New Straits Times - - SUNDAY VIBES / WANDERING -

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.

Andrew Sum­merell

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