We are only days away from the Boxing Day Test between the Australian and the Sri Lankan cricket teams on the great MCG. The down under summer is about to throw us its best: the Boxing Day and New Year’s Tests.
Ever since Kerry Packer’s World Series, cricket in Australia has meant something extra to cricket lovers all over the world. Possibly ODI cricket in Australia may have diminshed in popularity due to 20-over cricket, but there are still many fascinating things about cricket in Australia which make it very special, and a treat for cricket lovers all over the world.
The wonderful grounds make cricket a spectacle to relish, even on TV screens. The huge lush green outfields with seagulls hovering around hint at Australia’s natural beauty. A gull flying to avoid the ball is a joyous sight.
The huge modern stadiums of the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground), WACA (Western Australia Cricket Association Ground) and ‘Gabba (Brisbane Cricket Ground, Woolloongabba) alongside the antique history of the SCG (Sydney Cricket Ground) and Adelaide Oval, are a nice blend of new and old. The southern hemisphere timing makes cricket in Australia a unique experience for fans in Pakistan. Play starts very early in the morning, and experiencing top-class international cricket on a chilly early winter morning in Pakistan is simply matchless.
There is no better sight in cricket than a fast bowler charging in, hitting the deck hard and making the ‘keeper take the ball with his gloved hands flung well over his head. That spicy pace and bounce offered by Australian wickets is a sight for sore (subcontinental) eyes, so used to watching poor pacers bowl on docile pitches referred to as fast bowler graveyards.
Even medium pacers hitting goodish lengths in Australia become hostile, especially for subcontinental batsmen who may struggle with this pace and bounce. It is truly a spectacle for the fans to witness.
Another key feature of cricket in Australia is the variety in the wickets throughout the country. Almost everyone gets a chance to have his say at some point during the Australian summer. It all starts at the GABBA in Brisbane; don’t the fast bowlers just lick their lips in anticipation looking at that pitch? The ball flies after hitting the deck. It is one of the quickest and bounciest wickets around the world.
Then, moving to Adelaide Oval, we see the batsmen rule. A paradise, where even the subcontinental batsmen score in tons. South to the Bellerive Oval, Hobart, one finds a good true wicket for stroke play but not as flat as the Adelaide Oval. Moving to the western shores of Australia, the WACA wicket in Perth quickens the pacers’ heartbeats. The WACA has the quickest and the bounciest wicket of the cricketing world without a shadow of doubt. Once Sabina Park, Kingston, used to match it, but times have changed.
The glorious MCG starts off as a good batting track but later shapes into a turning one.
At the historic SCG, the tweakers have their say. Over the years Shane Warne warmed the hearts of millions with his extravagant leg-spinners and bamboozling flippers both at the MCG and SCG.
The expert commentary team of Channel 9 is one of the prime reasons for my special love of cricket in Australia. The tireless passion and exuberance of Tony Greig and Bill Lawry at every boundary and fall of wicket adds a lot to the enjoyment of the match.
The witty analysis of two of the greatest captains of all times, Mark Taylor and Ian Chappell always makes it an intriguing watch. Taylor and Chappell combined offer comments on captaincy that no academy or coach can teach.
Then we have that ageless wonder, Richie Benaud, who keeps thrilling season after season. The chirpiness of Ian Healy and Mark Slater accompanies the flamboyance of Mark Nicholas, the icing on the cake. I doubt that anyone could assemble a better commentary team than this legendary group.
Over the years, the tri-nation World Series has been the hallmark of cricket in Australia. It produced some of the greatest moments of ODI cricket. A solid streak of games presented a fine opportunity to the touring team to show its mettle, and every side in the world got that chance after a few years. May I lament that the World Series, which had a history of 30 years, was abandoned by Cricket Australia in 2008. Last year it was put together once more, but disappointingly it was a one-off event, and won’t be conducted on a regular basis.
I missed talking about the great Australian fighting spirit and their never-say die-attitude, which has increased my romance with Australian cricket even more. Australia being a great sporting nation imparts an attitude as tough as old boots to its cricketers. In the end, it all comes down to the contest, the primary charm.
In the subcontinent, batting often prevails. In Australia, the battle between bat and ball is beautiful.