Last time I was in Sydney, Rugby League season was in full swing, and I actually got into it, with every pub I went to filled with TVs showing at least one game at any given moment. It was fun, it was boisterous, and it was essentially an extension of the general Australian attitude of running around in shorts, plowing into each other and generally rolling around on a nice day all in the name of a a bit of sport and a good time.
This time around, I’ve arrived in the height of cricket season, and no matter how interested or passionate anyone tries to be about the game, it simply puts you to sleep. To me, the closest I thing I can equate cricket to is outdoor dentistry. There’s a lot of people wearing white, a variety of implements and people being used that are mystifyingly obtuse in their purpose, everything seems to take an excruciating amount of time, and at some point during the whole thing you tend to start feeling very numb and perhaps drooling a bit.
I’d say the absolute best impression of what it’s like to be a foreigner trying to watch a cricket match I’ve come across is by Bill Bryson in his book In A Sunburned Country, or as it’s titled here, Down Under:
“‘So here comes Stovepipe to bowl on this glorious summer’s afternoon at the MCG,’ one of the commentators was saying now. ‘I wonder if he’ll chance an offside drop scone here or go for the quick legover. Stovepipe has an unusual delivery in that he actually leaves the grounds and starts his run just outside the Carlton & United Brewery at Koonyong.’
‘That’s right, Clive. I haven’t known anyone start his delivery that far back since Stopcock caught his sleeve on the reversing mirror of a number 11 bus during the third test at Brisbane in 1957 and ended up at Goondiwindi four days later owing to some frightful confusion over a changed timetable at Toowoomba Junction.’
After a very long silence while they absorbed this thought, and possibly stepped out to transact some small errands, they resumed with a leisurely discussion of the England fielding. Neasden, it appeared, was turning in a solid performance at square bowel, while Packet had been a stalwart in the dribbles, though even these exemplary performances paled when set beside the outstanding play of a young Hugh Twain-Buttocks at middle nipple. The commentators were in calm agreement that they had not seen anyone caught behind with such panache since Tandoori took Rogan Josh for a stiffy at Vindaloo in ’61. At last Stovepipe, having found his way over the railway line at Flinder Street – the footbridge was evidently closed for painting – returned to the stadium and bowled to Hasty, who deftly turned the ball away for a corner. This was repeated four times more over the next two hours and then one of the commentators pronounced: ‘So as we break for second luncheon, and with 11,200 balls remaining, Australia are 962 for two not half and England are four for a duck and hoping for rain.'”
And so on.
Truly, a game of gentlemen. Very, very comatose gentlemen.