The sounds of summer cricket – David Brewster

The sounds of summer, cricket from the suburbs and beyond.

Peter’s taking a break from this blog this week, so in his place co-author David Brewster shares his thoughts on what cricket in summer means to him.

The start of a season...

I have the pleasure of living a good Adam Gilchrist lofted drive away from an inner-Melbourne suburban cricket ground. My introduction to each cricket season is the sight of a thin layer of top dressing over the cricket square as the groundkeepers start restoring their precious pitches after a winter’s pummelling by football boots and Sherrins.

(To digress for just a moment, I had to chuckle last year when seeing an under-12s coach point to the muddy centre of the ground, instructing his charges: “Whatever you do, don’t kick it in there. It will never come out!”)

The new season properly announces itself on an October weekend afternoon. From my garden I hear full-throated appeals at steady intervals followed occasionally, when the umpire obliges, by loud cheers. Over the rest of summer our oval hosts busy Friday evenings of little-league cricket, men’s cricket on Saturdays, women’s matches on Sundays and even the occasional suburban T20 on a weekday evening. Any gaps in the calendar are filled by locals exercising themselves or their dogs or both. Talk about keeping the grounds staff on their toes!

For me, the ‘sounds of summer’ symphony that accompanies all this persists no matter how much change takes place in the professional versions of the game.

Memories of the game

Peter Newlinds and I are almost exactly the same age, and while I’ve never played organised cricket, there were many aspects of Peter’s early cricketing memories that I could relate to. The biggest difference was that he grew up in Sydney while I grew up in Melbourne. Where Peter remembers John Dyson’s catch first hand, I still have vivid memories of a side-on view of Viv Richard’s off stump being pegged back by Dennis Lillee with the last ball on Boxing Day 1981, leaving the ‘invincible’ Windies at 4 for 10.

Of course, while Peter worked his way into the commentary box I, like most of us, was destined to remain in the stands, in front of the television or with an ear to the radio. My perspective of cricket was the world that Peter and his colleagues created for me.

And what a world! How lucky I am to have memories spanning the era of Lillee and Marsh, Thompson and the Chappells and West Indian cricket at its (literal) height; a period when a day-night international was compulsory family viewing, seemingly the whole country watching Trevor Chappell’s notorious underarm; the reign of arguably Australia’s greatest ever all-round team, of which every bowling spell by Warne and McGrath promised some form of magic.

A new test season is underway

As I write a new season of test cricket is under way, though at the moment you would hardly know unless you’re a cricket diehard. The Australian team is losing wickets at all-to-regular intervals, television broadcasts have moved to channel 7 for, I’m fairly sure, the first time in my lifetime (of over 50 years) and, to be honest, the ABC’s radio coverage is a shadow of its former self.

Did I live through the best of it, never to be repeated? Who knows. I also lived through the upheaval of World Series Cricket when everyone thought the end was nigh, when things got so dire that Bob Simpson had to be dragged out of retirement to captain a second-string national team. In hindsight that turned out to be the very beginning of a golden era though few would have recognised it at the time.

Working on Around the Grounds with Peter reminded me that in sport, as in everything, change is the only constant. The game will go on in one form or another. I’ll continue to hear the appeals from the end of my street. And no matter what happens, I’ll cherish the memories of the great cricketing era I got to live through.

David Brewster is a Melbourne-based freelance writer. He estab­lished his own writing business in 2009 after a career in management and management consulting. His work focuses predomi­nantly in memoir and business genres.

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