Earlier this month, V and I had our first Australian sporting experience: a game of cricket between the Sydney Thunder and the Hobart Hurricanes at Canberra’s Manuka Oval. I had bought the tickets a few weeks before in a sudden burst of enthusiasm for Australian sport, which I have paid almost zero attention to during my two and a half total years in Oz to date.
I announced to V that we were going to the cricket, and he responded, “Great!” and then a pause, followed by, “Do you know how to play?”
My Google searches of “how to play cricket” and “rules of cricket” had led me to a few YouTube videos showing stick figures moving around a green that looked only partially familiar. It’s like the Australians’ baseball, I thought, trying to keep my batsmen and bowlers and overs and wickets straight.
Although an astonishing 93% of Australians have played cricket, many likely as school-aged kids, I admit that I never have. Since I was still a bit clueless after my tour through some perplexing explanatory videos, I pestered some Australian friends for the real deal.
I received the most helpful explanations about the point and mechanics of the game while I was getting my hair cut. Eleven players on each team, with each team trying to accumulate more runs than the other. There were too many rules to try and learn in one go, but I listened intently and asked a lot of questions. Stylists in the salon found it a bit hilarious and endearing that I was trying to learn about cricket. They in turn peppered me with questions about American football, baseball, basketball, and hockey.
So I finally felt ready for better or worse. The afternoon of game day itself was hot, until about the time we were seated when it turned inexplicably cold and windy. In short-sleeved shirts and sandals, we were surprised to see families trooping into the stands with hoodies and blankets. What weather report did I miss? I thought, chagrined. It takes a lot for me to be cold, and I’m generally comfortable in short sleeves while others are shivering in sweaters. But I am telling you it was COLD and the wind cut right through us. More beer!
Luckily at least I had purchased covered seats, because the sky soon opened and it began to pour rain. The crowd sang along with Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and waited for the rain to end. I asked the Aussies behind me whether cricket could be rained out and they confirmed that indeed, it could. Like baseball, I thought. Eventually the rain slowed and then stopped, officials trotted out to remove the plastic covering the pitch, and play resumed.
From our vantage point, I could not easily see the scoreboard and although I studied the game intently, I found myself enjoying more the hilarious comments from people seated around us (“Snea-ky, MATE!”), the cheering when something would happen (even if I was not quite sure exactly what), and the intensity with which both teams played.
And so we left a little early, cold and feeling like at least we had seen it. We still don’t know how to play cricket, but at least we broke the ice with Australian sports. Next up: a rugby match, and this time wearing warmer clothes!