Like many Aussie guys, when I was a kid I dreamed of one day playing cricket for Australia. My childhood heroes were guys like Allan Border, David Boon, the Waugh brothers and (of course) Richie Benaud. As primary schoolers, our following of the sport was nothing short of obsession; every break we would be outside with a bat, a ball and (to the perpetual frustration of the groundsman) a rubbish bin that had been used as wickets so consistently it was dented and squashed hopelessly out of shape. On the weekends we played grade cricket in the dry and indoor cricket in the wet. I played under thirteens and then under fifteens and had a great time, although I remember being quite annoyed by the fact that I wasn’t very good at it.
It didn’t take very long for me to abandon my dream of playing for Australia, but all through high school I kept on following the game with the same passion. Of course, it helped that it was easy to get behind the Australian cricket team at that time, as we spent most of the late nineties being practically invincible. The old heroes were gone, but had been replaced by such legends as McGrath, Warne, Ponting, Gilchrist, Hayden, Langer and Martyn to name just a few. I had to stop playing grade cricket to focus more on school and music, but I would still join mates occasionally for a backyard game. And every time I did, I would be quietly struggling to deal with the fact that for all my passion and enthusiasm, I wasn’t very good at it.
My university years were a time of great change. We could no longer rely on the great heroes of the past, and some of the core assumptions about our role in the world were being challenged. In 2005 the unthinkable happened: we lost the Ashes. Everything we thought we knew about the world had fallen around us, leaving us questioning even our fundamental understanding of the game. If ever there was a time to rally and stay true to our belief in ourselves, in our team mates and in the game, while everything else around us was in flux, this was it. I remember trying out rather optimistically for our college cricket side with fairly tragic results. I really wasn’t very good at it.
In 2009 I stepped out into a brave new world, and a brave new country. Even in the exotic lands of central Spain, I found ways to continue my connection with the game. My exploits with the Madrid Cricket Club have been well documented here, although they’re unlikely to be remembered anywhere else. And while everyone else at the summer school was down at the beach, I was in the internet café checking the score in the test match. But even though I could hold my own in the field against the English staff, it really wasn’t as satisfying as it used to be. As the only Aussie English teacher, it was important that I could beat the English at cricket even if, once again, our test side couldn’t. And I did, but it didn’t matter. I still wasn’t very good at it.
I’ve been home in Darwin for two and a half years now. My relationship with the game is still strong, but changing all the time. I don’t watch it religiously on TV like I used to, mainly because the commentary team, rather than inspiring and educating me, now makes me want to throw things (Michael Slater, I’m throwing them at you). These days they spend more time cross promoting other Channel Nine products and selling us commemorative merchandise than analysing the game play. And when they do get around to commenting on the game, it’s nothing but a series of inane clichés. So now I just follow the games on the internet and keep tabs on the boys while they’re away on tour. Back at home, I’m part way through my third season of local grade cricket. I’ve been dutifully heading down to training twice a week and out for games on Sundays. After all those endless afternoons running around the mid-wicket boundary, I’ve come realise an important fact about cricket:
I’m not very good at it.
After all these years, you might expect that I would have developed an ability to bowl straight, hit a ball properly or catch with some sort of reliability. After nearly three decades of persistence, the time has come for me to face up to the fact that not only am I never going to play for Australia, I’m never going to play B-grade local competition in Darwin. And as the period of my life loosely referred to as ‘youth’ gradually approaches the tea break, I’ve finally reached a place in my life where I can say I’m alright with that.
This afternoon I called my E-grade captain and told him I was pulling out of the competition.
It was a surprisingly easy decision in the end; if I take the eight hours a week I was spending trying to learn to bowl and spend them working on something I’m good at, God only knows what I might achieve. And while I’ll have to start looking for new ways to keep active, for now it’s time to appreciate the game the way the rest of the country does: on the couch with a beer.
And I’m extremely good at that.
Garry with 2 Rs