Spin the Globe with Justin Butner

A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.

The Cricket

The Boxing Day Test Match is an Australian tradition. Or a Melbourne tradition. It is certainly a thing, and it is now a think I have done.

Quick background for those that have no idea what I’m talking about (Disclaimer: I didn’t fact check so this may only be about 80% accurate). Cricket is a sport. It is the British version of baseball, so longer, slower, more gentlemanly. The original and pure form of the game is called Test Cricket. It consists of two innings that take up to 5 days. If the game isn’t over in 5 days, it is a draw. This is actually the most expected outcome. To keep relevance and interest up they have introduced quicker versions – 50Fifty and 20Twenty cricket. These are the action movie versions that last for only a day and only a few hours respectively. The latter actually sounds more like what baseball is today, all swinging for the fences, pump up music at every possible interlude, and fireworks. The MCG is the Melbourne Cricket Ground, a field that has been in existence for nearly the whole time Melbourne has. And the Boxing Day Test Match is the premier day of long form (possibly all) cricket in Australia. The stadium hits about 100,000 patrons. The people watching is fantastic. The drinking is excessive.

Leanne’s Christmas present to me was a ticket to the Cricket. Her sister’s partner Richard (Richo) is a member of the MCC. This is akin to having season tickets to one of the big NFL teams – requires being on a wait list for about 20 years until enough current holders die. Entrance to every event is covered in their fees. They can bring two guests to a game and that was our ticket in. (Well, that was our opening. The tickets still cost money.)

If you can go to a cricket game, I highly recommend it given a couple conditions. The first is that you have to go in with an open mind and willing to really get into the quirks of a culture that isn’t your own. I think this is pretty critical for foreign travel in general, but that certainly applies here. The second is that you go as the guest of someone who knows the rules, loves the game, and doesn’t mind being your guide. Having someone talk to you about a topic that excites them usually makes for very good times and this is no exception. I had been to a handful of baseball games back home and it wasn’t until my last one that I really and truly got into it. My friend Chris is a true fan and spent time to explain the intricacies of strategy, technique and skill that made all those strikes and balls tell a story instead of just being randomly chosen pitches. Baseball was exciting. Similarly, Richo has seen his fair share of games. As he explained the rules over the course of about 80 minutes (yes, there really are that many rules), he also was pointing to what just happened and explaining exactly how the ball had just been pitched, why, how else it could have gone, and whether the batter had handled it well. And he did it before the replay and before I had been able to visually process anything beyond “the ball was just pitched.”

The weather was overcast and at times rainy. This means the same as for baseball – low attendance and paused games. The low attendance meant that people watching wasn’t going to be what it could have been. Apparently that was going to be the case in the last ten years anyway given that the stadium has embarked on a zero-tolerance policy to clean up the drunken, rowdy behavior that made the true spectacle. But even so the Swami Army (team India’s supporters, it rhymes when you say it with an Aussie accent) showed up in force an in sky blue.

We watched the match from high above to get a full sense of the field, to have a full view of play as everything was explained. Then we moved down to the seats just off the field to watch a more up close and personal game, where we could see facial expressions and get more sucked into the energy of the game. We could move between these seats openly as it was a GA game within the members section. We could chow down on the lunch we brought into the park because they weren’t so concerned with revenue as to need to charge us $8 for a hot dog. And we could watch the game, have a conversation, and generally enjoy the day.

Leanne and Richo headed out around 5 to get to family Christmas activities. I stayed for the full 90 overs fully engrossed in the match. Apparently, I am a cricket fan. In fact, as soon as I finish this sentence, I’m going to wander over to one of the TVs on the ferry and see what the current score is on day 4. Australia may just win it.

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This entry was posted on January 4, 2012 by in Australia, Victoria (Melbourne).

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