My first abiding memory of cricket wasn’t a firework-studded T20 match, a SuperOver of smashing sixes, nor a particularly fine test innings. No, what stuck in my mind was a fleeting moment of cricket where Australia wasn’t even playing. The instance, captured so perfectly on a grainy television in an old lounge-room, was when Brian Lara passed the magical 20,000 test runs mark. Those present watched, mesmerised, as the great Trinidadian raised his bat to the applauding crowd before resuming yet another class-filled innings at the crease.
To me, that moment is what cricket is all about. Our beloved sport is not defined by the scoreline, necessarily, or one’s position in the order for a given game, but by moments. We live for the hilarious bursts of larrikinism and cheek that our time-honoured characters deliver almost on cue. Monumental run chases are interspersed with collective sighs of contentment at a beautifully executed cover drive, or a family conversation about the seam variation that finally caught the outside edge. We compete over who can bring the most niche of details and technical nuance to the armchair commentary; are you really watching the game at all, if you don’t somehow find a way to incorporate an in-depth retrospective analysis of Edgbaston 2005 and your personal opinion of Freddie Flintoff?
Expect this coming summer of Australian cricket to be no different. With a shock number of new players currently being blooded in the ODI series in South Africa, Australia’s keeping it fresh as we move into a pivotal home season down under. There’s joy for the purists in the six-test summer; it’s the first in a good few years and looks likely to test the mettle of even our fittest players. We’re hosting both South Africa and New Zealand in what will undoubtedly prove to be fiery battles. Those long hours over consecutive days tend to breed characters, love ‘em or hate ‘em. Look out for fun, games and on-field spats once the red ball comes out to play.
In the limited-over arena there’s also plenty on offer for less traditional pundits. Short-format uniforms never pleased Don Bradman, however, our boys will nevertheless don their coloured ‘pyjamas’ when they look to regain the No.1 ODI ranking against Protea, Kiwi and Pakistani opposition. T20 will likely prevail for the younger generation with some exciting fixtures against Sri Lanka and, of course, with the franchised Big Bash. Last year’s record 80,000-strong crowd is testament to the growing popularity of the commercial state comp, where international signings have brought much-needed pizazz to a previously struggling domestic landscape.
So as you crack open a bev, carve your watermelon helmet and snag a self-proclaimed classic catch in the backyard, look out for the upcoming Australian summer of cricket. It often seems that any current side is merely a placeholder for greatness to come, but remember: one hard-fought innings now can be a Brian Lara-esque story to recall fondly in the future. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!