A Passing GradeSaturday, November 10 – mark the date in your calendar. Hopefully the weather is fine, as potentially the biggest crowd grade cricket has ever seen will descend on Coogee Oval to see two of the world’s best (and most disgraced) cricketers, Steve Smith and Dave Warner, ply their trade amongst the common folk with nary a scrap of sandpaper in sight.
Randwick Petersham versus Sutherland has never stuck out so vividly in a sporting calendar. The Randy Petes versus the feebly named Sharks. The local boys
are no mugs, but they will be up against it, with the Sharks finishing top four last season – and that was without Steve Smith.
Last season counts for nothing, though, as both Smith and Warner could no doubt tell you. This time last year they were preparing for an upcoming Ashes annihilation of the English. I honestly have no idea what I was doing this time last year, but the only English things I’ve annihilated in recent memory were a couple of Yorkshire puddings, so I can’t really call their journey a ‘fall from grace’, can I? My glasshouse may have been shattered years ago, but that doesn’t mean I can’t aspire to build another one.
It does make me wonder what the blokes who choose to spend their best years of Saturdays playing grade cricket think of these so-called ‘punishments’, though. Even the biggest cricket tragic amongst them must have a moment, when he’s standing in the hot sun having just dropped a sitter and copped a spray from a wiry fast bowler and carpenter’s apprentice ten years his junior, where he thinks, “Why the hell am I doing this? Do I hate myself so much that I must self-flagellate with leather and willow every weekend?”
It might be a case of one man’s garbage is another’s treasure, but I don’t think that is the case here. I expect there is a part of Messrs Smith and Warner that is loving the spell away from the routine, if not the spotlight, and spending some meaningful time with their loved ones.
When the movie comes out, I wonder who it will be about: the battler from Matraville, who liter- ally bashed his way to the big time only to be villainised for the very behaviour we all embraced in the beginning; or the cricket savant, a man groomed from a young age, like a Russian gymnast, to captain his country and make records tumble quicker than a drunken human pyramid. I would watch either. In fact, I would prefer it to be about both – a sort of Blues Brothers/Raging Bull mash up that has us screaming for more.
This phenomenal human drama in cricket is why I think we all love it. The game itself is as dull as a Mormon’s buck’s party, but watching a man’s career and dreams get shattered with one unplayable off-cutter keeps us coming back for more. It’s like a real-life Game of Thrones, except – thanks to the recent crackdown on streaking – without the gratuitous nudity. I’ll see you all down at Coogee.