Grant Robertson, a cricket fanatic whose day jobs include being minister for finance and minister for sport, raced from Wellington to northwest London on the weekend to watch the Black Caps in what turned into the greatest one-day international ever played.
I don’t remember the exact moment I fell in love with cricket. That’s a pity because one of the great things about the game are the statistics; dates, runs, wickets, and apparently, the number of boundaries.
I do know I was young. A cassette tape exists of my brother and me yelling “Rodney, Rodney, Rodney” over and over again as we championed Rodney Marsh for arguing the underarm ball shouldn’t be bowled.
As a 12-year-old I went to the cricket nets at Tonga Park in South Dunedin with my friend Tony Ballantyne what felt like every day to hone my slow left arm spin. Most kids wanted to be Richard Hadlee, I was just trying to be Stephen Boock.
I would watch any cricket, anywhere. The old Dunedin club where Warren Lees and Keith Campbell stubbed their cigarettes out before going out to bat. And Otago. Sitting in the windswept Rose Stand at Carisbrook, all but alone, alternating scoring the game and doing my science homework as the Blair brothers, Ken Rutherford and Neil Mallender did their thing.
And, yes, the New Zealand team. Before they were the Black Caps and then after that mighty 1992 World Cup. Having the 1980s as your starting point as a New Zealand cricket fan is a distorting experience. Expectations are the parents of disappointment.
But through the decades, all of the ups and downs, they had given us the full roller coaster of emotions. At least I thought so, until yesterday.
As I stood in the England Cricket Board box at Lord’s watching Jimmy Neesham pick Martin Guptill off the turf where he lay prone and shattered, I felt equal parts proud, devastated and robbed.
We had not won, I knew that, but we had not lost either. We tied the game, twice. Theresa May looked at me and said maybe we should share it. Cricket meets Brexit perhaps?
But now as I sit here with no sleep and every micro moment of the game running through my head still, pride is winning out. I know the team probably won’t feel that way yet. They came to win and that was about the only thing they did not do yesterday.
The use of the pronoun “we” is no accident when it comes to this team. They are us, as a wise person once said. Men of talent, courage, tenacity, compassion and the odd technical flaw. We are connected. They are our heroes, but they live across the road.
So we, all of us, can be proud. Support our team as they come to terms with being on the wrong side of the greatest game of one-day cricket ever played. And be with them for each and every game, series, twist, turn, ebb and flow that this special game – my game, our game – provides.
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