There is no sweeter a sound than of a leather ball hitting a wooden bat, while the sun shines down on crisp grass, and the scent of Pimms and summertime eclipse a crowd brought together by one common passion: Cricket.
In a country consumed and united together by one common ground in admiration of sports and athletes, it is only when the athletes you grew up watching retire that a sense of nostalgia and reminiscence begins to register within you. Stephanie Rice winning gold in the pool at Beijing 2008, Cadel Evans standing on the top step of the podium in Paris 2011, and now, the memory of Michael Clarke scoring a double century at the Adelaide Oval in 2012.
I remember that day with a chilling vivivity. It was hot, the oval had not been renovated yet and the day, strange as it sounds, possessed an intimate atmosphere. I sat on the hill with my Mother, under the famous Morton Bay Fig trees, and witnessed sporting greatness. A changing of the guard for Australian cricket, a revitalisation of a stalling squad. A new beginning to be lead by a blossoming captain, coming to fruition in front of my eyes in all his glory.
Australia as a country, I believe, prides oneself more on its sporting excellence than its academic achievements and political esteem- which can itself be a good thing and a bad. We idolise athletes and praise them, make them some of the most admired people in the country, even more so than the current sitting Prime Minister. There are key moments every Australian remembers seeing, watching on in awe as we witnessed greatness, sporting greatness right in front of our own eyes, beaming into living rooms across the country. The Diamonds beating England in the Netball Grand Final of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Anna Meares beating Victoria Pendleton to be crowned Olympic Sprint Champion in London 2012, and Michael Clarke scoring 329* at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 2012.
I’ve grown up around two sports; one mainstream and one not mainstream. I’ve been attending cricket matches since I was 7 and, even when I was too young to appreciate it, I’ve witnessed some moments that changed the game forever and rewrote the history books. The tumbling of wickets, the notching up of runs, and the energy spiralling around an oval as a screamer of a catch is taken. You stand as a batsmen scores a half-century, a century and beyond. You sit for hours in a plastic seat infatuated by 13 men standing on a field all with the common goal of taking 10 wickets and playing hard runs. It is an experience like no other, and your team is lead by a man of many merits and class. Our man has been Michael Clarke
Conversely, we witness the steady decline of athletes in their fall from grace. Stuart O’Grady, Scott Miller and Clarke. As a nation, it is as if we do not wish to admit an athlete is no longer at their best, at the ability we admired and craved to last eternally. Clarke, one of the greatest athletes in cricketing history, has announced his retirement, effective at the conclusion of the final Ashes test match of the 2015 series. As I sat in my living room on the 8th of August, huddled under a blanket and watched Alastair Cook and his England team walk a victory lap of the field, celebrating their well-deserved win of the coveted Ashes Urn, a dejected Clarke confirmed to everyone what we all knew was immanent. He stood, visibly dispirited and candidly upended up to Shane Warne, leaving the question of just who IS going to lead Australia after this series.
A strange feeling came over me as the coverage concluded with a montage displaying his finer moments in the sport. A sense of nostalgia struck me. Everybody loves Clarkey, the loveable leader who rescued Australia to the top of world cricket. Who won the ICC World Cup, who ‘Returned The Urn’ and who won us series’ against South Africa, India and New Sri Lanka. A man I grew up watching, enthralled by his shots and his leadership. A man I saw evolve, a man I saw grow. And, a man who I saw as a defining force in modern Australian cricket.
Chapeau, Clarkey. You’re a great, and your contribution may be ending but will never be forgotten.