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The Boxing Day Test still seems a long way off.
But the days are becoming longer and there’s even a teasing glimpse of warmth during these Melbourne days.
So as my thoughts turn to where I left the sunburn cream at the end of last summer and hosing cobwebs off the outdoor furniture, inevitably we anticipate the return of cricket.
And for many of us in Melbourne, the Boxing Day Test.
It’s been a long isolation here. Winters are bad enough with their slate grey skies and chilly days. Exercise equipment has been taped off, curfews imposed at night time, driving distance restricted and bans imposed on leaving home. Meanwhile, our hair and grass grows out of control with hairdressers and gardening services forced to close.
Footy has helped save us, but it’s far removed. There’s no burning your mouth on a pie at the ground or spilling a trail of overpriced chips on the way back to your seat. All the action is in your lounge room, the same space where you watch Daniel Andrews, Netflix and endless betting ads.
The idea of cricket returning has kept many of us going lately, especially being there for the first ball of the Boxing Day Test and the following session.
I love the respectful silence of the first session of play on the first day. Perhaps people are subdued after fighting over the last piece of turkey at Christmas or just exhausted after a day with relatives. It’s only after lunch that the drunks begin shouting.
Our day starts with crossing Brunton Avenue after a train trip, following the crowd past the kids selling programs. A husky sounding saxophone is played off to one side. We pass under the cooling shade of the giant elms, walk over a slight hill, past the scar tree, sneaking by raffle ticket sellers, maybe pausing at the take-away coffee van.
Taking our places, we discuss whether this is the right angle to see that snick to slips. The sun glares with as much heat as Christmas indigestion lifting like capsicum spray through my digestive tract.
Lately there’s been speculation about the Boxing Day Test going ahead and if so, how it will work. The MCG are drawing up plans to hold the event, even though there is no certainty.
One option considered is holding the Test with a maximum attendance of 25,000 people per day. Undoubtedly this will be complicated. I can’t imagine the arrangements necessary to meet any social distancing rules. Will people from the same household have to verify their address to sit together?
It seems to be to be unworkable if friends from different households came along but then had to observe 1.5 metres from each other, let alone the number of crosses to be stuck to the ground where people must stand in a coffee queue to maintain distance.
Meanwhile, Adelaide and Perth remain interested in staging the Boxing Day Test. For Victorians all that can be said is that the sleep-in for a Perth Test would be welcomed. Of course by then we may well be conditioned to the idea of watching the Test from home. After all, we’ll have viewed the AFL grand final telecast from Brisbane for the first time.
For now we wait. A day at the cricket seems the least we deserve after our lockdown and the daily numbers and briefings from press conferences that took or gave us hope. We need to leap to our feet to crowd appeal again, to barrack for our national team, shake our heads at LBW decisions, mourn dropped catches, find our up-and-coming players, decide if Joe Burns will continue to open and learn if we’ve heard the last of Mitch Marsh (in Tests at least). So many tantalising subplots and the attraction of, at least for awhile, forgetting all things COVID-19.
Like many others, I have lost my job, and I need to dust off the resume and grope blindly through whatever comes next. I’ve turned to cooking, walking, documenting a family history, writing a book and pulling up weeds.
But I so hope that morning of the first session of the first day comes along on Boxing Day.