Saturday, 22 September 2012

Cricket's Timeless Test.... By Owen Zupp.

Cricket's Timeless Test.

By Owen Zupp

I attended a school reunion the other night. It had been thirty years since I'd donned the blazer and been one of the many confined to the classroom. They were good times from what I can recall and this was further emphasised by the warm spirit that surrounded those of us gathered in the old dining hall.

The old 'cliques' of yesteryear seemed to have dissipated and after three decades there was even a hint that we'd all grown up a little. The conversations were varied and entertaining as we re-lived our mistakes of the past and present. There was a special connection too with the members of the First XI cricket team that I had played with. It was as if we had not stopped laughing from 1982 and the camaraderie had picked up right where it left off so many years ago. For all the fading memories, we could still recall Andrew Knight trying to take our heads off with precise detail. We could see and hear that seam searing past our nose.

They were friendships forged in teenage struggle and the bonds were still with us now on a cold winter's night in 2012. Yet for all the conversation and recollections, the most special moment for me came at the end of the evening. Away from the white table-cloths and wine glasses. Away from the photographs and memorabilia. Even away from the people. It was a truly special moment of solitude.  

With a long drive home, I left the gathering sooner rather than later. As I walked across the darkened grounds towards the gate and my waiting car, I paused. I stood there in the silence and surveyed my surroundings, the scenes of my greatest triumphs and most embarrassing moments were all within a stone's throw and I hadn't been here for thirty years.

I began to walk away from the front gate and towards the Glasson Pavilion, perched between two playing fields. As I loped through the darkness I half-expected to be hailed down by a security guard and questioned about my movements and motive. In a coat and tie, complete with a name tag bearing the school crest, I was confident that I could talk my way out of that one. Even so, no challenge to my being was forthcoming.  

I passed the Headmaster's residence and crossed the Old Boy's Oval where I played my very first organised game of cricket. From there I climbed the stairs into the pavilion, but this time there was no bat under my arm or obscenities under my breath. I moved to the top of the pavilion where to the north sat the "Old Boy's" and to the south sat the main oval, The Buchanan. Within 180 degrees sat  the core of my cricketing life. The formative games that set me on this wonderful journey.

I could almost see the younger 'me' repeatedly hitting a ball against the base of the grandstand. I could feel my shoulder ache as just over there I had been smacked by a 'bean ball' that missed my head by the length of my neck.The 'bubblers' still remained where I would drink gallons of water at a time. But the old scoreboard was gone, replaced by a digital slab void of any soul. I could hear the voices of my youth and smell that fresh summer grass with just a hint of moisture from the night before. The bat oil, the crisp whites and the feel of the new match ball, still wrapped in its white paper bag at the bottom of my kit.

The black and white cap and the crest that I had trained so hard to wear and the immense pride in leading my mates onto the field. The lonely moments in the rooms and the end of a battle lost or an innings all too short. The magnificent ladies and their magnificent lunches. The cute girls that came to the watch that I then struggled to converse with. The laughter of friends and the good company of our foes. They were some of the happiest days of my life. And I have had a great life.

As I sat all alone in the pavilion, I was actually surrounded by memories and friends. I was so at peace with the world that I wanted to sit there forever and inhale those days once more; slow and deep. I wanted to hang onto that feeling for just one more minute.  For no matter what challenges life may have brought me along the way, those simple pleasures of a well spent youth on fields of green with mates of gold have always been there. And maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to hang onto them for another thirty years and this wonderful game of cricket will keep one corner of my heart sixteen forever.

Perhaps that's why cricket matters...... 

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