Mum and dad are moving house. They are leaving behind their house in Glen Iris and moving to Richmond. I remember the Glen Iris house for many things, but, perhaps specifically for driveway cricket. Our backyard was on a hill and not suitable for the game, so, my brother and I played in the driveway. Behind us was the garage door that would serve as wicket keeper, slips, third man and fine leg. The driveway was lined with ferns and shrubbery. The fence for the next house was particularly close, a poor shot would send the ball bobbling over the edge. A good shot and the ball would land two houses down. Most of the time, I would be able to jump quickly over the fence and retrieve the balls on Betty and Jim’s side of the fence.
Thomas, his real name, and I played for a club at Ferndale Park on Glen Iris road: Glen Iris East Kew. Until now I can’t reconcile the ‘East Kew’; especially as all that it did was give us a rather poor acronym: GIEK, hardly intimidating for the other teams. The wonder of driveway cricket was in becoming the local champion. The (very local) champion of 11 Barina Road, Glen Iris, 3146. We didn’t have runs or keep score; we just practiced. We just practiced, and whoever performed the most aesthetically would take the honors that evening. Whoever looked the most accomplished during the session would have bragging rights. The usual brotherly rivalry. I knew my place and I knew I could hope only to be B-Grade batsman in the local team, or later school team. Thomas, like he was in footy, was more accomplished; he could concentrate better. I remember always being in a state of semi-day dreaming; a little too much enjoying the occasion and what would go on around the game.
Before moving house, my parents sent me photographs of miscellanea from the garage: what should be kept? My father, a man who still has his high school maths notes and books he bought as a 16 year old, is a little bit of a hoarder, or more politely a collector and connoisseur. The garage also kept skulls of camels and other miscellanea sent from his friends who live in the outback and who know of his interest in bones. My mother took the photos of our cricket equipment and I said: keep the bats that were handed down from great-grandpa and grandpa, keep one of the Slazengers. Mum and dad had bought two Slazengers during our trip to Europe in 1987 (we went to a fun park the day Pat Cash won Wimbledon). I said keep Thomas’s, for he played the better cricket. I was ready to give mine up, or, in Indonesian, ‘mengikhlaskannya’ – meaning roughly, ’emotionally let go of something’. The bats, the pads, the gloves contain the residues of our sweat and our dreams.
I don’t remember much of watching Phil Hughes bat for Australia. I remember, though, being taken aback by his wild shots; his slashes far from the body. I condemned him from the couch for batting in the manner of a non-opener. I thought of Boon and Marsh or Mark Taylor and Allan Border. Those stodgy and brilliant batsmen who could bore us all to tears and then give us the pleasure of applauding their centuries after a pleasant afternoon nap in front of the telly.
Phil Hughes – I know nothing about cricket. I can watch it for days, no problem, but, no, I never progressed beyond the Camberwell Grammar B-team (indeed there were only two teams) or the Glen Iris East Kew (very) lower order. But, my impression is this: Phil Hughes presented an alternative to standard definitions of a batsman. Here was someone who was wildly talented and also wild in his ambition to play in his own manner. He kept on making the Australian team and kept on being dropped from it. Always being told to ‘correct’ his strokes. And now he was on the brink of coming back. What made Phil Hughes different is that he may have been a renegade in terms of his strokes, but, he had the attitude of a stayer – he was a Marsh, Boon, Border or Taylor in his endurance and resilience.