Sunday, January 02, 2011

1 Corinthians 13:7* (Love) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Gruelling stuff.
Love bears all things: three days outside in Melbourne weather.  Every morning I arrived at the MCG wearing boots, jeans and a jumper with a fur-trimmed hood.  The last week of December, technically midsummer, but I longed for my beanie. I kept my hat on, even when I had my hood up, as it said ‘Australia’ and I didn’t want there to be any confusion about who I was supporting.   The first day stayed that cold, the second day oscillated between the bone-slicing wind and the skin-scorching sun, and on the third the sun finally won.  It wasn’t the heat – I'm West Australian, I can take a bit of warmth – but the searing bite of the UV in every sunbeam that drove us back into the shade. Despite multiple coatings of suncream, I was pink for a few days, thanks to reflections off the grass and the extra thin ozone layer in these parts.

Love believes all things: one of the disarming things about cricket is that belief is always possible – until everyone is out, you just never know. Even now, I believe that we could’ve bowled England out if we’d had a go at a damp pitch under a cloudy sky. I believe that our batsmen have the skill and the talent to have kept on batting, if they’d had the form, the will and the discipline to go with it. I believe that on the mornings of days two and three it was still possible for us to win.  (Probable? Not so much.) I believe that if Mitchell Johnson had got out of bed on the right side he could’ve taken a hat-trick. During the match, I believed that this might be the partnership that won the game. That this next one might draw the game. That these guys – no, wait, these guys – could at least put it into five days. That these next guys could put it into four days… oh, thank goodness.

Love hopes all things: I hoped for form, will and discipline for our batsmen. I hoped for Hilfy to take a hat-trick, because his economy and work rate deserved it. I hoped Punter would have a Waugh-at-the-SCG cap’n’s knock, and save our collective and individual dignities and the match all at once.  I hoped Hughes and Smith would give us hope for the future. (They gave me a little. I had wanted it in centuries, but will take the small Pandoran glimmer that was their second inningses.)  I hoped Watson would not give everyone else more evidence for disliking him - and then I hoped it would rain. Now, I hope the selectors take a good, hard look at themselves. I hope Cricket Australia find someone who can decode the mysteries of swing, or at the very least, nick the English dossier on it. I hope we get pitches like this one, and the one at the WACA, more often, regardless of our form. I hope the cricket boards of other countries (including ours!) can somehow manage to do what the ECB have done - although I'm not sure if even they know exactly how they've done it. Mind you, I also hope the ECB do something about county cricket.

Love endures all things: love endures all out for 98, stays til the last ball, and makes sure it’s in time for the first ball the next day, and the day after that. It is heart-sick that it has to go to work and miss the last hour, despite the expected cataclysmic result and subsequent grave-dancing. Love endures England batting for days, and since this is love of cricket, and not merely love of Australian cricket, it somehow, around the heartache, enjoys Trott’s batting, (no, really – but then I like Watson, so, you know, odd) KP’s defiance, the ebb and flow of the bowling, the mysterious impact of the weather**, Bresnan’s incredulous joy.  Love endures the Barmy Army and the annoying way their tunes get stuck in your head, the equally annoying way we’ve never really come up with anything to counter them,*** and the really, really annoying way they make you laugh. Love endures the captain losing it in an undignified, unprofessional and unwarranted fashion, and although it definitely doesn’t approve, it admires the grit with which he carries on, and the defiant response of the home crowd the next morning when the Barmy Army boos him.

I love cricket. Even when it hurts.

* I am intending to come back to the other six verses, this just needed to be written now.

** God was clearly on England’s side: the sun came out when they started batting, and the only time – I swear, the only time – it went away again while they were batting was during drinks breaks.

*** Now’s our chance: the Barmies were formed in England’s doldrums, after all, and it takes heartbreak to fuel creativity. At the very least, we must be able to come up with something better than ‘Your next queen is Camilla Parker-Bowles.’