On Thursday the 20th August, the first day of the final Ashes Test, I’ll be outside the Oval at 10am, with other cricket fans. We’ll be standing for a three minute silence to protest the Big 3’s silencing of the rest of the cricket world. We’ll be standing to #changecricket. Here is why I’ll be standing.
When I was 27 I was parking cars for a living.
Three years on I’d written for Wisden, published two books, and played cricket on the Nursery Ground at Lord’s.
A few years on from that I’ve travelled around the world with cricket. I’ve commentated the close of a Test match in South Africa. Seen India v Pakistan on three continents. Saw perhaps the most agile streaker ever in New Zealand. Got smashed in the nets of Arun Lal’s cricket academy (after bowling one dream leggie). Chatted to a Jamaican Taxi driver on Garner vs Holding. Seen Chris Gayle range hitting a cricket ball onto a Sri Lankan street. And commentated a cricket game at the G.
Now the only two websites I have ever used as homepages in my life, cricinfo and imdb, both have my name on them.
Cricket gave me all that. But, that’s just a job. Cricket had always given me things.
It kept me out of trouble as a teenager. The one time I was caught shoplifting was on the eve of a game. And just the fear that I may not play the next day was enough for me fly straight a for a while. When I was at my lowest points, when I was told that someone who did not finish highschool would never amount to anything, and I faced a life of random jobs and constant disappointments, it was cricket that helped me not drive into the parked semi trailer on my night shifts back home.
Playing cricket, watching cricket, talking absolute shit about cricket.
This blog started in a pizza place called Pepperonis near Flinders St station in Melbourne. It was the best place for me and my mates to meet before heading to the G for the footy, and often where we would head straight after the cricket as well. Me and my mate Sime liked the pizza, but perhaps the best part was the fact that no matter what Joel (Big Daddy) ordered, they got wrong, or just plain forgot. Cricket just gave us something never ending to talk about, argue about. In a Chicago hostel on our way to the 2003 World Cup we argued about Adam Gilchrist and what they next five years of his career would produce, until someone slammed the wall telling us it was 3am.
Before that it was cricket in the backyard, the front yard, the street, the park, a school, the nets, on a concrete, matting, synthetic and then finally actual turf.
In the backyard my dad always triggered everyone, as only old bowlers can. My uncle Gary was always on the look out for a creative way to use his knowledge of the laws of cricket to make an extra single. My uncle Ross batted like a 12 year old boy his whole life, which always amused us. My uncle Terry had this slow and jerky style of bowling that never looked like it would go straight, but the only loose ball he bowled would be so far down legside you couldn’t score off it. My cousins were all bowlers, a couple of legspinners and a few fast medium bowlers. Our games usually had quick turnovers as no one was a really great bat. My cousin Megan would get a second chance, and would often use that to hit the ball over the fence. My mum played everything across the line, she had a killer cross court forehand in tennis, and that was her only shot in cricket as well.
We still play today, my mum still has surprising good reflexes at short cover.
I played at school, not often in PE, or for the school, but at morning break and lunch. Then after school. Behind the kindergarten in Greenbrook that I once attended there were concrete pitches, so you had to pocket every spare cricket ball you could. I remember Kevin’s inswingers, Jase’s offcutters, Justin’s bouncers and a young kid called Jacob (before he went on to play for Richmond) who could come over when he heard the ball slam into his families fence.
It was always there for me. On the radio, on the TV, in a conversation, out on the ground, wherever I needed it. My last proper conversation with my grandpa was about cricket. When my wife had a miscarriage, I threw myself into cricket. It didn’t matter how bad my life was, there was always cricket. There was always Dean Jones, Martin Crowe, Mushtaq Ahmed, Wasim Akram, Craig Howard, Ian Harvey, Brian Lara, Rahul Dravid, Stephen Fleming, Virender Sehwag, Bryce McGain,,my father, Westy, the Gibbs brothers, Dom, Adrian, Neil, Eddo and Housey.
There was always cricket.
When my dad and I didn’t get each other, we got cricket. We could talk cricket. We could watch cricket. We always had that.
My wife and her father had a complicated relationship as well. But they had cricket. They had Sachin. And my wife held on to that after her father passed away.
Our kids only exist because of cricket, without it, a hemisphere and a world apart, we would never have met. I still remember when my oldest son hit his first ball, that pure look of joy on his face as the ball hit the bat. Surprise and pure happiness. On my best days with cricket, I still get that.
And that’s why I will be standing for cricket, because cricket has always stood for me. And, while your history might be different, I bet it has always stood for you.
It’s been used by sexists, racists, colonists, by Lord’s, by rulers, by dictators. They have used and abused it. Used it to segregate, used it to teach the natives how to be like them, used it to break down men and ignore women. But cricket isn’t the men that run it. Cricket isn’t racist. Cricket is wonderful. Beautiful. Perfect even when it isn’t. It’s us who are flawed. It’s us who have allowed it to be used this way.
That’s why I am standing for cricket. Maybe we should have always been standing for cricket. Maybe we shouldn’t have waited for three men to use money and ego to bully the 102 official cricket nations and steal the game for their own self serving reasons . Maybe as cricket fans we should have always stood for cricket. But let us stand now.
If you can’t get to the Oval, stand for three minutes wherever you are. This is our sport. We can give it three minutes after a lifetime of what it has given us.