So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom. (Psalm chapter 90 verse 12)
I grew up in the 80s.
We had to make our own fun and learn how to be bored.
I loved TV.
I loved sport.
I loved footy in the winter.
I loved summer. It was the beach, it was trying to surf, it was playing cricket.
Backyard cricket games were fierce, and we spent most of our time emulating our beloved Australian team, but most of the time, it was probably the West Indies players I wanted to be like.
I had my Aussie heroes though. I wanted to bowl like Dennis Lillee. He was fast. He had a bit of “swagger” and arrogance about him- he knew he was good.
I loved Rod Marsh as well. The Australian wicketkeeper often would be wringing his hands in pain as the thunderbolts from Lillee and Jeff Thomson thundered into his gloves.
While I wanted to bowl fast like Lillee, I wanted to bat like Marsh
Regardless of the situation, he wanted to attack. Not that I wanted to bear the cost and the expense of buying a new bat, but I wanted to hit the ball so hard like him that I broke the bat, like he did during a one-day cricket game versus New Zealand.
But he played the game from what I remember in the “spirit of the game.” I was a competitive player in all sports. I had my tantrums on and off the field in any sport I played. I disputed decisions in the backyard footy and cricket games, I disputed decisions and was willing to “give it to the opposition” in the Saturday games of footy and cricket.
Yet, Marsh changed my view on sportsmanship and challenged me as a young boy growing up. He got angry on the field at his captain, Greg Chappell, for wanting his brother, Trevor Chappell, to bowl an underarm delivery to win a game of cricket against New Zealand. My competitive nature loved the “bending of the rules”, but he taught me that day why the “spirit of the game” is so important.
Rod Marsh died this week, aged 74.
As a fast bowler, I just wanted to bowl fast. Not very accurate or under control at times, but if the wicketkeepers’ hands hurt as my deliveries thundered into his gloves, then I was fine with that.
If the batsman got in the way of my deliveries and took a hit, well, I know I had done my job and I was fine with that. Please don’t be too concerned- I did cop my fair share as well. I had to learn to receive just as much as I would give.
Fast bowling did not do many favours to my back, and so I stopped playing competitively. Playing Australian Rules football became more of a priority for me.
The art of spin bowling never was part of many games I ever played in. There was the odd Indian or Pakistani who would come over and play against Australia and they always seemed an oddity. When I played, or even when I watched Australia play, or any team for that manner, the “spinner” seemed to come on because the fast bowlers could not get a wicket and the team was trying to “buy” a wicket.
Along came this bloke called Shane Warne.
He was around the same age as me and I could not believe he got into the Australian team ahead of me! A spinner! What is leg spin anyway?
To see him carted around the SCG on his debut and only getting one wicket proved why I thought this experiment would be short lived.
Shane Warne revived test cricket, perhaps it could be argued, he saved cricket.
I remember in the 80s growing up watching Australia and just hoping we would not lose. We watched and revelled in those moments when we would draw a test. I would watch virtually every ball of every game on offer on TV. I had my own cricket score book and would score the game. But, Australia would lose often. One day cricket (the pyjama game my grandfather called it), really sparked much more interest in the game because we at least would get a result. We would win at times. Australia won the World Cup in this format in 1989 in India.
In 1993, Shane Warne was on his debut tour to England. His first ball on English soil, and he bowled “the ball of the century.” Watching that delivery made me wish I had learnt spin bowling. It would have been much better for my back for starters, but it was mesmerising.
Every kid I knew growing up would try and bowl fast. In 1993, I was a new teacher and while not many of my students over the last 30 years have played cricket, many of them have wanted to try and spin the ball. All three of my sons have tried their hand at cricket. One is still playing. I made them try and bowl fast, but they have all started out wanting to bowl spin. At least my youngest now comes off the long run up! Yet, in his Under 13 team of 10 players, 3 of them bowl spin. To be honest, they bowl very well, and it is amazing to watch 11 and 12 year old boys trying to master the art.
“Warnie” was never far away from controversy. I am not sure his lifestyle, behaviour, eating and drinking habits would be seen as fondly nowadays.
But I loved cricket and continue to love cricket because of “Warnie”.
Shane Warne died this week aged 52.
Russell Modlin is in his 30th year as a Secondary English and Physical Education Teacher. He has taught in Mackay, Brisbane, Alice Springs and currently on the Sunshine Coast. He is married to Belinda (26 years) and they have three sons- 2 have finished High School, 1 to go!
Russell Modlin’s archive of previous article can be found atwww.pressserviceinternational.org/russell-modlin.html