The summer I learned to love 20/20

BBL|01 was not even remotely on my radar.

When BBL|02 came along, I was barely in my cricket-tragic infancy.

By the time BBL|03 hit, I was so Ashes-infused and excited about finally understanding the appeal of Test cricket that I struggled to get excited about ODIs, let alone some ridiculously short pretend version of the game for the attention-span-challenged who wouldn’t or shouldn’t call themselves real cricket fans. Yes… I was that snobbish.

So what changed in the summer of 2014-15?

IMG_5626It started really with becoming a WACA member, and then learning that Beck, a good friend of mine, was keen to join me there for a match. The first occasion we could manage was Boxing Day – a BBL|04 Scorchers v Renegades showdown.

We had both felt deeply affected by the death of Phillip Hughes a month earlier, and thought it might prove a healing experience – a chance to get back to enjoying our cricket without fear. Plus with Beck being from Melbourne, and me a proud West Aussie – it seemed a sound basis for a good day out.

IMG_5622Although the run chase was less than inspiring, because Renegades were never really in with a chance, I did come away from that game with a whole new appreciation. Being part of the jubilant crowd that cheered on Klinger as he smacked a six from the last ball of the Scorchers innings, to launch himself over the magic ton mark, particularly imprinted itself upon me. The presence of more families and kids than I’d ever seen at a match before, and the Scorchers’ commitment to sign as many autographs as were needed and to pose for endless photos at the end of the match, also told a compelling story. It was clearly fan and family orientated – a real treat.

On my return home, I didn’t really think that much more of it. I made more of an effort perhaps than I would have ordinarily to catch subsequent games on TV, aided by the fact my housemate was away for the next fortnight and there was no competition for my attention or the remote control.

And before I knew it I was hooked! It helped having Beck and her hubby Craig on the other end of a near constant sms stream most games, as we marvelled at the close run chases, rued missed opportunities and revelled in the success of favourite players. And once my housemate returned, she also got drawn into the web of BBL|04 appreciation.

I even grew a soft spot for KP, thanks to his frequent appearances in the commentary box and his inane giggle. I felt strangely compelled to buy his book after one particular game where he famously had a little chat with Punter… And the fun and antics of the fabulous Freddie Flintoff – well, what’s not to like?

I’m still mightily fascinated by the extraordinary ratio of pink shirts among the male media commentators. Not that there’s anything wrong with pink. There was clearly a very strong directive from wardrobe on the colour palette that was acceptable for the commentary room – pastels all the way, unless you were wearing a pink shirt in which case any shade would do.

As the pointy end of the competition approached, I found myself thinking that I didn’t actually care too much who would win, so long as the remaining games were close and hard fought matches. Scorchers were still top of my list, with Stars a close second, but if a good team was to beat either of them I wouldn’t have been too disappointed, so long as it was a good match. And I wasn’t disappointed in any case.

When the Scorchers earned a home semi, I made a last minute decision to head down to Perth and take my brother Damon to the game – he’s not particularly a cricket fan, but he didn’t mind a day out doing something different.

Such a photogenic family!

Such a photogenic family!

I hadn’t thought he’d really taken that much in on the day beyond how impressive the technology powering the big screens was (he’s an electronics tech wizard!) – it was more of a chance for us to catch up over a beer or four – but when the final rolled around I discovered he was watching it too with his workmates at the local pub. The experience really seemed to be a bit contagious – helped no doubt by Scorchers’ exciting back to back victory.

So I find myself wondering is 20/20 the dumbing down of cricket for a modern audience or essential updating? In some ways, it can be seen as the equivalent of a Twitter version of Pride and Prejudice, or setting Beethoven to a nifty drumbeat. I haven’t worked out whether these fusions are destined to attract an audience that will never really understand the beauty and art of the original classic version; or maybe, just maybe, they could in fact be the hook that inspires a whole new journey of discovery and appreciation of the traditional genre. For cricket’s sake, I’m hoping it’s the latter.

But I haven’t spent too much time thinking about it to be honest. For now what matters is I’m a fan, and happy to shout it out loud. BBL|05 – bring it on!

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Feeling like I belong – the magic of membership

And I’m back!makes me smile

Bit of a break from the writing about cricket while some other stuff was going on, but now the Aussie season is getting back into swing I’m all fired up again.

It may have just a little something to do with recently becoming a WACA member and having just tripped down to Perth over the weekend to spend a couple of days in the members stands for the first Sheffield Shield match of 2014-15 season.

What a win for the WACA boys over the Tassie Tigers! I’m very sad for the lovely George though. Not a good start to his bid to make it back into the Aussie test team.

The lovely George wondering what to try next...

The lovely George wondering what to try next…

Saturday was just balmy – a beautiful warm day for my good friend Mel and I to spend having a beer or three, checking out a few different spots for cricket viewing, and a visit to the WACA museum too. Nice break from the kids for Mel, and nice change for me to have company at the cricket!

Sunny, 29 degrees, beer, wine, kicking back watching some cricket - could it get better?

Sunny, 29 degrees, beer, wine, kicking back watching some cricket – could it get better?

We both felt pretty chuffed to be there for Cameron Bancroft’s maiden first class ton – what a great job he did. Concentration did wane a bit in the second session, when it seemed like Tassie might never get another batsman out. But the third more than made up for it, with a steady tumble of wickets once the dominant Bancroft – Voges partnership of the second session was broken. So by the end of the day, although WA was clearly in the box seat, it did feel like there was a fight on at least.

As we were leaving, we shared the stairs down from the members’ bar with none other than WA coach and ex Aussie batsman Justin Langer. He even smiled and offered us a “Nice day for it” greeting. I tried to be cool about that and make a half decent reply, but suspect I failed!

It’s actually the second time I’ve had a close encounter with Langer on those very stairs – the first being when I did a really enjoyable guided tour of the ground in March this year. On that occasion, he and I did that little dance where we both tried to step out of each other’s way, only to get more in each other’s way. To be honest, it was only afterwards I realised who he was.

Later in the tour we had checked out the players rooms, only to encounter the boys just come in from a final training session before they headed to Queensland for their day-night Shield match, one of the last of the season. They were really friendly and we had a decent chat with one of the young guns, and with Captain Adam Voges.

And that is my overriding impression so far of the WACA team and scene – lots of friendly people, and very down to earth. The folks in the membership office were great. No one got grumpy with me (well not that I noticed!) for moving about a lot – I was a bit restless and keen to check out as many different areas as I could. I’m afraid I only remembered part way through about the etiquette of cricket spectating!

The bar was a little bit lacking unfortunately – super friendly staff, but disappointing that a good number of things on the menu weren’t available. I wonder is it so hard to put out a special menu for the smaller matches when, understandably, it makes sense to offer fewer choices?

Post cricket cocktails - perfect end to a gorgeous day out.

Post cricket cocktails – perfect end to a gorgeous day out.

Anyway, that aside, it was a great day. So much so I decided to go back Sunday to catch another couple of sessions before I had to start the long drive home.

I suspect that’s going to be the flavour of my summer from here on in.