I have a bit of thing for sport. Almost any sport will do. Part of it is my competitive side; part of it is pure appreciation of the skills and tactics displayed by talented people. Sports that garner particular attention include rugby league, cricket and tennis. I’ve even been known to travel interstate by myself to watch a good game. While summer is traditionally the off-season for rugby league, there are some world-class opportunities to watch cricket and tennis in Melbourne throughout December and January. Provided I’m not on a trip somewhere else in the world, a solid day or two of the Boxing Day Test and the Australian Open are long-standing summer holiday traditions of mine. As much as I will happily spend days in front of the television watching said events, attending them in person is just a whole new level of entertainment.
This year, I carefully designed my holidays to fit around the Boxing Day Test, and managed to get home from Alice Springs in time for the fourth day of play (before driving to South Australia for a camping trip). The Melbourne Cricket Ground is a thing of beauty. Last year, I was in Perth for Boxing Day and attended the Big Bash League match between the Perth Scorchers and the Melbourne Renegades at the WACA instead. That was greatly entertaining (I think I was the only one cheering for Melbourne), however it struck me just how lucky we are to have the MCG as our local ground. This year, India were the visiting team and having convincingly beaten them in Adelaide and Brisbane, Australia were well on top in the series. At this stage, Australia had made 530 runs in their first innings and India were finishing off their innings of 465 from the day before. I arrived just in time to see the last wicket of the Indian innings before Australia came out for their second innings. Australia batted for the rest of the day – when it wasn’t raining that is. Umpires added a whole hour onto the end of the day’s play in order to try and make up for the lost time. As well as Marsh and Harris were doing in facing the Indian bowling attack, it is fair to say the play was a bit slow by the end of the day, and the extra hour saw the spectators getting a little restless. Which brings me to my point: watching sport live is all about the atmosphere, which is largely built by the crowd. It is so easy to get distracted from the game by crazy sport fans or disruptive spectators only to find everyone cheering about something important that you just missed.
Aside from the usual misbehaviour of the “Bay 13” bogans, the entertainment this year was provided by the Indian cricket supporters. So when the play got slow, I made my way over to the section where the “Swami Army” were sitting. They had been in full voice all day, accompanied by drums and flags and by the end of the last session had resorted to chanting the names of various Indian cricket players until they turned around and waved at them (eliciting huge cheers from the crowd). The surrounding spectators were spending more time watching them than the last session of play and the Swami Army seemed to have given up actually watching the cricket all together. Australian supporters were asked ‘where they had gone’ since they had gone a bit quiet and were invited (in song) to come and join them. A few Australians started an “Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi” chant, to which the response was “You need a new chant”. When a family moved over to sit with them, the Swami Army began to sing “We are one, but we are many…” much to the entertainment of everyone. It was interesting to note the significant lack of police presence in this area compared to the “Bay 13” area – which I think was testament to the friendly, fun atmosphere they had created. It was definitely an entertaining way to finish the day!
The test match was the first of several cricket matches I plan to attend this summer so keep an eye out for more photos from the Big Bash League and ICC One Day International World Cup games coming up in the next few months!