I click over to another tab on my browser and there is a sense of inevitably when I see Marnus Labuschange raising his bat once again, the various voices of the commentary team assuring me it was a well-built and determined innings.
The preponderance of runs scored on the on-side shows Neil Wagner is indeed a new model of Terminator, sent from the future to eliminate a random child but instead was distracted by cricket.
Truth is, I have no idea if Labuschagne scored his runs fluently, luckily or through grit and determination. I haven’t seen any of the wickets fall, haven’t seen a boundary, haven’t heard Kerry laugh; it was 11:30 before I even remembered the cricket was starting today.
I also didn’t really follow the build-up. I had to check the New Zealand team sheet four or five times before I realised that Tim Southee wasn’t playing and spent another twenty minutes reading up on the new faces. I can’t remember watching six balls in a row today.
Because as inevitable as more Australian batting feats feel, just as inevitable today has been the phrase, “we’re just switching now to our correspondent in [insert town here] for some breaking news”, followed by more tales of destruction and despair as numbers are continuously revised upwards.
Between the ABC on the telly and the live updates and articles on my laptop I haven’t had the time, or even the inclination, to watch more than a couple of minutes of the cricket.
And I love cricket. I’ve never not wanted to watch cricket. It’s not that I don’t want to watch today, it’s just that I’m more interested in what’s happening in Western Australia, in Victoria, New South Wales and on Kangaroo Island.
Because, worst of all, this devastation was made inevitable also. Thousands are evacuating from eastern Victoria and tens of thousands are fleeing the New South Wales south coast. Half of Kangaroo Island is burning. And the worst is still to come.
Cricket doesn’t operate in a vacuum and today it feels irrelevant, a nice distraction to check on every hour or so, but I cannot spend seven hours listening to Shane Warne gratingly plug sponsors. Tomorrow, heat and wind will hit the south-east and the SCG will most likely be shrouded in smoke and the distraction will be over. There will be nowhere to hide.
There’s nothing wrong with escaping from the bad into a pleasurable pastime. In times of tragedy and crisis, people gather for small moments and sometimes find themselves forgetting before reality brutishly sets in. They are special and important moments of solace. But they cannot be used to bury our heads in the sand or forget or ignore the anger and sadness we should be feeling.
I didn’t choose to not watch the cricket, and I’m not saying I’m great or special for not doing so. It’s just that for the first time I didn’t feel that urge, and I’m certain there were many others.
This bushfire season is so exceptional and so destructive that the cricket can wait.
We owe it to those communities who have lost people and property to watch and read all we can so that we can understand the anger and sadness they feel, and feel angry and sad for them ourselves. The cricket can wait.