Walking onto the Sydney Cricket Ground today I realized why many who have played the game hold it in such high regard. Loved by the cricketer and general public alike, the SCG is widely considered by most as their favorite venue. In a world where sports stadiums of old have given way to iron coliseums devoid of any soul or character, this cricket ground, nestled in an offshoot of Moore Park Sydney, must surely serve as a welcome relief for its performers.
For at the most basic of levels that is what a Cricketer really is— a performer, an exhibitionist who is there to display his artistry in front of a live audience. And just like the play artists of olden times, there is nothing that would please him more than to bring the house down with his theatrics. Mesmerize, but more importantly absorb the joy, energy and adulation of his viewer and let it reflect in his own level of play.
It is this interaction and feedback from the crowd that has started to go missing from most current venues. I am not just talking of sparse crowds plaguing Test Cricket in general but the actual feel that exudes from the stadium. Blinded by greed of excess turnstile revenue and corporate advertising most stadiums have lost the charm and allure of summers past when the focus was just Cricket and nothing else.
It is not hard to foresee a time in the not too distant future when Emirates stadiums and U.S Cellular Fields will have forced the original names completely out of our minds. Pavilions like the Ladies and Members at the SCG, with their antique brown seating exuding an indescribable charm would just have become relics of a forgotten past.
The Cricketer in the modern day playing environment is sadly better tagged a gladiator than the originally intended artist, for most stadiums even when full to the brim, do not offer the level of interaction desired in an artist/spectator relationship. The performer is far removed from the viewer packed in giant structures that at best represent him as a part of a jeering crowd unable to tell the difference between virtuosity and butchery. With the advent of the t20 game and the amount of useless ODIs taking place this negligence and disregard for the relationship between the player and spectator is off little importance to the administrators, as long as the wallet is bursting at the seams the authorities.
Sydney, of course is an entirely different story. It is not like the SCG has not seen it’s share of innovation, only two years ago for instance, in the now infamous Pakistan vs Australia Test of 2010, a quarter of the ground was closed for renovation. The stadium itself is also no shallow trough, able to hold an impressive 45000 at capacity. But credit must be given to the NSW and Australian Cricket authorities for having come out of the whole ordeal of modernization with the field’s deep-rooted antiquity and lure still attached.
Sitting at the SCG, the fan feels much more part of the play than at most other stadiums, regardless of their size. His cheer is not drowned out or falling on deaf years, but actually reverberating through every play that takes place on the field. That feeling and experience more than anything else is what the spectator pays for.
At the very least the Test match viewer, devoid of the fast paced exploits of the limited overs formats deserves the sanctity of the player/spectator relationship to be given it’s due respect. Here at the SCG that bond is not only still intact, but alive, healthy and given a boost every year with the staging of the “Pink” Test. It is no coincidence then that each New Year Test, just like the atmosphere, the Cricket is at its enthralling best.
Originally for Pakpassion