Despite a heavily-compromised first cycle, has the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) given us a taste for what it could become?
Ireland 255 lost to Randwick-Petersham 6/256 by four wickets.
Ask about cricket in its modern age, and your answer fluctuates between those who cling onto the tradition of Tests in contrast to the frenetic colour and movement of Twenty20.
While both sides will spruik the ideals and opportunities of each respective form as a microcosm of their own identity, few ponder the loss of the charm that made cricket what it was. Think of the humble tour match, when the cameras are switched off, and the clunk of the bat can echo across a near-empty oval. Reflect on the role of the media, who once treated cricket with the nuance and minimalism that defies today’s excess (the irony of this statement while penning this article is not lost).
While modern cricket’s indulgence in the large and profiteering, for Randwick-Petersham Cricket Club, last week was all about the game at its most simple and delightful. It takes a lot to top a club that has produced Test players from Tommy Andrews in the early 20th century to Simon Katich and David Warner in the modern day. However, all those achievements stand secondary to not only hosting an international team, but beating them.
The picket fences that adorn picturesque Coogee Oval may have seen a little more activity than usual, but that’s normal service when an international team comes to town. The crowds only got bigger last Friday as Randwick-Petersham beat the touring Ireland team by four wickets with more than six overs to spare.
For club president and former Australian quick Mike Whitney, there is no question last week stood as Randy Petes’ greatest moment as a club. It all began as an impossible notion.
“One of our club members John Stewart brought forward the idea of hosting a practice match for one of the touring World Cup sides. It’s one of those ideas you normally just shrug off. But John was insistent, and I told him to think about it.”
“From a little seed big things grow. I could never have imagined a day like this. I’m so proud and humble at what the club has managed to put together. Having accepted the opportunity and responsibility of hosting an international team, there was no room for error. It had to be 100% spot on.”
From organising an airport shuttle service from arrival two Saturdays ago, to ensuring accommodation and practice facilities at Coogee Oval were up to international standard, Randwick-Petersham got to a 15-month plan on how they could deliver the goods to their visitors.
From the Irish perspective, only praise was to be heard.
“We have never been left wanting for anything,” Cricket Ireland team manager Roy Torrens said.
“Playing a World Cup in Australia is one thing, but getting the kind of preparation that Randwick-Petersham has given us is quite something else. The weather has been beautiful, the club made sure our players had everything they needed at their doorstep – places to eat, unwind, excellent facilities to practice on.”
“We’d definitely come again if given the opportunity to do so.”
The game of cricket itself could be best described as “competitively friendly”. While Ireland were focused on enabling their players to adjust to Australian conditions, for Randwick-Petersham, this amounted to what Whitney deemed “our biggest match.”
“I told the boys not to miss the chance to win against an international side,” he said. “Some of these guys may go onto higher representation, but for others, this will be the pinnacle of their cricketing lives.”
That quote was before Randy Petes would confirm a memorable four wicket win. Lead by a fluent 80 from opener Alex Sams, the home side stayed well ahead of the required rate throughout the innings, ensuring what in the end was a comfortable victory.
“The match is the climax of the whole week where we’ve hosted the Irish side. I made their CEO Joe Doherty promise that if Ireland win a game, that their captain [William] Porterfield should mention the fine buildup they had with Randwick-Petersham,” Whitney said.
“I think a lot of Australians, beyond supporting Australia, will really keep their fingers crossed for Ireland. For me, they have a good shot at progressing in their group. This result doesn’t change that.”
For Ireland, the journey only begins at Coogee, as they move onto different venues across the Tasman on their latest World Cup exploit.
For Mike Whitney the former international cricketer, the modern game is the peak that all who play aspire to reach. Yet he doesn’t ever underestimate the role of the humble and charming tour match has played in building on what began as a single member’s pipedream.
“This was such a hard challenge, but they way the club has pulled together in the last 15 months, capped off by [last Friday], you can’t be a prouder person than I am.”