Northern Advocate Column

My cricket heroes

richard_hadlee01jul1823 December 2017

I grew up in the 1980s, which meant, like many boys of that generation, cricket was a big deal. The eighties to cricket watches of my age is still the golden period, the best of times, the haloed era.

This had a lot to do, of course, with one man, Richard Hadlee. His skill, yes, but also his style: the thin moustache, the stutter step to start his run; his glide to the crease and seemingly effortless whip-smart action.

As a kid, I imagined him as a Robin Hood, played by Errol Flynn perhaps. A connection I made from watching the old movies that screened on TV in the weekends.

If I’m honest, cricket for me has always been about the television experience: listening to the commentary, seeing the ball swing or nip back off the wicket; the balletic elegance of a Martin Crowe pull shot, dissected in replays. It’s the close-ups of the batsman’s face in a pressure situation. Or the mannerisms you picked up, which distinguished, say, a John Wright from an Ian Smith. These guys were my action heroes, my equivalent of the Avengers.

Hero worship can be powerful stuff. So many young cricketers I remember playing with used to walk like Martin Crowe, stand as he stood at the crease.

Time is not always kind to your heroes, however; your estimation of them wears like a cricket ball on an Indian dustbowl pitch. And sport finds its place in the jumble of your life, somewhere over the boundary, no longer on the green of the field.

And yet, those eighties cricketers cannot be knocked entirely off their pedestal, because that time will always be when I was a kid growing up. Still imagining you’d play for your country and be able to bowl a ball that pitches on middle and swings enough to miss the bat and hit the top of off.

I can vividly remember Hadlee bowling Australian batsman Steve Waugh like this. It looked so aesthetically perfect on TV, with Hadlee celebrating with the cool air of someone who expected it to be so.

Today, international cricket returns to Whangarei after many years. There’ll be plenty of kids there to see their heroes, and there’ll be some older guys too, who perhaps grew up, like me, watching cricket on TV in the eighties.

And there’ll be people attending who’ve been involved in Northland cricket for decades, as players, coaches, club administrators. They’ll be at Cobham Oval to watch, hopefully, a full game, quietly satisfied to have the Black Caps playing the West Indies in Whangarei.

Cricket, like everything in the world, is changing. New stories are being written. But if Tim Southee bowls Chris Gayle I’m sure there’ll be a familiar sounding cheer go up from the crowd.

What does it mean in the grand scheme of things? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s just something that connects us to the kids we once were.

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Art, Poetry

I wish

I wish I was in Greenwich Village
reading Macbeth, legs crossed, a glass of wine at my ear.

Or in the Sistine Chapel
seeing Adam raise his dandy arm to bearded God.

Or in front of Socrates proclaiming
the revolution of reason, reaching for his cup.

Or in a Parisian café drinking absinthe
with poets, painters and philosopher junkies
in wrinkled collar shirts.

Or eating fruit with Manet and his companions by a lake.

Or crossing a bridge over the Sumida River in the rain.

Or shopping at Macy’s and seeing Adrian Piper
with WET PAINT on her top.

Or driving a bulldozer for the first time
through the Nevada Desert.

Or side-by-side with children flying their kites
through a hole in the prison wall.

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Poetry

As artists do

it’s the blankness
that

still appears
even

after you’ve filled

all the canvas

which becomes
again

a question
of what to do

which brush to use?

which colour to mix?

how again to fill
the canvas

to link
these next strokes

with the ones
before

to make the composition
work

painting over
and over

the blankness.

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Poetry

Kupe

Moana! It’s me…
I’ve run from Hine-nui-te-pō
to hear the waves break in the twilight morning
and see once more the waka pulled up high
on the beach, their tauihu standing
like warriors, proud amongst the gulls
and scuttling crabs.

I dig in the sand,
two lengths from the great pohutukawa,
until my lonely hands touch what we buried:
the waka huia I carved
with our bodies entwined on every side,
mouths open, tongues hungry.

The edges of the box
have softened over time, but the embers
we placed inside still glow, which we can use
to light again a fire in the dunes
that will burn like the one Ranginui
and Papatūānuku lit in the beginning.

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Poetry

Awakening

Born in silence, a murmur grew,
just faintly heard, until it came

to where I lay, wakening my sleep;
touching me, like never before.

The voice was soft and insistent,
dutifully kind and sincere in praise

for what I had not yet done—Love
it must have been, miraculously

coaxed to life in a world of dying,
and now grown to fill multitudes.

I won’t see in you this spirit come,
only know I’m up and feel quite new.

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Poetry

A memory

your summer dress I remember:
orange, green, a touch of turquoise

was it?

how it clashed so madly
with the dull buildings

dulled by a sky-full
of grey clouds

pressing inappropriately
around you

and your smile—dashed off
as you ran past in the light rain

bright as the sound
tyres make
on a smooth wet road.

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Poetry

Catalogue of objects

The handmade espresso cup
is satisfying on my lips
and if I wished
I might imagine the touch

of those classical lips
on the woman’s face, painted
on the cup, quickly, just a few lines
with a thinnish brush.

Once, full-frontal, her nose
a straight line to her brow
between eyes which are dabs of black
run into a wash of sea-green.

The other, her face lying down,
looking over the curved hill
of her shoulder, described
with one stroke.

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Poetry

Knowing

“Poor clay toy creature of Eternity”
– R. A. K. Mason

knowing the way
we didn’t move

knowing how
we didn’t do

knowing less
we pretended more

knowing why
we didn’t try

knowing true
we still lied

knowing what
we didn’t say

knowing when
we didn’t show

knowing where
we searched there.

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Poetry

Notes

Fast ride oil economy collapsing. I’ll have to walk
or saddle a donkey (dung and fun) to petition
Washington: careful of stealth.

An archaeologist’s brush, poetry and Plato:
my understanding of humanity. The Hagia Sophia:
lights you can jump to touch.

No person freed from working for someone else
ever complained―or only about the weather
and marauding armies.

Of Leonard Cohen: he slowed it down―no line
more important than the whole: a sexy prophet;
no time for constitutions.

They would make our world a Venus. Too late,
I’m abandoning the rich―their compliments
and donations―I shall eat my bread

with the class of a peasant. Let words live
for awhile. Domes and colonnades
can fall down as they will.

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