CHANNEL surfing atthe weekend left no doubt that we’re deep in the heart of an Australian summer. Asia Cup on SBS, Big Bash cricket on Ten, tennis night and day on Seven.
Summer is about whacking balls, and it’s plain un-Australian not to adore every sweaty, highly-strung, sledge-riddled second of it.
January sorts out the die-hards from the back page flippers.
The tennis tragics happy to insert matchsticks beneath the eyelids if an Aussie player has a sniff, even as the clock ticks past midnight. To hell with work tomorrow.
I don’t hate sport by any stretch. I spend January scanning the sports pages for any skerrick of AFL news.
But there’s a limit to how long I can sit in front of the telly and watch beautiful people in expensive clothing whack balls at one other.
Just as it did back in our suburban backyard circa 1977, watching sport on TV still makes me want to get outside and have a whack for real.
Seventy-seven was the year of the famous centenary test and my best friend and I were cricket-obsessed.
During the five days of a test, we’d be out in the backyard early, preparing the pitch for our own epic, two-person test matches; getting in as many overs as we could before the heat of the day.
We took our cricket seriously. Using the official score sheets from the Cricket Annual, we’d flip to decide who would be Australia and who’d be stuck with England, then bat and bowl our way through the order.
On those school holiday mornings, Dennis Lillee bowled from the plum tree end to Derek Randall. David Hookes whacked the tape-swaddled tennis ball over the Sullivan’s fence for six (and out).
My friend spun the ball like Derek Underwood until his fingers wore out, with an uncanny knack for finding the exposed roots of the pear tree at the vegie garden end.
After lunch, we’d retire to the darkened lounge room, the electric fan whirring, flavoured ice blocks in cones, and watch our heroes.Rick McCosker batting with his broken jaw swathed in bandages. Derek Randall almost saving the match with 174. Me, dreaming of my own big innings the next day.
When the Australian open tennis came around it was the same deal. A rope slung across the backyard – bed sheets hung for a net.Roscoe Tanner and Ken Rosewall battling it out in a Broadmeadows backyard.
My poor dad. It’s a wonder he ever got any grass to grow.
This week my 16-year-old and I have been down at our local court mostnights – weeds sprouting from the baseline – bullants instead of ball boys.
It’s a long way from Rod Laver Arena, but strangely healing to whack tennis balls at one another as the sun sets over the paddocks.
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