Raw cricket

IMG_5907Raw. That’s the only way I can describe domestic first class cricket.

Played in the same major grounds that host international matches, but with only the tiniest number in the stands to soak up the action and compete with the sounds of the middle, you hear and feel everything so much more keenly.

Every grunt of exertion, every shout or clap of encouragement or groan of disappointment, every slap of ball on bat, or thud of ball hitting pads, guards or helmet.

Even great performances feel all the more raw for the inevitably modest recognition from the small crowd.

I love it.

For a newbie to the world of cricket like me, it offers a much better opportunity to watch and analyse and try to understand the game. There’s less distraction, from fans and big match theatrics alike. Less likelihood of feeling overwhelmed by the occasion and finding the action passes in a blur. Plus I’m 100% more likely to be able to get a seat end-on to the wicket where my dodgy eyes have a much better chance of following the ball.

My first experience of live professional cricket was a Sheffield Shield match at the MCG in 2013. My latest and current is one of the same series in the current season but at the much more modest WACA ground. Both equally enticing and enjoyable.

Even rain breaks have their charm. It gives some time out to reflect, catch up on other concurrent matches, do some writing or reading or just go for a walk and stretch the legs.

I love it how the birds take over when the rain sets in at the cricket. They started poking around the western end of the field as soon as the ground staff came out to cover the pitch and square this afternoon. Once the humans’ work was all done, the birds descended on the white square themselves to inspect the work of the ground crew.

It reminded me of my first match experience at the MCG and my great surprise at the audible bird life within the stadium right throughout play. I was later to learn that even at the Boxing Day Test you can hear and see them – they’re a hardy bunch over in the cold state.

As a proud Western Australian, of course I would love for the Western Warriors to win this match against the NSW Blues and gain a home final. But if I’m totally honest, I don’t actually care too much.

It’s not that often that I get to travel down from Geraldton to Perth to enjoy first class matches. So I ask only for a good match, a close match, with plenty of interest. And not too much rain.

I hope the cricket gods are listening.

More than a Warnerist moment

“… not sure what the guy’s name is, but he got up to about 140/145 clicks and was bowling yorkers, and um, it surprised Smithy a bit, but I thought he bowled pretty well towards the end of the power play …”

Another example of David Warner in full flight, this time in the press conference following Australia’s game against Afghanistan in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. To be followed up shortly afterwards by a half apologetic but mostly dismissive “look I can’t say his name, I don’t know it – it’s too hard to pronounce.”

It would be easy to just dismiss it as another Warnerist moment, shake ones head, and move on. However the reaction of his captain sitting beside him – always telling I find when duos tackle press conferences – underlines why Associate teams are always going to be pushing the proverbial uphill as they battle to improve their performance and prospects.

Credit to Clarkey – it can’t be easy sitting next to Warner at times like this. Clarke knew how wrong his words were, but the shake of the head and smile and show of embarrassment to me had a subtext of “we’re all thinking that mate, but you can’t just go ahead and say it, not here”.

Why should Australian players know the names of a team they played once previously, in 2012; who they might play once more in another 2-3 years? There simply is no imperative for a team like Australia to spend too much brain space on a team like Afghanistan. Lucky for Warner.

It’s symptomatic of the amount of exposure that up and coming, ambitious and deserving Associate teams like Afghnistan get to top performing international teams – the kind of exposure that could help them to lift their game, raise their standard, and to feel more comfortable in arenas like the World Cup. 

More regular exposure to top tier teams would surely result in more competitive games, more followers for those Associate countries, and the growth of international cricket. What’s not to like about that?

It seems however that it’s all just a bit too hard. Like pronouncing foreign names. What a shame for the world of cricket.