I have cried three times since cricketer Phillip Hughes passed away yesterday. Once when I heard the news he had passed, the second time when I was dressing the boys (7 & 5) for Milo cricket less than a few hours after he had passed and today when I saw the #putoutyourbats tribute on social media. What a tribute. So proud to be Australian on days like today.
I popped my bat out too. That’s it there on the right. Handed down to me by my brother after he graffitied it way back in the early 80’s. It’s the bat I played frontyard cricket with.
The negative people in the world ask why such tributes don’t flow for people who suffer in other tragic and (some commentary online was getting specific) work-related accidents. Others get a little huffy with the whole online bandwagon thing. And some people just don’t understand the cricket addiction many of us are afflicted with living here in Australia.
It is a wonderful affliction. The best sort of affliction. This affliation is why I cried. This affliction and the sad passing of Phillip Hughes brought every goddamn childhood memory associated with cricket and growing up in suburban Australia in the 1970’s and 80’s rushing to the surface of my 40 year old, wine-addled mind.
– drawing the stumps on the brick between the two roller-doors in chalk.
– sorting out the rules. A nick to the roller door was caught out in slips. Hitting Mrs Paull’s tree across the road on the full automatically out. Not hitting into Mrs Rhodes garden because …well she got cranky and kept our taped up tennis balls we used as cricket balls.
– the stop in play when a car would come up the road and all outfielders had to retreat to the kerb.
– the fights over who had to field in next door’s garden that was full of bindies and rose bushes.
– playing until Mum called you in for tea or it was too dark to even see the ball, which ever came first.
– a drinks break was drinking out of the sprinkler.
– a feisty 7 year old girl refusing to play a ball bowled underarm just because ‘you bowl underarm to girls’. Oh. And Kiwis apparently 😉
It brings everything up to the surface. I watched cricket and I played cricket. I played cricket for Windsor High School’s girls cricket team. I would meet Nathan Porth (who was a foot shorter than me) up at the local cricket nets the day before a game and get my eye in.
Favourite memories of playing were watching Rebecca Stanley threaten to wrap her bat around the head of her batting partner after she ran her out (it was rough out our way) , asking our coach whether we could wear crop tops to field because we didn’t want to get tan marks (we took our cricket AND our tan lines VERY seriously) and my very first boundary.
My first boundary.
My first (and only) 50.
My first wicket. I think the bowling term unorthodox was created just for me but I still got a wicket or too.
My first catch taken at square leg, where I used to stand and relay instructions from our coach moonlighting as the umpire, whispering field placements out the side of his mouth to me.
Walking out onto the ground, wherever it may be. The WACA or WeeWaw. It didn’t matter. I loved walking out onto the ground.
Our school made it to the State Schoolgirls semi-finals back in 1990 I think it was. I strode out onto the ground as opening bat as though I was Marsh AND Boonie (to be fair, I was probably taller than both. Put together).
And I didn’t even care that the fast bowler from Griffith put her bong down long enough get me LBW the fourth ball into my innings. I still got to stride out on to that field. No tan mark problems that day! Wasn’t out in the middle long enough.
I come from cricketing stock. My grandfather played first grade for Northern Districts and for NSW. There is even a family myth / rumour that says he played for Australia. The legend goes he was on the #2 ground at the SCG playing grade and Australian players were getting injured. He was brought on to field for Australia. Or so the legend goes.
What I do know is his ashes were released onto the wicket of North Epping Oval, where he spent many happy years playing grade cricket. And the leggies would have got some unexpected spin the next day during their match, I’m sure.
My uncle and cousin played topline grade cricket too. My dad played locally. And I played in the frontyard, backyard, down the river, at the beach, in the nets, waiting for the bus and then on a real life cricket ground.
It wasn’t the MCG, the SCG, Bellerive, the Gabba, the WACA or Adelaide Oval……….but it was for me that day. AND every day I walked onto the field.
And that’s why a nation mourns and cricket lovers across the world feel the sorrow and pain. It’s why tributes flow.
Because Phillip Hughes got to live the dream.
And now he rests forever.
63 not out.