The adage ‘like a kid on Christmas Eve’ evokes a feeling of wonder and excitement, a sort of innocent anticipation. Most of us hopefully still enjoy a pang or two of excitement as Christmas gets closer.
Another summer ritual that’s pleasing for many is the build up to the first cricket test, with all its news of selection line-ups, pitch conditions, overhead cloud cover, injuries and illnesses. That’s the sort of thing that makes a grown-up person stop and wonder as their younger self might at the contents of a Christmas present wrapped under the tree.
So with the build up to the first Ashes test now measured in hours, not days, it’s nice to enjoy that familiar feeling again.
Of course, many of the associated rituals around the first day of the test involve consumption of the electronic media. For a vast audience the season doesn’t properly begin until the first words of Jim Maxwell on ABC radio are heard, and for the same audience moments of radio magic linger long in the memory.
In my own case the power of cricket on the radio stretches back as far back as the summer of 78/79. It was the second and final year of the World Series Cricket schism. Two national teams playing in two different competitions, one sanctioned as the official test cricket team, one not. Alas for this 13 going on 14-year-old the ‘official’ Australian test team lead by the somewhat overwhelmed Graeme Yallop was walloped 5-1 by an England team lead by Mike Brearley.
The memories of following that losing cause are for me forever associated with the voices of ABC commentators that I can still hear so clearly, even to this day.
My school holidays were spent at our farm on the far north coast of New South Wales at a place called Shark Creek on the Clarence River. There amidst the humidity and cane fields test cricket ruled on the radio airwaves. As I write in Around the Grounds:
‘…I can recall driving to Yamba beach through the cane fields on hot days listening to Alan McGilvray and Lindsay Hassett commentating on the 78/79 Ashes series. Their melliferous tones no doubt mellowed by nicotine and spirits. The commentary was precise and melodious. In that series Alan Border emerged as a force to be reckoned with as in my mind did cricket on the radio…’
It’s a different world now, with day/night tests played with a pink ball, DRS reviews and five test matches crammed into six weeks. TV coverage has changed dramatically in the last 40 years as well. Radio commentary not so much.
There’s the simple of logic of one voice capturing a moment in time. Large or small. And the ability of a skilled commentator to capture the ebb and flow of a cricket match is a timeless thing. As Australian as a wraparound verandah or a medium-size wave landing gently on the sand.
Peter Newlinds is the Author of Around the Grounds