Monday, August 10, 2009

Sweet, sweet lullaby

It was the summer of 2003-2004 (here in Australia) and I was heavily pregnant. The Handsome Australian and I lived in a small rented flat that had no air conditioning. It wasn't a particularly hot summer by Australian standards, but when you are in that stage of a pregnancy, even a mild day can be unbearable. The temperature of our apartment and the size of my growing belly made sleeping at night extremely difficult. I was up and down, up and down all night long. I had ice packs, cold drinks, fans and still I couldn't manage to knock out a good night's sleep.

As luck would have it, I didn't have anywhere to be during the days as I'd finished up work several weeks beforehand. This meant that each day was mine to fill as I'd choose. I would generally have a leisurely breakfast before heading out to a shopping centre, cinema, cafe or anywhere that had air conditioning. I'd spend a few hours in the cool air and then I'd return to our flat for a late lunch and a bit of time on the couch. When I'd sit down and put my swollen feet up, I'd put the television on hoping to catch a bit of mindless entertainment--an episode of Oprah perhaps or maybe a really trashy soap opera. Anything really to take my mind off the discomfort and the heat.

Unfortunately, summertime television offerings in Australia are generally sports related and more specifically Cricket related. Each day I'd put the television on and find there was nothing except Cricket, Cricket, Cricket. Nearly five years had passed since my initial introduction to the game, and I'd learned a lot more about the rules, the rivalries and the players (not willingly mind you). I still wasn't a huge fan of the game, but at least I could make heads or tails of what was going on...kind of. So there I'd sit, on our couch in the heat, and watch a bit of the Cricket. Ten or twenty minutes later, I would be fast asleep. I slept for hours at a time with the Cricket in the background. The commentators quietly discussing the play and forever replaying vision of the one and only wicket that had been taken in the last four hours.

The days went on and on in the same fashion. No sleep at night, outings in the morning and Cricket in the afternoon. The Handsome Australian would return home from work and find me fast asleep in front of the Cricket. He was always keen to see how Australia was faring in the Test and would watch more of the match while we ate our dinner. I'd bring him up to speed on the day's play as I'd subconsciously heard it replayed dozens and dozens of times during my nap. He couldn't believe how much I knew. I was naming players, talking about batting averages and throwing in an LBW or two. This lead him to doubt the results of an ultrasound that indicated we were having a girl and he began to predict I was indeed carrying a boy--a son that would play Cricket.

I knew the truth, though. I needed the Cricket. It was the only way I could sleep. I needed to hear the quiet commentary and the sudden bursts of enthusiasm from the crowd. This little cocktail was my key to a few hours of rest. The more I watched, or slept through, the Cricket, the more involved I became in the game itself.

This was an important time for Australia as they were about to bid goodbye to one of their most successful Test Captains in history, Steve Waugh. I'd watched him all summer. He was an excellent batsman and had a very calm and cool demeanour on the field. He had a rugged handsomeness to him and a penchant for sentimentality--wearing the same baggy green cap for his entire career. He was a very likable character. I was very hormonal. I got sucked in.
So there I found myself on the edge of my seat as Steve Waugh took to the pitch of the SCG on the 6th of January 2004 as the Aussies faced a formidable Indian side. I hung on every ball bowled. Each time he had a crack with his bat, I cheered along. When he was caught out by Sachin Tendulkar for 80 runs, I cried. This was the end of an era in Australian Test Cricket history. The Australians ended up losing the Test to India, but it didn't matter because this was Steve's day. His teammates carried him on their shoulders for a lap of honour around the field and I cried some more. I never realised it was going to be so hard to say goodbye to Steve.

Never before and never since have I watched the Cricket as intently as I did that summer. My love affair with Cricket was a brief one, but the knowledge I gained has served me well ever since. Not to mention the respect from the Handsome Australian who was very jealous I got to see Waugh's last innings live and is still amazed to this day when he's got the Cricket on and I come along and remark, "Gee, that Billy Bowden. What a funny little umpire he is. Glad to see they put Stuart Clark back in the side. He might be just the answer we need to retain the Ashes." Then I cuddle up beside him on the couch and fall into a deep, deep sleep.

No comments: