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The Scrivener: Watching The Grass Grow

Unbelievers find the game of cricket ridiculous. There's talk of "flannelled fools", and "it's more interesting to watch the grass grow", and "watching paint dry". "Keep quiet,'' Brian Barratt advises. "That's tantamount to treason.''

Brian writes with well-measured affection about what many consider to be the greatest of games (and count me among that number - Peter Hinchliffe, Open Writing editor).

For more of Brian's delightful, delicious and ever-entertaining columns please click on The Scrivener in the menu on this page. For further mental gymnastics do please visit his Web site The Brain Rummager www.alphalink.com.au/~umbidas/

Good gracious, it's happened again. While I was waiting for the kettle to boil, I switched on the TV. There's a test match in Perth, thousands of kilometres away. Not that I'm rapt in cricket, you understand, but it does get moderately exciting when Australia is playing England for The Ashes. I just wanted to check the current score.

You don't know about The Ashes? Far too esoteric to explain here. Let's just say that they're in a tiny ornate urn which England and Australia compete for, every few years. It's the daft sort of thing people do in the world of Sport. With a capital S. The next test match is now being played in Melbourne. About 100,000 people are making a lot of noise in the hallowed Melbourne Cricket Ground, and they will be doing so for several days.

Several days? Yes. A full-length match can go on for five days. That means, at the MCG, half a million bums will fill the seats. Or 100,000 bums will fill them five times. Unbelievers find the whole thing ridiculous. There's talk of "flannelled fools", and "it's more interesting to watch the grass grow", and "watching paint dry". Keep quiet — that's tantamount to treason.

Of course, in the nostalgic mind's eye, real cricket is played on village greens in England while elderly gentleman sleep in deckchairs beneath the trees, their faces protected from flies and gnats by newspapers. They occasionally wake up and utter noises of encouragement. Be that as it may. Cricket, devised centuries ago by shepherds, is part of the "Oh, good show, chaps" tradition of the jolly old British Empire, what!

Over half a century ago, I went unwillingly with a school group to watch a test match at Trent Bridge cricket ground in Nottingham. That's in England. We were probably taken because a great Australian team, later known as The Invincibles, were playing. As far as I was concerned, I would rather have stayed at home. I had more important things to do. I was studying the Bhagavad-gita at the time.
In more recent times, I went with a friend to the famous MCG to watch Australia play Pakistan. The ground was full. I couldn't understand why 99,999 people stared at me disapprovingly when I applauded a Pakistani player. Nowadays, we are much more multicultural. Cricket helps to brings together the people of many countries,

Ah, yes, I was telling you about the kettle and the TV. When I switched the telly on, I was just in time to see great rejoicing because Shane Warne, fêted as one of the best bowlers of all time, had just bowled out an English batsman. OK, that's nice. But the point is that I decided the switch the telly on at precisely the moment of that feat. And it often happens. I rise from the computer, or the comfychair, or wherever I am, and switch on to see what's happening, and it turns out to be the exact instant that a wicket has been taken.

Spooky, isn't it? Perhaps not. Maybe the Human Genome Project will one day reveal a gene which explains it. Until that gene is found, I might spend more time watching the grass grow, actually. When Australia and England aren't competing for The Ashes, that activity really can be just as interesting as watching cricket. I'm surprised it isn't on TV.

© Copyright Brian Barratt 2006


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