Sunday, July 5, 2009

when it is and when it isn't just cricket...

I know it's the middle of winter. I know most of us are disheartened by the state of affairs with cricket. I don't claim to know alot about cricket, but I go with my gut, and my gut basically loves the gentleman's game. A classic example of how one can be sucked in to the beauty of cricket is here where Agnew and Johnston suffer from a classic case of innuendo whilst commentating a Lords test match. It's up there with, well anything, Richie Benaud says.

I have a vivid memory of having a crush on Chris Cairns when I was about 7. It was 92, the World Cup year. The boys were wearing grey shirts and their surnames were printed in an arch on their backs. Pringle and Harris wore serious amounts of pink zinc and Martin Crowe was man of the series.

Nowadays Pringle looks a bit like a sausage, but still a cutie despite ending cricket in...95 I think, Harris and Crowe have lost their hair with the latter crop farming a new lot, and Cairns...well, he's not as hot as Fleming, but he certainly looks good in gold!

I miss Stephen Fleming. We all breathe New Zealand's favourite air alongside him these days, but at the crease was where I felt truly at ease with Flem-dog as a household name.

At the risk of being lynched, I even miss Astle. He was a talker, and he had some low points, but he was a name to be reckoned with. I wish I had time to get used to Oram being a regular in the side, but truth be told, my love for him is waning through injury. Poor guy. He had me at hello.

I was about 13 when a Black Caps calendar came out and a topless, tanned, well cut Vettori teamed brown leather cowboy boots, those leather slack things and his glasses together with some sort of hay bale stack and a cigarette holder. Although the cowboy look obviously ended up being a fusion of 1920's glamour and a scene from Country Calendar with a porno-librarian-turned-cowboy setting the scene, it was a milestone for the lad who would eventually become our nation's cricket team captain. From little acorns great oaks grow hey...

Now, up until now I've probably come across as a girl who watches the game just so I can see the lads bend over while fielding, and observe McCullum's miraculous guns pull us through some pretty tight batting situations with impressive sixes. However when I was living over in Aussie, I missioned it, alone, to the Bellerive Oval in Hobart to see NZ be...obliterated. What a ground. I was yet to see the MCG, so it was probably like going to Rainbow's End before Disneyland, but I fell even further in love with the institution that is cricket. Clubrooms with pride, old men beautifully dressed and, a crowd who simply love the atmosphere (particularly an Aussie one who saw the Black Caps fall for less than 100 runs and Vettori taking a duck).

Ask any Wellingtonian, and they're more than likely to say they prefer sitting at the Basin rather than the Caketin. The MCG has a hold over every sports fan, not just cricket, and I presume Lords needs no introduction.

McLean Park in Napier is a family favourite, and Seddon in the Tron has a fantastic set up for the spectator. Impeccable grounds on the few occasions I've been there. Awesome for test matches:

What's not cricket today however is how lucky NZ is to have the greenery, have the locations, but seem to face a mediocre support network. The media trounce all over our team when they lose, face desperation with fronting a full strength team, and yet were more than happy to stalk Ryder, Taylor and Guptill when these lads debuted.

I seem to have a figurative wall that crops up whenever someone asks me "who will take out the match this weekend, NZ or Windies/Aussie/Pakistan/Proteas etc."

Gayle, Akhtar, Vaughan and Lara before retirement, Warne, Roy, Ponting, Cronje before fixing AND death, all legends in their own right. Cricketers worth watching, players who MAKE the game. But these players are not New Zealanders.

Too many kiwis are more than happy to ride on the tails of the Black Caps when they're up, but when they're down (and dare I say this occurred with the All Blacks in 2007..hell even 2003), we almost disown them.

This, is not cricket.

What is cricket is the old man working weekends at the New Zealand Cricket Museum, housed at Basin Reserve here in Wellington. You pay your feeble $5 and I am convinced you don't even have to be a cricket fan. That place is amazing. Hadlee, Sutcliffe, Turner, Cairns, Crowe, they're all there amongst others. He'll show you the first bat that came to NZ, talk you through the original black and white footage of the 1920's team in the changing rooms, turn on the AV for you and ensure you have the peace to absorb our nation's cricketing history.

He is a stalwart. And stalwarts are the reason cricket is an institution today. Traditionalists, sportsmen, gentlemen, determined folk who have a passion for the game. And to be frank, thanks to the domination rugby holds in NZ, they have the space to put their heads down, get to it and get on with the game.

Very few cowboys infiltrate the game of cricket.

In fact, there's only been the one in my time. Good luck for 09/10 Vettori and the team.

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