I have been asked so many times in recent years about where my cricket obsession began.
So I think it's high time I commit the facts to (virtual) paper.
My earliest memory of me and cricket is when I was 7 or 8 years old. We were living in Honiara, in the Solomon Islands, and I went to an International School. At this school, there was a large English community- both teachers and families. For PE, we invariably played Danish Rounders, or cricket. One particular day I recall cricket being on the menu for PE, and I was dead keen to get in and bat. There was Ben Rainbow at one end of the crease and me at the other. Bowling was William Beasley. The sheer exhilaration I felt at facing young Master Beasley's bowling was unprecedented. The look on his face as I whacked him to the boundary was even better. If I recall correctly, we won that match, and Ben and I put on some serious runs.
Fast forward a few years, and we were living back in Auckland. I was at the local Primary School with my younger brother. In winter there was rugby and netball. Actually that was also the "other" time the All Whites did well in the FIFA world cup. Not that I recall anyone ever kicking a soccer ball around at school. Naturally, in Summer there was cricket and softball. Softball never really spun my wheels. So once again, there was the lure of cricket. Of course most girls didn't play cricket in Standard 4, so I joined the boys team, and thought nothing of it. By now though, I think I was more of a bowler. I took great delight in twirling the ball around the batsman's ankles and tormenting them with my accuracy. However, it was a watershed moment when batting at the tail end (because as the girl it was what you had to do!), I collected a leather ball on the side of my nose and made a bit of a mess of my whites. I also had a bit of explaining to do when I walked home after school with a fat lip and nose!
A few more years went by, and although I didn't really play much more cricket, it was always there. Summer was always memorable with the cricket on the radio, and stories of Richard Hadlee, Jeremy Coney, and who could forget Lance Cairns with his one handed 6 off Excalibur? My younger brother played cricket for his school and was forever in the backyard mastering the art of bowling the googly. A skill, incidentally, he still has to this day! I did face a fair number of his practise deliveries in the backyard and had to bowl a fair few to him when he was working on the batting. I ended up doing my Bursary Art folio on a series of photos I had taken of him bowling and montaged together David Hockney style.
By High School, I was at an all girls school, and whilst there was cricket on offer, I wasn't that interested in an all girls team. We even had an ex NZ women's cricketer teaching PE. It just wasn't the same without the boys!
Luckily for me, I had a Grandma that was as big a cricket tragic as me. Actually, she was probably worse. Grace Craig was her name. She knew everyone at Eden Park and everyone knew her. GG (Grandma Grace) never missed a match, and was always in the stand with her thermos, oddfellows, and the crossword. She also had binoculars and a little radio, just to make sure she didn't miss any of the action. Oh, how she would laugh if she could see me living just like her today!
One especially memorable time at Eden Park came when I was in Sixth Form. I knew there was a match on at Eden Park and that GG would be there. Responsible child that I was, I wrote a note for my teacher saying that I had to leave school at lunchtime to go to a physio appointment, and that I would be gone for the rest of the day. Then I signed it with a flourish as I imagined my own mother might. To my surprise, it worked! I raced out the school gates and onto the ARA bus to take me down Dominion Road to Eden Park.
GG was delighted to see me , and thrilled at my Machiavellian tactics! We spent many happy hours together at Eden Park over the next few Summers. GG always said hello to the players as they stretched and warmed up (the apple doesn't fall far from the tree!). The players always nodded and acknowledged her, and I do recall John Bracewell stopping for a chat.
I started photographing the cricket and decided I wanted to be a sports photographer. That was great fun as I did my best to capture Martin Crowe at the crease, and Danny Morrison and Willie Watson in full flight. I could write a whole 'nother story about Danny & Willie, but will keep that for another day! I must have photographed every game for 2 summers before it dawned on me that it's actually really hard work! I went and did work experience at the Auckland Star, before deciding that whilst photography was great fun, it was a tough way to make money.
A few short years after this I met "he who must be obeyed" who, sadly, was not into cricket. So life took a different turn for a while, and from the late 90s until about 2008, I hardly watched any cricket at all. I didn't even have time to miss it as I was very busy with 4 small boys.
However, the cricket passion was reignited a few years ago when sons 1 & 2 signed up to play junior cricket at Parnell Cricket Club. All the old memories came flooding back, and the passion for the game resurfaced. Now I have three sons playing at Parnell, and number 4 is desperate to join them. It is only his age holding him back. The boys and I attend every Auckland home game.
He who must be obeyed still doesn't get it. He is trying though. The first time I sat him in front of a match he shouted- "but there's two guys running down the pitch!" Yes dear. He came along to an HRV game last Summer and I think he just about coped. He accepts that he loses me to the lure of cricket from November to April every year. He even accepts that I don't take on any new work projects during this time- unless I can get time off to attend matches. I think he believes I go to the games to perv at all the finely honed athletes. Well, maybe I do.....a little. But it's so much more than that. And there are about 125 days to go until I can do it all again!