Tests in Australia - A true cricket fan's delight
"It'll be interesting to see how he [Kagiso Rabada] goes over here in a big series. There will be a fair bit of pressure on him. In the past, other countries have brought out players like that, you sort of think of Steve Finn a few Ashes series ago when they brought him out.”
These are words from Aussie fast bowler Peter Siddle ahead of South Africa’s tour Down Under. Ah! Test cricket is back in Australia.
If you haven't watched a game of Test cricket in Australia, I would strongly suggest you to not read further, as this is for those nostalgic cricket fans who love their Test cricket.
Remember McGrath's, “I reckon it will be 5-0" prediction before the 2015 Ashes series? McGrath had a habit of getting under the skin of his opponents with unusual predictions. Not meant to be pinpoint accurate, these predictions were just part of his ritual of warming up for a Test series.
"McGrath vows to torment Vaughan"
'The Australian' newspaper had this headline before the 2005 Ashes series. He had this peculiar way of naming a "bunny" even before the series had begun. It was an Australian thing and McGrath revelled at it. All this pre-series talk set the perfect stage for the opponents to land in Australia.
There is no better advertisement for a series than the pre-series talk from the Aussie camp. Tests in Australia start as early as 5AM in India. I would be up early to watch those first few eventful overs adorned by the customary sledging from the Aussies.
How much ever you like the glam of T20 cricket, nothing makes you feel better than a Test match dominated by the bowlers. One perfect outswinger that beats the outside edge is as good as a reverse-swept six.
The pleasure of watching the likes of Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and Jason Gillespie running in to bowl on the then pacy wickets of Australia was a great sight for any cricket fan.
The Aussies boasted of some of the best cricketing surfaces across the world. They had the pacy WACA at Perth, known for its undying support to pace bowlers. Melbourne had boundary ropes at the periphery of your eye sight. In Sydney, they had a proper batting wicket which assisted spinners on days 4 and 5.
I can vividly see Brett Lee wiping his forehead with the sweat band on his wrists and marking his run up outside the '3 mobiles' advertisement on the outfield. Richie Benaud’s voice from the commentary box applauds the 150kmph snorter from Lee that has Michael Vaughan jumping.
There is something peculiar about Test matches in Australia. Even as boundary ropes around the world have come closer to the pitch, Australia have managed to keep it in and around 90 meters.
Running fours in cricket is a rare sight in any other country, but in Australia, it happens pretty frequently. The big hoicks and scoops are for the bash and rash T20 fans. Test cricket is all about the beauty in a defensive push or the oohs and aahs as the ball sneaks past the outside edge.
Test cricket is scenic in this part of the world. There are innumerable pigeons dotting the boundary edges. The outfield is lush green with a well designed criss-cross pattern. Amongst the crowd, there is the fat belly guy with a huge tumbler of beer, topless and sunbathing in the meadow outside the boundary lines.
Shane Warne hands over his hat to Dickie Bird and marks his run up. His sharp tongue is out as he takes his customary 3-4 steps before jogging in to bowl a sharp top spinner that beats the outside edge of Nathan Astle. The men around Astle's bat have their hands on their heads, and mouth a word or two of sarcastic advice to him.
If Australia are bowling first, you would almost always get to see Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer coming in to bat by the 3rd session. McGrath or Lee would have run through the visiting batting line-up and Hayden and Langer would be out in the middle after tea.
A few crisp straight drives or crushing pull shots from Hayden would follow. If at all a wicket fell, Punter would be in, to see them through until the end of the day.
As another summer of Test cricket Down Under beckons, the child in me cannot wait. When the visiting team is one which has had considerable success in Australia, the thrill heightens. Even if the Aussies are underdogs for this series, you can expect guys like Warner and Starc to have a go at the South Africans.
After all, the Aussies never back down. And Test cricket in Australia is less exciting without the customary boos from the crowd and a word or two from the slip cordon. I just cannot wait for the action to begin!!