Put Your Bats Out

It’s been a tough week here in Australia and around the cricketing world.  We lost someone special this week and we are sad.  Normally I talk about romance and romance books on this blog but I wanted to share my thoughts and try and explain maybe why the events of this week have had such a broad effect on us.

Unlike Aussie Rules football (AFL), rugby (union or league) or even soccer, cricket is our national sport.  It’s played all over Australia – all year round indoors and outdoors all summer long.  Our cricketers play all year round all over the world these days.  I think every Australian kid has played cricket at some point. Even me.  We don’t have many (any?) indigenous cricketers in the state or national teams and that’s a problem (one for another day) but in many ways, cricket identifies us.  On Boxing Day, the Melbourne Test match starts and TVs and radios around the nation are on all day and one of the most common phrases you’ll hear will be “What’s the score?”.  We are largely a secular nation and in some respects, cricket is our religion.  It connects us in ways that politics and religion does not. Even Australia Day is heavily associated with cricket.  Cricket is certainly a place we draw icons and heroes from.  Sir Donald Bradman, the Chappell brothers, Dennis Lilllee, Jeff Thomson, Steve Waugh, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne – these are all cricketers revered by the Australian public in one way or another.  They’re ours and they mean something to us. When they do surveys about who Australians trust the most, cricketers almost always top the list.  We value our sportsmen more than our statesmen (that says something not very complimentary about our statesmen and women, but that’s for another day too and probably not this blog). In many respects, our cricketers are as revered as the royal family is in the UK. The Captain of the Australian Cricket Team is colloquially said to have “the second most important job in the nation”.

Philip Hughes was from New South Wales but he played state cricket for our own South Australia Redbacks for the past two years and that means he was ours too.  Everyone’s a bit parochial about cricket.  If a player was born in South Australia or played here briefly or possibly just holidayed here, we are inclined to include him as “ours”.  The same holds true in all the other states as well; it’s not just South Australia. Philip Hughes was “ours” because he had played for Australia.  He was “ours” because he played for South Australia and he was “ours” because he played for New South Wales.

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