How To Be a Cricket Spectator

I’m not an expert on cricket. I didn’t realise it was played with stumps. I can’t name you a single player – from any team, in any country. I also didn’t clock that 121/2 was a score, and not a player’s heart rate count.

But despite my lack of initiation into the cult internationalix cricketus, I still wanted to understand this ancient tradition. So, on Saturday I headed to the Black Caps v Sri Lanka, swept up in the herds of families descending on Eden Park.

Was this sport? Was this art? Was this the seasonal migratory pattern of homos kiwios? No. It was more than all of these; it was, it seemed, the fulfilment of an age-old cultural ritual:

 

1. Begin by decanting the contents of the kitchen into the chilly bin. Got the biscuits? Beer? Chips? 15 carrier bags? Whole cooked chicken? Half a cow? Spare cow? (Cow anaesthetic?) Chainsaw to take down any passing cow for emergency nourishment?

 

2. Board the train. Now, in the spirit of Kiwi bumper to bumper driving, go nose to nose with the person next to you. That’s it. Take the chance to engage in some banter. (“Oh, your underarms smell like peppermint!”)

 

3. Pile into the stadium dragging every member of your family with you. Is Granny there? Did you forget her? Is she in hospital? Not an excuse! Go back and get her! And her budgie! Today, no man gets left behind.

 

4. Find seats, away from The Lads, and establish a base camp. Your 6 year old will start clamouring for hot chips. They’re $4.50. $4.50! You could by the whole chip shop for that! Point at a fat person. Tell your kid that hot chips make people so fat that their stomachs burst out of them.

 

5. Hold your breath as a pregnant lady, who’s eating chips, sits next to you. Panic as your son says to her, “Aren’t you worried it’s going to burst out of you?”

 

6. Take advantage of the first rain break to move seats.

 

7. Spend the hour rain break finding a toilet for Granny.

 

8. It’s back on! Get back to your seats! Leave Granny! She’s dead to us now!

 

9. Cheer at something you didn’t see. Wave a flag.

 

10. Make a noise like a cow having an orgasm when McCullum gets out.

 

11. Your daughter asks why, every few minutes, the two batters stop in the middle of the pitch for a cuddle and a natter. Explain they’re discussing important strategic manoeuvres. (“I beat the traffic on the bridge this morning!” “Holy fuck, no!!”)

 

12. Rain break. Find Granny.

 

13. Rain break over! To the seats! Don’t let those bastards get the good ones! Throw cow at them!

 

14. These seats are wet. Which bag is the hairdryer in?

 

15. Check your phone to see what the weather will be. It’s going to be raining until next March. Tell your partner it’s going to rain again…. Wait for half an hour while they check their phone to see if it will rain. They say it won’t. Engage in a vociferous argument to prove whose iPhone weather is more reliable.

 

16. Argument descends into a highly specific meteorologist report. (“You never get this shit right! What about that time three weeks ago, when your traffic report said it was fine? It was gridlocked!” “It wasn’t gridlocked! It moved at a leisurely pace! And we wouldn’t have been caught in it if you hadn’t wanted to buy that fucking ugly beige mat!”)

 

17. Fiercely defend beige furnishings. In doing so, miss the one six of the game. Blame Len Brown.

 

18. The children have disappeared. Blame Len Brown.

 

19. You follow the sounds of the Sri Lankan supporters dancing with their drums. The children are there, eating hot chips. Granny is booty popping.

 

20. Rain break. It’s time to give up. Gather the children, restrain Granny, and march everyone to the train again. It takes 20 minutes to arrive, and moves at the pace of a Soviet tank. Get home at 1am. Blame Len Brown.

 

Photo of Brendon McCullum courtesy of blackcaps.co.nz.