Officially, summer starts in Australia on December 1, but to me it’s when the first ball is bowled in the first cricket test.
To mark the occasion, here are some of my random childhood cricket memories.
*Watching two blokes carry a polystyrene esky chock-full of beer bottles (KB?) in front of The Hill at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1975, when the arse fell out of it. The beer shattered, they were shattered. The crowd roared, the players laughed.
*Foraging in a box of washing powder (OMO?) to discover a cricket card. That smell has stayed with me for forty years.
*The religious experience of buying a brand new Kookaburra cricket ball. Opening the box, unwrapping the paper, gently taking it out. Earnestly polishing (one side) until you could see your beaming face, and never letting it touch the ground.
*My World Series Cricket t-shirt that I wore until it had to retire hurt.
*Tony Greig walking out to bat wearing a motorbike helmet to much laughter. Later sticking his car keys in the pitch while solemnly discussing the mythical “player comfort level” off the high-tech “weather wall”.
*Getting that first “cherry” on your new cricket bat.
*The body-trembling / mind-numbing nervousness of approaching your favourite cricket player on the fence for an autograph, then the exalted glee as you float away gazing at the scrawled signature. I felt exactly the same way meeting Viv Richards when I was 37.
*Missing seeing a test-hat trick. A day at the cricket with dad, who wanted to leave early because the car park “is a shitfight”. We heard the crowd erupt — three times — from said car park.
*The terror of facing a “rep” fast bowler who started his run-up in the next suburb, and was so fast he had to stop and rest before he actually unleashed the red missile.
*Inventing day / night cricket as a kid in 1977: playing backyard cricket until mum called you in for dinner, then resuming after turning on the single Portaflood light, until mum called “stumps”.
*The voice of Alan McGilvray.
*The “Balls of Steel incident” of 1980. Bowling in a school cricket match, the ball slipped out of my hand and hit the batsmen on the full, in the, er, groinal region. He didn’t flinch. I raced down the pitch “Sorry, mate, are you ok? Good thing you’re wearing a protector.” — “I’m not.”
*Getting into fights for supporting the West Indies instead of Australia (I just preferred the way they played the game). Coruba rum is still a beverage of choice.
*The sound of the stitching of that new Kookaburra cricket ball whizzing past your nose as you missed a hoik over cow corner.
*The image of Dennis Lillee flicking sweat off his brow at the top of his run-up, then that bouncing gold chain as he thundered into bowl.
*Walking into bat, being handed a still-warm protector the just-dismissed batsman had just removed. Talk about player comfort levels.
C’mon Aussie, c’mon…
©Steve Williams 2013