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Roving Reporter by Peter English at the SCG
January 4, 2005
Luke Gillian is a spectator who is an expert at occupying a rain delay. It was a valuable skill as two days of holiday sunshine was replaced by soppy conditions for the first working day of the year. If cricket had a No. 1 ticket-holder system like the AFL clubs, Gillian could make a strong case as the Baggy Greens' top cheerleader.
Since Australia played in Barbados in 1995, Sparrow, as Gillian is known, has followed the team through 79 Tests, and as the weather decided play would begin three hours late he was busy with his favourite rain-break filler. "I catch up with friends and acquaintances because I don't chat to anyone when the match is on," he said.
Gillian, who is famous for carrying his bat in the stands and waving the Australia flag, had also encountered rainy days in Chennai and Kandy when Australia were playing Tests at those venues. "If I was in India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka and it was like this I'd just go home," he said. "The grounds there are inadequate and poorly maintained in terms of drainage and take three or four hours to clean up."
Gillian moved on for more fat-chewing, and a stroll along the Walk of Honour became a welcome distraction. The SCG and the adjoining football stadium are proud of their histories and recognise their athletes from the sprinter Marlene Matthews to Dally Messenger and rugby union's Ella brothers.
Beside the marquees of members chomping through bacon and egg rolls the cricketers' templates created some interest. Each plaque has a short biography and Richie Benaud's reminds supporters of when he bowled legspin instead of talked about it. "In 1963 he became the first player in the history of the game to achieve the [Test] double of 2000 runs and 200 wickets."
Victor Trumper is another New South Wales favourite who stands close to the Gregory brothers, four of whom played for Australia. Jack Gregory is remembered in the nearby museum where an entertaining dramatisation depicts Monty Noble, Bert Oldfield, Bill O'Reilly and Benaud in conversation with the opera singer Dame Nellie Melba, the Gregorys' aunt who captained an early womens' match at the ground.
As the super-sopper rolled out to clean up, coins kept dropping in the wheelie bins for the Asian tsunami appeal, which passed Aus$120,000 (US$93,400), and young children chased autographs. One girl showed off Michael Clarke's and Matthew Hayden's signatures on the way back to the Bradman Stand and was kind enough to get duplicates for her little brother. The weather had not been as understanding.
Peter English is Australasian editor of Cricinfo
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