May 17, 2013

A cricket bucket list

Going on a tour, writing a match report, talking to Big Merv... try doing some of these things before you meet your maker

Play on the beach © Getty Images

You are going to die. One day your mighty heart will stop beating, blood will cease to flow to your brain and you will become inanimate, you will expire, you will make like an ex-parrot. There is no other way out. There will be no Hale-Bopp Comet. It is a given: you are going to die.

But there's no reason you can't live large while you're about. Here are some cricket experiences you could tick off the list.

Watch a Test at Lord's. The gravitas, the white picket-fencing, the slope of it, the press box that looks like the Starship Enterprise, the posh blokes in the red-and-yellow ties, the great city of London - it's a ripper, Lord's. To really get into the ground's - and the game of cricket's - bowels, take a tour. Hear the tales of Bradman and Botham and Trueman and Warne. See the Long Room and inside it the long, tall, lovely glass cabinet that Rod Marsh smashed when he hurled his cricket bat at it.

Host a social cricket match. Find a ground, invite your mates, stoke the barbeque, pour ice over refreshments. And… play.

Write a match report. Cricket journalists are paid to travel the world and watch the great game from behind the bowler's arm. But know this: they all began somewhere; they didn't just emerge from the womb as all-knowing gurus. And while Gideon Haigh and (this top English/Indian writer) and the late great Peter Roebuck could write of the game in the Cricket-Writing Olympics, they all began as insecure pups. So, if it sounds like a career, have a crack. Watch a day's play and take notes. Then, as if you were telling a mate about it in an email, type up a thousand words, spell-check and email it to your local newspaper or a cricket site such as this one. Have it rejected. Don't take it to heart. And repeat.

Score a ton. Play the game? Get yourself in front of a bowling machine and have someone like a coach feed balls into it. Practise your weaknesses, be they back-foot defence, wafting outside off stump, whatever. Repetition will drill your technique and teach you concentration, an important factor if you're going to hang around in the middle long enough to notch three figures, raise the bat and kiss the hat.

Go on a playing tour of another country. Every four years in conjunction with the Ashes tour, twins David and Stephen Gemmill of Shepparton in Victoria take the famous "Wattlesprigs" on tour. In memory of their old man, Graham, who led the first tour in 1986, these likely lads play against pub teams, villages, Shepparton in Surrey, and the Barmy Army, and drink pints of real ale afterwards. All welcome.

Tour the Caribbean. Six weeks playing beach cricket and watching your boys play West Indies while rum-gargling locals beat tin drums and say "mon". That, friend, is livin' large.

Hear Merv Hughes tell a story. He might not thank us, but if you get the chance to bale up Merv Hughes, ask him to tell you a yarn. He's got some rippers. So many, in fact, that people pay Merv to tell them. How many beers did Boonie really knock over on the plane in '89? Did Javed Miandad call him a "fat bus driver"? ("A lot" and "yes".)

Buy Doug Walters a beer. Then ask him to tell you about the "surprise breakfast" in South Africa in 1970 which led to him walking out to bat against the express pace of Mike Procter with a blood-alcohol level that would have precluded him operating most pieces of machinery.

Play cricket on various surfaces. Whether it's the beach at Goa or the ice of Switzerland, you can have a hit most anywhere.

The Boxing Day Test. Day one, ball one. Ninety thousand roaring punters at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Fast bowler running in. Four slips, two gullies. A meat pie paused at your open mouth. That, friend, is entertainment.

Spread the love. You can join a cricket club in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Gibraltar, Jersey, Belarus, Norway, Luxemborg, Israel, Turkey, Malta, Greece, Portugal, Luxembourg and/or the Isle of Man. Check out the ICC Europe website. Get over there. Learn you have relatives from, say, Estonia. Play for Estonia. Captain Estonia. Become national hero of Estonia. Eventually go on to rule Estonia. Die a legend of Estonia with a public holiday named after you.

Play forever. A group of Kiwis organises tournaments with other madmen aged 40-plus all around the world. They've played in Los Angeles, Barbados and Rotorua. Upcoming tours include Florida, Cape Town and Armidale. Play yourself or tell your dad.

Matt Cleary writes for several Australian sports and travel magazines. He tweets here