Friday, 25 September 2020

A Different Kind Of Cricket Tragic

I believe it was Australian PM John Howard who popularised the term "cricket tragic" when he described himself that way. It refers to someone hopelessly obsessed with the game.

I'm the opposite kind of cricket tragic. I know next to nothing about the game, and never follow it. I barely know the rules of cricket. Of course, I can't help being familiar with some of the names, especially if they appear in the non-sporting sections of the news (Azharuddin, Hansie Cronje, Harbhajan Singh and Shane Warne come to mind). I'm otherwise blissfully oblivious to events in the cricketing universe.

Let me narrate a story.

In the year 2000, when the dot-com boom was still raging, I was tempted to leave a steady, cushy job at EDS to join a startup called Reply2, also based in Sydney. This was a company with a call centre, which was building an additional layer of Internet-based services (web and email) to augment their traditional customer contact capability.

Sometime before the launch, the startup's management organised a party with cocktails and canapes for potential investors whom they were trying to woo. The employees (we were just a handful) were requested to mingle with the guests, make polite conversation and help them feel welcome.

I found myself standing next to a young man who said he worked for Macquarie Bank, one of the potential investors. As we talked, he mentioned that he'd just returned from India where he'd played in a cricket match. I assumed he was trying to find common ground with me because I looked Indian and he thought I must therefore be a cricket fan. I continued to talk about random things, and he again mentioned a time when he had been to India earlier to play an exhibition match. This happened a third time, and I was beginning to wonder if he did anything else, and how he managed to get any work done at the bank.

It was soon time to circulate again, and he introduced himself by name before we moved on to other conversation groups.

"Stuart MacGill."

The name meant nothing to me, so I reciprocated by telling him my name.

Shortly afterwards, one of my colleagues came over to me.

"I see you've been talking to Stuart MacGill."

"Yes. Do you know him?" I asked.

He looked at me like I was crazy.

"Don't you know Stuart MacGill? He's an Australian cricketer. He's played in India many times."

The penny then dropped, and I kicked myself.

My colleague went on.

"I'm more thrilled that I got to talk to..." he gestured towards another man standing nearby.

That day in the year 2000 was the first time I heard the name Dean Jones.

Yesterday, when the obituaries started coming in, was the second.

Stuart MacGill (left) and Dean Jones (right). I'm helpfully pointing out who's who for the benefit of others like myself.

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