Flying Across the Universe for Cricket in Australia
An article about a woman following a man on his travels hardly seems Pink Pangea-appropriate, but here I am, guilty of sins against the sisters. “Where is your independence?” you shout at me, as I sip my chardonnay and shield my eyes from the sun. “Follow a man to Australia? Follow a man to Australia for cricket?!” you lament. I clap politely (the man has just taken a wicket) and smile.
Two years ago, I too would have been aghast at the future me, this follower of a man on a cricket season. But come my friend, sit with me here on the grass and let me tell you a secret. Would you like a glass of wine? Believe it or not, cricket has been good to me. There are, in fact, huge benefits to following a man on a cricket season.
While this may seem like hell to some wandering nomads, the way I see it is that it forces you to experience a place as a resident, rather than through the rosy travel glasses that passers-through often wear.
For starters, it has taken me to small towns that I certainly would have missed had I done a big skim-the-world trip. I would never have gone to Dunedin, the cold, damp, arse-end of New Zealand, that has the most wonderfully rowdy bunch of students I have ever encountered. These are students for whom a good night out isn’t complete unless they set fire to a couch in the middle of the road.
Cricket has forced me to stay put for a season, which is roughly six months. While this may seem like hell to some wandering nomads, the way I see it is that it forces you to experience a place as a resident, rather than through the rosy travel glasses that passers-through often wear. It gives me an honest view of a place, and in turn, I get more out of the experience. I feel less like a spoiled traveler idealizing this unfamiliar world around me, and more like a participant, experiencing the good and the bad.
When you move somewhere for cricket season, you have an instant network of support which can be very helpful and comforting. You make friends with the most colourful of characters, men’s men called “Spanners” or “Snickers” or “Fannos” who swear and burp and teach you to play card games called Euchre as they press another beer into your hand. It’s heaps of fun.
There are, however, a few rules to follow on a cricket season in order to make the experience more agreeable:
1. Make sure you joining your cricketer on his journey, rather than chasing him.
If you’re not wanted, then you’ll know it deep down, and if you go anyway you will feel like a pathetic woman chasing a man. Have a serious talk with your guy, and make sure it’s what you both want.
2. Get your own gig.
There’s nothing wrong with supporting a cricket game, but do something that makes you proud, get a goal, something to strive for. This can be a job (maybe Fanno knows a guy who needs an assistant fluffer in the new Hugh Jackman film), or a hobby (you’ve always wanted to learn to surf) or a course of some sort. My point is this season does not need to be lost time; gain everything from it that you can.
3. Learn the rules of cricket.
If they haven’t been rammed down your throat already, set aside your fear of being shot down and ask. Or Google if you’re too scared of eye-rolling and mutterings of “silly woman doesn’t know what an LBW is.”
4. When watching a game, don’t forget the wine.
I have forged many a friendship with other WAGS (waives and girlfriends) along the cricket boundary, and these friendships have been greatly assisted by the inclusion of copious amounts of wine.
5. Don’t overdo it on the wine.
Unless you’re watching 20:20, the games last for hours, from mid morning often until the sun goes down. If you spend all that time drinking, it’s not going to be pretty when they scrape your sunburned carcass off the cricket pitch and take you home.
6. Pack a picnic.
I learned this one from my cricket mum-in-law. She never goes to a game without a flask of coffee and an assortment of sausage rolls, fruit and cakes. Yum.
7. Sit close to the sidelines.
This is where you’ll get the most entertainment in the form of sledging. Cricketers love to banter, and have plenty of time standing around doing nothing to think of witty remarks. The most famous example was when Glenn McGrath asked Eddo Brandes why he was so fat. Brandes smiled and replied, “because every time I f**k your wife, she gives me a biscuit.”
8. Choose the games you watch wisely.
Pay attention to the location. Is there a ladies toilet? Is there shade? Seating? Somewhere to go if it rains? If the answer’s no, skip it. There will be plenty of other game’s to watch.
9. Never, ever, issue the ultimate ultimatum: It’s me or the game. You will lose.
If you follow these rules, you should have an enjoyable cricket season that is as rewarding to you as it is to your partner. I have made friends that I will cherish forever, and have seen places that I never would have considered visiting. Ironically, cricket has made me more independent. You need a little bit of spunk and strength to hold your own when you are outnumbered by eleven men. You also need a little confidence in your own ability to be able to accept yourself as a player’s plus-one. Rather than considering yourself as a follower of a cricketer, decide that you and your guy are traveling together, and use cricket, and the network it provides, as a travel aid. You will be amazed at the opportunities that present themselves. You might even find yourself beginning to like cricket.
So calm down, stop judging me and pass the wine. Ooh! Another wicket!