With the Australian and ACT cricket seasons reaching a crescendo and the Prime Minister XI’s just complete, Kim Huynh draws upon verse to consider our love of cricket and sport.
Dear Sheila, The Cricket Calls
Tell me not (Sweet) I am unkind,
That from the nunnery
Of thy gaunt chest and quiet mind
To tests and bashes I fly.
True, a mistress I now chase,
A maiden oh so plump;
And with a stronger faith embrace
A box, a ball, a stump.
Know, the bonding I do best
Tis ‘round ten other fellas;
Cometh gay songs from our proud chests,
With loss we weep and holler.
Yet this inconstancy is such
As you too shall adore;
I could not love thee (Dear) so much,
Lov’d I not cricket more.
This poem pays tribute to Richard Lovelace’s To Lucasta, Going to the Wars. Lovelace’s 17th century work evokes the paramount importance of duty and honour to men in a time of war. I’ve rejigged the poem to consider what sport means to blokes, to marriages and to spouses in the twenty-first century.
I focus on cricket because of the commitment that it requires to organize, to practice and to play. This unites teammates as they strategize, celebrate and commiserate with one another.
Partners of cricket players are also often committed to playing supporting roles or at least putting up with the sport. Many feel jilted at times.
The poem raises questions such as, ‘Do fellas still bemoan the fact that their wives and girlfriends with “quiet minds” simply cannot understand what sport is all about, and what it means to them? Do women cricketers and athletes have similar tensions and conflicts in their relationships? And is sport vitally important as a means for people to develop valour, sacrifice and camaraderie?’
And then there’s the question, ‘At what point does our commitment to playing and watching sport become excessive; that is, when does it close off or diminish other opportunities for bonding, wellness and enrichment?’ In politics this matter can also have significant costs and implications. I’m thinking especially of the ACT government’s failed effort to lure international cricket to Manuka Oval.
What is your favourite sporting or cricket poem? Is the image of the sport obsessed husband and jilted wife a thing of the past? Should it be? Should the ACT and Australian governments invest more resources into promoting cricket, local sport, elite sport, women’s sport or sport in general?
Kim Huynh is a culture columnist for the RiotACT, international relations lecturer at the ANU and presents Drive on ABC Radio Canberra every second Friday. This poem and post has been sent to Yvette Berry, the ACT Minister for Sport and Recreation for consideration and comment.