a high degree, helping him to hit his first century at the age of 12 when Bowral Public School took on Mittagong High School in 1920. Two years later, Bradman left school and went to work for a local real estate agent who encouraged his sporting pursuits by giving him time off whenever necessary.
In 1926, an ageing Australian team lost in England and that was followed by the retirement of a number of Test players. The New South Wales Cricket Association commenced a hunt for new talent and requested for Bradman’s attendance at a practice session in Sydney where he was subsequently selected.
“Before his 22nd birthday, the ‘Boy from Bowral’ had set many records for top scoring, some of which still stand, and became Australia’s sporting idol at the height of the Great Depression,” added Summerell before saying that the remarkable player always attracted spectators in record numbers with his attacking and entertaining cricket style.
While walking towards the next section The museum features many famous cricketers, past and present. A photographic display showing Sri Lankan world record holder Muttiah Muralitharan during his retirement in 2011. Bradman meeting Queen Elizabeth II.
that highlighted the greatest moments in Bradman’s personal and sporting life, Summerell came to an abrupt stop when I sheepishly admitted my shallow knowledge about the game and difficulty in understanding several terms that constantly surfaced during his talk earlier.
My confessions prompted Summerell to pause momentarily before beckoning me to backtrack to the main gallery. Simply called The Game, it aims to introduce visitors to cricketing basics. Its huge panoramic screens show everything from jerky old black-and-white footage from the early 1900s to the very latest live play.
Despite having bypassed it earlier for the more ‘advanced’ galleries, I still manage to seamlessly enjoy the stories told through the exhibits on display. With the help of interactive, cutting-edge technology touch screens, the fascinating story of cricket started to unfold before my very eyes. It was said that cricket evolved from a game developed by shepherds in southern medieval England to pass time while guarding their sheep.
Back then, the word “cricce” was the Anglo-Saxon term for “a crooked staff”. It was used to hit a stone or pine cone which was thrown at the wicket gate. “Wican” was also an Anglo-Saxon term “to give away”. The term bail could also have formed from the bail the shepherds used to secure the wicket gate.
The earliest reference to cricket appeared in the early 1300s when a game
called “Craiget” was played by Prince Edward II and a friend Piers Gaveston. Although there are claims for prior dates, the earliest definite reference to cricket being played comes from evidence given at a court case in Guildford on Jan 30, 1598 where a 59-year-old coroner, John Derrick gave witness that “when he was a scholar at the free school of Guildford, he and several of his fellows did runne and play there at creckett and other plaies”.
The game underwent major development in the 18th century to become England’s national sport. In 1760, bowlers pitched the ball instead of rolling or skimming it towards the batsman and this caused a revolution in bat design, making it necessary for the bent stick to give way to the modern straight bat.
International cricket began taking root when a match between an English and French team was organised to be played in France in 1789. Unfortunately, it had to be abandoned as the fixture coincided with the beginning of the French Revolution and most of the French team members had to flee the country.
As a result of the unsuccessful French tournament, the distinction of staging the first international actually went to North America little more than half a century later. On September 1844, 5,000 spectators gathered in New York to witness the St George Club host a visit from Canada’s Toronto Cricket Club. Canada’s victory didn’t dampen interest in the game throughout America and 25,000 people attended the opening day of an English team’s visit to New York in 1859.
Meanwhile, the first English team to tour Australia arrived in Melbourne on Christmas Eve 1961 and was welcomed by 10,000 people at the wharf. The tour was sponsored by Spiers and Pond, proprietors of the city’s Cafe de Paris. On New Year’s Day 1862, the English 11 pitted their skills against the Melbourne Cricket Club team and, over a period of four enthralling days, a crowd of 45,000 watched the visitors win by an innings and 95 runs.
Charles Lawrence, one of the English tourists who accompanied the team from England, chose to remain in Sydney and became Australia’s first professional coach at the Albert Cricket Club. Two years later, William Caffyn, one of the great English players at that time elected to stay in Australia at the end of a tour and managed to dramatically lift the standard of cricket in the colonies.
One section, specially reserved for what’s considered cricket’s most intensely contested prize, The Ashes, intrigues me. I’d read about The Ashes in the sports section back home yet knew very little about it.
In 1882, England suffered its first home Test defeat with Australia winning the only Test match of the tour by 7 runs. Four days later, The London Sporting Times published an obituary notice declaring the death of English cricket on Aug 29 and that the “body” will be cremated and its ashes taken to Australia.
On the eve of England’s departure for the 1882-83 tour of Australia, English captain Ivo Bligh vowed to regain those mythical ashes. England won the series 2-1 and two women, Lady Clarke and Florence Murphy presented Bligh in jest with a ceramic urn containing what was reputed to be the ashes of a wooden cricket ball, thus symbolically fulfilling Bligh’s promise.
Murphy later married Bligh and went to live in England for the rest of her life. In 1927, upon the death of her husband and at his request, she presented the urn to the Marylebone Cricket Club and it was put on permanent display at The Lord’s.
In 1988, as part of Australia’s bicentennial celebrations, the urn was brought to Australia and displayed in Sydney. Since the 1998-99 Ashes series, a Waterford Crystal replica has been presented to the winners as the official trophy.
Before leaving, I took some time to walk through the adjacent International Cricket Hall of Fame and enjoy the stories about the game and the world’s cricketing greats from India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the West Indies. Looking at the fascinating memorabilia displays and interactive touch screens, I’m convinced of cricket’s capacity to bring different cultures and nations together.
The loud rumble of the security guard’s motorcycle jolts me from my reverie. It’s almost dusk and time for me to make my move. On the way out, I couldn’t help my mind travelling to Kinrara Oval again. I hope that, perhaps by some form of miracle, the historic grounds can be preserved. Hopefully the venue will be able to bear witness to more triumphant cricket successes to add to the recent SEA Games triumphs where our national men’s team won the gold while our women bagged the silver.