Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Munro Show- 28 November 2012

Day three of the Plunket Shield clash between Auckland and Wellington turned into something of a record breaker. By all accounts the wicket was pretty flat, with the bowlers unable to get much out of it. The runs certainly piled on, with the Aces ending up on 658/9 declared.

It wasn't looking quite so healthy on day two, when the Aces made plenty of starts, but no-one was able to carry on, and the wickets kept falling. At one stage they were 174/5, and looking quite precarious. That was until Cachopa and Munro headed out to the middle.

Cachopa batted for 6 hours to bring up his 166. I did wonder if he had read MD Crowe's piece about being able there being nothing finer than 6 hours out in the middle playing bat on ball. This was good cricket too. No smash and dash T20 styles. There was plenty of straight bat, and "showing the makers mark" Windies style. It's not a bad achievement to get your maiden first classs century with such finesse!

And as for Mr Munro, you had to be there to fully appreciate the demolition job he did on the Wellington bowling attack. His 269* came off just 252 deliveries. There were 27 4s and 14 6s. Now I know I don't get out much, but I have never seen anything like it! It wasn't irresponsible batting either, for the most part. I can remember the good old days as a kid watching Lance Cairns belligerently swinging Excalibur at the Aussies, and this did remind me of those days. And guess who was sitting in the stands watching too!

 Going into lunch, Munro was sitting on 198. After lunch, those last two runs seemed to take forever to get. There was a lot of blocking and clear shouts of NO on the singles. It looked like the entire Auckland team were holding their breath and just willing him on. He seemed very determined to not give away his wicket cheaply at this point, and rightly so. However, once he crossed the 200 line, there was a different batsman out there. The next ball was aggressively smashed onto Sandringham Road for 6, narrowly missing a delivery truck. Then the next one was dispatched into the back of the West Stand at the number one ground. Gillespie and Elliott were the bowlers given the task of ending the Munro show at this time. Despite them throwing everything they had at it, nothing seemed to work. He piled on another 69 runs in much the same fashion until Auckand declared.

Even though I didn't get to see the end of the day's play, when Munro finished up unbeaten on 269, I loved the end of the second session when they came off for lunch. All the Aces were there shaking hands to congratulate Cachopa the younger and also Munro. You really get the feeling they are there for each other, and have got each other's backs. This Auckland side are a pretty tight unit, and they look like they are going to be hard to break.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The return to Eden- the verdict.

After counting down all winter to November 10, it came around surprisingly quickly. The first day back at Eden Park's Number Two ground in four years.
Auckland Aces vs Northern Knights in a Plunket Shield match. So how did Eden Park scrub up? Was it a patch on Colin Maiden?

Well, first impressions are pretty good. It does feel like going from a village cricket green into a city oval though. Having the massive Eden Park main stadium looming over it adds to the effect. The ground staff have done a truly amazing job preparing the grass in the middle and all the surrounding areas. The little embankments are quite good, but much closer to the boundary rope than at Colin Maiden. The tree (because there is only the one) will be hotly contested once Summer is in full swing, as it provides the only natural shade.

I will try to keep my whingeing under control because it's not all bad, but here goes. There needs to be more trees on the Sandringham Road boundary. The traffic noise is really loud, and the wind whips through there.
 I've already talked about the security guards on Twitter, but they need a serious shake up. They've spent the last two days telling my kids off for running around having fun, but today they told David White- CEO of NZ Cricket-to get his foot off the boundary rope! Eden Park needs to educate its security staff with some processes relevant to Cricket. After all, this is Plunket Shield, not RWC2011!
A little signage wouldn't go amiss down at the outer oval there. Where are the toilets again? Where can I buy something to eat or to drink? I need to know I can get my hot chips and Oddfellows when I need them.

On the bright side, people have been streaming in to watch the cricket. Today the entry gate guy had counted two hundred people. That's about 198 more than we saw at Colin Maiden!

It's no wonder the good folk of Auckland are keen to see for themselves what is happening at the Plunket Shield. You can't listen to it on the radio anymore, there's no tv coverage, yet there is some superb cricket happening! We have had centuries from Joey Yovich and Bruce Martin, and plenty of exciting bowling.
The BlackCaps are all in Sri Lanka battling with the weather, yet we still have some thrilling cricket happening right here at home, in our own backyard.  Some would even say it's better cricket.

If you want my advice, get yourself down to Eden Park. Get there early so you can get a car park, and bring your own lunch. There's no guarantees you will be able to buy lunch there. Bring your camera, your autograph bat, and your picnic blanket. A merino might just come in handy too. But above all, bring the whole family, and your friends. And have a really good time!

Friday, 19 October 2012

Grassroots Good Sorts

I started this week having a jolly good whinge about the paucity of coaching volunteers for our cricket team of  9 and 10 year olds. My frustration at being unable to get a single dad to step up and coach our team  was very real. The fact that you coach rugby in the winter and this is "your off season" just doesn't cut it. Is this about you, or your son?
That was until I came up with a solution. I would be the coach. Hell, I can't catch a cricket ball for toffee, and I throw like a girl. But who cares? This team is going to have a whole lot of fun! And best of all, my nine year old is incredibly excited to have his dear old mum as his cricket coach. Bless him.

So I've moved on from moaning about people who use Saturday kids sport as a babysitting service, and I've been thinking about all the good sorts who give so much of themselves to support grassroots sport in the great kiwi backyard. There are so many great people out there who give up their own time and share their expertise.

From what I've noticed, there are the same people pitching in year after year. We've been extremely fortunate that these volunteer coaches have been mostly very good. I spoke to one of them about it last cricket season when I thanked him for stepping up to coach once again. He is a truly wonderful man. Very patient, completely supportive, and very talented himself. He told me that he volunteers to coach so that he can have that quality time with his son, time that his son will remember forever. He is also a realist and admitted that he will only be able to coach his son's team for a limited number of years before his sons skills outgrow his own. To that end, he is prepared to have a job with less responsibility until such time as his son no longer needs him coaching that cricket team.  I nearly hugged him when he said that- what a wonderful thing to do for your child.

In the winter sports season, we have been very lucky to have the same football coach for four years in a row. Now this particular dad is a very laid back, unassuming kind of man. He is quietly supportive, never shouts at the boys on his team, or gets upset with them. He's also not from England, which is quite atypical at our local football club. When he is on the field during a game, he quietly leads the boys. You can't hear his voice from the other side of the pitch. He doesn't run a weekly practice for the team, as there just isn't enough time. He gets them to turn up half an hour before the game each week, and he runs a few drills with the lads. This football team would be one of the top three in their grade because they play for each other and for their coach. And they have fun! They have loved having him there each week, guiding them since they were six year olds clustered around the ball.

I've met a few parents and grandparents of cricketers in my time. When you hang around cricket grounds as much as I do, you inevitably end up chatting to the people sitting near you. And you always ask other people why they are there. I am always impressed by the continued support some parents show their kids, well into adulthood.
At Colin Maiden one sunny afternoon, I  had my feet up and was soaking up the sunshine when a little old lady came along and sat near me, looking a bit confused. So I asked her if she needed some help. It turned out she was Jimmy Neesham's grandmother, and had come along to watch him play for The Aces. Bless her cotton socks. He was drinks carrier that day, and I motioned to him that she was here, and she was so delighted to see him "looking all handsome in his cricket uniform."

At a recent Club Cricket match I attended,I think all the spectators (excluding myself!) were parents or grandparents of the players. It really was heartening to see how much of a thrill these parents were still getting out of watching their now adult sons play their Saturday cricket. I am guessing these people did not use Saturday sport as a babysitting service.

The most remarkable one for me though is the dad at our club who is still coaching teams, even though his lad is well past his junior cricket phase. Phil Horne is quite exceptional. He has a fine cricketing pedigree of course, having played for Auckland and for New Zealand. His son now plays in our premier club side, and Phil is there as fielding coach. He also coaches the Kings 1st XI. Those teams are so very lucky to have someone with his passion for the game and his level of dedication who is still giving back to the sport. Phil's own parents- who I used to see watching Phil play many years ago, are still going along to matches. Now they are supporting their grandson.

I started the week really disappointed by the fact that everyone is too busy to coach a bunch of eager young nine and ten year olds. But by the time the weekend had rolled around, I'd come to the conclusion that there are so many wonderful people out there who do a lot for grass roots sport, that I didn't want their great contribution marred by the few who have no time to make any contribution. If you have a volunteer coach involved in your kids sport, make sure you thank them every week. Consider this- if it wasn't for them, you could be coaching that team yourself!

Monday, 1 October 2012

The F Word

I knew that one day I would end up writing about the F word in sport. It was inevitable, inescapable even. I tried to put it off for as long as I could. The F word was never going to be my favourite topic. But, today I felt compelled to do a piece on that F word.  Football.

During the winter months, I spend many hours in the mud at football, and I do it with pleasure. You just can't knock the enthusiasm from the kids who want to get out there and kick a ball around in the rain, the wind  and the mud. We've had Saturday football for a few years now, and Sunday as well as there is always someone playing in a rep tournament somewhere across Auckland.

But today was a bit special. We weren't actually playing , just going along to watch. Day one of the School Holidays and we were off to the Three Kings United National 9th Grade Tournament at Keith Hay Park. This was the final day of a 3 day tournament where the kids had played a number of 40 minute games each day. On the final day, there were Quarters, Semis and Championship Finals to be played. Master 9 wasn't playing, but he was dead keen to go along (with his rugby ball) and cheer on his mates from Eastern Suburbs who had been unbeaten in the first two days of the tournament.  Having been to so many of these tournaments this winter, there's something a little intoxicating about the atmosphere, the anticipation and the excitement.
Three Kings United National 9th Grade Tournament

We arrived in time for the semis, and watched Eastern Suburbs take on old rivals East Coast Bays. These teams have , for the most part, faced each other more than once during the winter, and know each other's game pretty well. The kids all get to know each other's name on the field, and whilst they are fighting it out on the pitch, they are quite happy to chat afterwards.

Happily Eastern Suburbs were the victors in their Semi Final, putting East Coast Bays away 6-0. On the next pitch Forrest Hill battled it out with the hosts TKU, with the visitors taking it away. That game ran a few minutes behind, and when the TKU boys heard Eastern Suburbs had won, they came straight over to wish them all the best for the final against Forrest Hill. That camaraderie and competition is the product of a long season battling it out together.

The Dads giving the Ref a helping hand
The thing I find interesting about the Championship Final at these tournaments is how the parents and supporters respond to the pressure. I'm generally pretty philosophical about the whole thing, and I like to think that's how I survive.
I spoke to two mums today who were on the Rescue Remedy to get through the emotional angst of it all. Another mum could not actually watch the match and removed herself to a chair at a safe distance where she could do her breathing exercises in relative safe comfort. But it's the dads that fascinate me the most. Living vicariously through your offspring is alive and well on the sidelines. This goes for every match I have been to, irrespective of which teams are playing. The dads feed on the adrenalin and get really excited by all the on pitch drama. There's finger pointing, there's shouting, gesticulating, waving and jumping up and down on the spot. It's generally  in  good humour, and mostly directed at the ref. I have yet to see anyone come to blows or take anything further.

But, returning to the championship final. What a match! These boys had been playing football for three days straight, and this was their final shot at glory. The sun was shining and the temperature was unseasonably warm. Sunscreen was applied pre match, just in case. It ended up being 40 minutes of a hard fought battle between two old foes. No George and the dragon here. These two teams have been beating each other all season, and know each other's game very well indeed. There was a bit of drama, with a few hard tackles, mum on the pitch with the magic spray, and apparently the ref was blind. But the boys from the other side of the bridge prevailed, and got to take home the biggest trophy of the season.

Championship Winners Trophy

And with that, all the mums quickly exhaled. All the dads started on their discussions about how the ref should have seen this, that and the other. The North Shore boys celebrated at full volume. The boys from  Suburbs ended up in tears at the frustration of seeing the big win slip through their fingers.
Eventually everyone packed up their gazebos and camp chairs and headed home to hang up their football boots and to dig the cricket gear out of the garage to get ready for another season of sport.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

A Gentleman's Game

I had the pleasure of attending the annual 'Gentleman's match' between Parnell and Whangarei's Central City Club this afternoon.  It's an annual fixture between the two clubs, with hosting rights being rotated each year. This was Parnell's year to host, and Orakei Domain with the artificial wicket was chosen as the venue. They are two very different clubs, with Central having a total of  8 teams in the whole club, and Parnell with 12 teams just in Grade 4.

Parnell v Central City  at Orakei Domain 29 Sept 2012

I only found out the match was on when I was at the Grade 5 Academy net session early this morning, and all the Parnell old guard were getting gear together for the match this afternoon. An invitation was extended to me to join them at the boundary rope and stay around for the barbecue afterwards. I could hardly refuse!

So, once I'd done all my little jobs, I packed up my cricket chair, grabbed some food and a couple of kids, we headed down to the Orakei Domain for a Spring Saturday cricket session. It was warm, but not that sunny and the match was delayed by an hour so the grounds could dry out. This resulted in 40 overs each being played. I won't go into great detail about the final score, or the individual results as that is not what this is about. This is an annual match between two clubs with mutual connections, who enjoy catching up either at Cobham Oval in Whangarei, or at Parnell's home ground. It's a chance for old friends to catch up and tell stories, relive good times, and also to make new friends.
It's one big family of people all enjoying themselves over a game of cricket.

During the hours that I spent sitting at the boundary rope, we had sunshine, we had clouds and even some light showers. There was tipene run going on behind me, and rugby kicks happening to my right. I had a cold beer pressed into my hand, and was offered muffins, biscuits and cups of tea. I had strawberry juice on my chin as I watched the leg stump go spiraling in the air.  Then I watched a tail ender batting with glee as I brushed cake crumbs from my shirt.

It was the best kind of day.A cricket match in September will always make me smile, but seeing the absolute pleasure with which these two teams faced off, was sheer delight. I love how both teams applauded each other's efforts, and everyone just enjoyed a jolly good game of cricket, and each other's company.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

The backyard of Eden

I've been moaning about Auckland Cricket's move back to Eden Park 2 ever since I realised they were not going to change their minds about staying at Colin Maiden.

I have loved my favourite team being based at Colin Maiden Park for the past few years for lots of reasons.
Colin Maiden is my backyard. It's so local that I was able to wait out the weather and pop down to the game at the last minute , instead of sitting around in the rain. (very important in the Summer of 2011/12).
It's also close enough to home that I could go to a Plunket Shield match in the morning, lie around up under a pohutukawa tree all day, pop out at 3pm to do the school run and be back well in time for the last session of the day. I would bring the kids down,have afternoon tea at the game, and then they would run around playing cricket at the boundary ropes. Hell, some weeks, we even got takeaways and had dinner down there!
I loved sitting on the grass at the top of the hill, looking out to the Tamaki Estuary and watching the sunlight shimmer on the water in the distance. I got a kick out of stretching out under one of the big old pohutukawas with cicadas buzzing and clicking overhead.
I loved watching cricket at such a small ground where it was almost intimate. I got to know everybody- players, ground staff, umpires, the ladies who made the toasted sandwiches at lunchtime, other spectators.

So, today I took a very deep breath and decided that it was time to accept that all of that is just a happy memory and it's time to embrace the new home of Auckland Cricket, and make the best of it. So, on a sunny Spring Saturday morning, I took a drive across the city to Eden Park number two. Naturally I moaned all the way there about the traffic, and mentally calculated faster and more efficient ways to do the trip next time. And where would I park? And just where is the entrance to the grounds anyway? How would I actually get in on November 10th , when the first match is being played there?

So I arrived at the Sandringham Rd end, and looked for a park. All along the main road is No Parking. Of course it is. Then I had a flashback memory to when I used to come to Eden Park number two way back in the days when I wagged school to be there. Back then, I used to park my Mini in a side street right opposite the grounds. Sure enough I found that same spot today- albeit driving a Holden 7 seater, not a Mini 1300.

It was like flicking a switch, and all these old memories came flooding back, reminding me of my Grandma Grace (GG) and I being there together. I crossed the road for a closer look through the fence, and was pleased to see the old wooden stand there amongst the modern garishness of the new South Stand. I found myself pointing to the old stand and saying to my son (who was dragged along after cricket training)- "That's where I used to sit with my Grandma and eat Oddfellows, and hot chips, and watch the cricket." 
"Geez mum, you never buy us Oddfellows and hot chips at the cricket." 
Yeah well I asked for that didn't I?

The ground staff were going about their business preparing the turf, the sprinklers were on and the sun was shining. No cicadas yet, and not many leaves on the one and only tree that's left there. But you know what? I think it's going to be a good Summer there. I had better make sure the cafeteria sells hot chips  and Oddfellows and settle in for a good one.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Righty Lefties & Lefty Righties

This is an unusual topic to be blogging about in relation to cricket. Or is it?
Over the past few years, I have become increasingly aware that there are cricketers who bowl with one hand yet bat with the other. So, they must be ambidextrous- right? Nope. They might be, but  are not necessarily.
This is about a thing called 'mixed dominance' or 'cross dominance'. It is all about how the brain determines motor skill manifestation. All of us have a dominant hand, eye and foot. In a mixed dominant person, these are not all lined up. For example, you could be right footed and right handed, but left eye dominant. Therefore you would perform some tasks with your left hand and others with your right. Ambidextrousness is a form of mixed dominance where the two sides are equally proficient.
So, this stuff becomes apparent in cricket where we see batting and bowling. The majority of players are all Left or all Right. But there are a few special ones who are a bit of both.

Trent Boult was the one who jogged my memory. Watching him bowl recently, I saw that left arm going over his head in the normal fashion. But when he came out to bat, he was a Righty! I had to double check that and looked him up online, and sure enough, he's a Righty Lefty.  After further investigation, I found his brother JJ Boult is also one of them, but he's the opposite- he's a Lefty Righty!
So that started a conversation, who else do we know that's a Lefty Righty or vice versa?
Straight away, I had a list of New Zealand cricketers that I had noticed.
Jesse Ryder- LH Bat, RH bowl
Jacob Oram- LH Bat, RH bowl
R A Hadlee- LH Bat, RH bowl
Martin Snedden- LH Bat, RH bowl

Then I looked at recent Aussies.

Michael Clarke- RH Bat, LH bowl
David Hussey- RH Bat, LH bowl
Michael Hussey- LH Bat, RH bowl

Then I discovered that mixed dominance may be advantageous in sports where there is a side on stance- like cricket, baseball, or golf. The dominant eye faces, and the dominant hand controls the swing. There is also a common theme with the mixed dominant sportspeople, that they often have exceptional hand eye coordination.

Casting the net a bit wider, I discovered other notable sportspeople who are mixed dominant and also known for excellent hand eye coordination. Sachin Tendulkar is a classic example.The Little Master has scored 15,533 test runs. He bats, bowls and throws Right Handed, but he writes Left Handed. He is also known for practicing in the nets with Left Handed throws.
David Gower, who played 117 tests, scoring 8231 runs for England is another Lefty Righty. He was a Left Hand batsman, but bowled Right Handed. He also plays golf, hockey, kicks a ball and writes Right Handed. David Gower was also known for being ambidextrous in the field.

Maria Sharapova was noticed for her hand eye coordination even before she started school. She later developed into the tennis player we know today, and is a Righty Lefty. Rafael Nadal is similar, but the reverse- he's a Lefty Righty.

Closer to home, I have a son who is a Lefty Righty. He bats Left Handed, but bowls Right Handed. He kicks a football with his Right Foot, but can also do Left, plays hockey Left Handed, plays tennis with one hand for forehand and the other for backhand. He writes Right Handed. He is also known for his excellent hand eye coordination and sporting ability.
He was the one that started me researching this, as he noticed cricketers that were like him, and he wondered why. So Trent Boult, Jacob Oram and Jesse Ryder are closely watched by one small cricketer in our house. He relates well to them, wants to be more like them.
 Richard Hadlee is also an idol. He read all about Hadlee in one of his cricket books a few years back and announced "he's just like me!" well, not quite, but it's good to have something to aim for.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

What makes people go to watch cricket?

I've been getting asked this a lot lately. It's the middle of winter in Auckland, and about as far from the cricket season as you can get. So, inevitably, when the conversation turns to the fact that I am unashamedly a cricket tragic, I always get asked "why do you go to the cricket?".

 To put it in context, I am not your archetypal diehard cricket fan (if such a thing really exists). Busy mum, from the suburbs, I work as an IT Project Manager. I like shoes, nail polish and fashion. I don't actually play the game, as mentioned in my previous blog. I don't watch women's cricket, it's just the blokes I like to watch. Am I painting a picture here?

 Considering I am often the only chick anywhere around the boundary rope, I have often asked myself "who are these other people watching the match, and why are they here?"
 So, as you do, I struck up conversations with the odd bods that I saw regularly at Colin Maiden to find out a bit more about what drove them to follow cricket.
 One chap, whose name escaped me, impressed me the most. I truly aspire to be like him when I am in my dotage. This guy is no spring chicken, but he has plenty of time on his hands. He is from England, and I could always spot him down near the Long On boundary in an advanced state of undress ready to sun worship. He was always happy, always smiling, and no wonder! He loves the game so much that he was touring NZ, and going to as many domestic matches the length and breadth of NZ as he could fit in! Lucky, lucky sod.

 Another chap who popped along from time to time was a retiree and lived locally. He had two adult daughters, and a wife running his life for him. One day he told me he loved his cricket as a lad and was very good at it, but had to choose between tennis and cricket. He went on to become the National Under 20 tennis champ, and was justifiably proud of his achievement. But I couldn't help feeling a bit sad for him because I could tell that he had never really let go of his cricket dreams, even after all these years. So watching the cricket seemed to put him in his happy place. Plus, I suspect it gave him time off from the women at home!

 The one other lady cricket tragic that I have seen regularly at Colin Maiden, is easily mistaken for one of the player's mums. I certainly thought she was. She has her spot up on the balcony, just along from the player's area. I've often heard her calling out "well done Gareth" and "good show Colin" whilst clapping politely. As it turns out, her background is not too dissimilar to my own. She grew up hearing cricket on the radio and in a family that was very involved in the sport. For her to sit back and watch a full match unfold in front of her, where she can interact with the players occasionally, reminds her of her youth, and of a time when life was less complicated.

 Which leads me to why do I go to watch cricket. Honestly? There are a number of reasons. First and foremost, I live an incredibly busy life, surrounded by a lot of technology (which I love). When I go to a Plunket Shield match- my personal favourite- there is nothing else going on in my head. I check out of my busy life for a while. I put my feet up. I sit in the sunshine. I chat to a lovely bunch of people about all kinds of things. Yes, I admit I cop a perv at a bunch of fit blokes every now and then. I accidentally got a peek at a rather fine six pack from a bowler one day, and couldn't wipe the smile off my face. Yep, pretty transparent, I know. But I am only human!
 The sad thing is, I have taken to answering the big question about why I go to watch cricket in a very offhand way with jokes about how I am there to "just look at all the spunks ". When the reality is, that's not strictly true. But somehow that is easier for some people to believe than the fact that I am there because I just love the game and all it represents.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Where it all began....

I have been asked so many times in recent years about where my cricket obsession began.
So I think it's high time I commit the facts to (virtual) paper. My earliest memory of me and cricket is when I was 7 or 8 years old. We were living in Honiara, in the Solomon Islands, and I went to an International School. At this school, there was a large English community- both teachers and families. For PE, we invariably played Danish Rounders, or cricket. One particular day I recall cricket being on the menu for PE, and I was dead keen to get in and bat. There was Ben Rainbow at one end of the crease and me at the other. Bowling was William Beasley. The sheer exhilaration I felt at facing young Master Beasley's bowling was unprecedented. The look on his face as I whacked him to the boundary was even better. If I recall correctly, we won that match, and Ben and I put on some serious runs.
Fast forward a few years, and we were living back in Auckland. I was at the local Primary School with my younger brother. In winter there was rugby and netball. Actually that was also the "other" time the All Whites did well in the FIFA world cup. Not that I recall anyone ever kicking a soccer ball around at school. Naturally, in Summer there was cricket and softball. Softball never really spun my wheels. So once again, there was the lure of cricket. Of course most girls didn't play cricket in Standard 4, so I joined the boys team, and thought nothing of it. By now though, I think I was more of a bowler. I took great delight in twirling the ball around the batsman's ankles and tormenting them with my accuracy. However, it was a watershed moment when batting at the tail end (because as the girl it was what you had to do!), I collected a leather ball on the side of my nose and made a bit of a mess of my whites. I also had a bit of explaining to do when I walked home after school with a fat lip and nose!
A few more years went by, and although I didn't really play much more cricket, it was always there. Summer was always memorable with the cricket on the radio, and stories of Richard Hadlee, Jeremy Coney, and who could forget Lance Cairns with his one handed 6 off Excalibur? My younger brother played cricket for his school and was forever in the backyard mastering the art of bowling the googly. A skill, incidentally, he still has to this day! I did face a fair number of his practise deliveries in the backyard and had to bowl a fair few to him when he was working on the batting. I ended up doing my Bursary Art folio on a series of photos I had taken of him bowling and montaged together David Hockney style.
By High School, I was at an all girls school, and whilst there was cricket on offer, I wasn't that interested in an all girls team. We even had an ex NZ women's cricketer teaching PE. It just wasn't the same without the boys!
Luckily for me, I had a Grandma that was as big a cricket tragic as me. Actually, she was probably worse. Grace Craig was her name. She knew everyone at Eden Park and everyone knew her. GG (Grandma Grace) never missed a match, and was always in the stand with her thermos, oddfellows, and the crossword. She also had binoculars and a little radio, just to make sure she didn't miss any of the action. Oh, how she would laugh if she could see me living just like her today!
One especially memorable time at Eden Park came when I was in Sixth Form. I knew there was a match on at Eden Park and that GG would be there. Responsible child that I was, I wrote a note for my teacher saying that I had to leave school at lunchtime to go to a physio appointment, and that I would be gone for the rest of the day. Then I signed it with a flourish as I imagined my own mother might. To my surprise, it worked! I raced out the school gates and onto the ARA bus to take me down Dominion Road to Eden Park.
 GG was delighted to see me , and thrilled at my Machiavellian tactics! We spent many happy hours together at Eden Park over the next few Summers. GG always said hello to the players as they stretched and warmed up (the apple doesn't fall far from the tree!). The players always nodded and acknowledged her, and I do recall John Bracewell stopping for a chat.
I started photographing the cricket and decided I wanted to be a sports photographer. That was great fun as I did my best to capture Martin Crowe at the crease, and Danny Morrison and Willie Watson in full flight. I could write a whole 'nother story about Danny & Willie, but will keep that for another day! I must have photographed every game for 2 summers before it dawned on me that it's actually really hard work! I went and did work experience at the Auckland Star, before deciding that whilst photography was great fun, it was a tough way to make money.
A few short years after this I met "he who must be obeyed" who, sadly, was not into cricket. So life took a different turn for a while, and from the late 90s until about 2008, I hardly watched any cricket at all. I didn't even have time to miss it as I was very busy with 4 small boys.
 However, the cricket passion was reignited a few years ago when sons  1 & 2 signed up to play junior cricket at Parnell Cricket Club. All the old memories came flooding back, and the passion for the game resurfaced. Now I have three sons playing at Parnell, and number 4 is desperate to join them. It is only his age holding him back. The boys and I attend every Auckland home game.
He who must be obeyed still doesn't get it. He is trying though. The first time I sat him in front of a match he shouted- "but there's two guys running down the pitch!" Yes dear. He came along to an HRV game last Summer and I think he just about coped. He accepts that he loses me to the lure of cricket from November to April every year. He even accepts that I don't take on any new work projects during this time- unless I can get time off to attend matches. I think he believes I go to the games to perv at all the finely honed athletes. Well, maybe I do.....a little. But it's so much more than that. And there are about 125 days to go until I can do it all again!