have copped heaps at school for weeks. I wonder if it is all feely touchy these days with other kids??
    In the evening, we went to a nephew’s 21st at a sporting club in the Swan Valley. I went outside with my first beer as the sun was setting and the cricketers were putting away their gear. I asked one bloke with a fag in one hand and a beer in the other how they went.
    “Not good – 2/130 chasing 160ish and we fell 3 short.” I consoled him and we chatted briefly, then he said “gotta go – time for me fines”.
    From inside the shed I could hear the skipper going over all the blokes who tried to play the hero and did not hold up an end for the established batsmen.
    It all sounded very Mickey Arthur for parklands cricket. I couldn’t imagine Boof doing it.
    Has the world gone mad and we take everything way too seriously these days.
    Cheers Old Dog – remember there’s a bed in Perth.

  2. Don’t talk about pace. At U10s cricket at Cooroy on Friday they had a Glenn McGrath night. Lots of pink. As a fundraiser they had a speed gun and charged $2 to bowl three balls. Top speed to win a signed cricket ball. After about 30mins the adult speed was 86kmh. In my prime I once got up to about 100, so invested the $2. suffice to say all it proved was the prime is consigned to the past. Although, in what is likely a surprise to the Bali Gecko Cricket Club, all three balls landed on the pitch and two even threatened the stumps…

  3. I love that a daggy game on some back water oval is so important to the participants.

  4. Dips, I’m sure that’s what soccer players say when they see AFL!

  5. Peter, worry not, your offer will be taken up, soon!!

  6. Hi Matt,
    What a beaut.
    No performance review or individual development plan template there.
    Now I am slower.
    Now I am better.

  7. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Great read as always Matt you vampire the unique feel and beauty of cricket . A great reminder that what ever the standard there are so many different perspectives to be gathered from any game of sport
    ( we got thumped in the , GF old dog disappointing to say the least )
    Thanks old dog

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