PRIORITIES: Usman Khawaja’s form has him in demand by Australia and T20 cricket fans.MYnephew Sam isa quiet, thoughtful boy who’ssometimes, it must be said,wrong.
Less sothanother12-year-olds, sure, butnevermore so thanon Christmas Day when wediscussedthereturn from injuryofUsman Khawaja.
AbatsmanonthevergeofAustralia’sTestteammakesasparklinghundredfortheSydneyThunder,who nowcracklewithpurpose and skillatopthe KFC Big Bash League beforecrowdsof western Sydneysiders.Including Sam.
As reward, Khawajagets to playa brittleWest Indies at a desolate MCG–andstrokesanother hundred. He’s cementedinthe Australianteam andwillplay once,twice morefor the Thunder thissummer.
Normal, right?You play for yourcountry.As a boy, from whenyou feelthe stitchingonyour firstKookaburra to therealisationyou’llnever bowl onefor Australia, that’s the dream.
“If I was him,” yawnedSam, contemplating a prawn, “I’d rather play for the Thunder.”
Ipeeled at the label ofmy TooheysNew.
“Yeah? Dunno about that, mate.”
There wasa silence.DoI shake him? Isthisone of those things a ladsimply works out, boundingacrossthe fortifications of an uncle’s sporting dogma?
Before I couldshake him, my nephew got up tothrow aball at his new light-up stumps.
Eachflash of KFCplastic suddenly helda glimpse of afuturedevoid of Test cricket’s veinynarrative,bereftofquietjoyslikereadinganewspaper,governedbypub lockouts,soaked in mid-strength beer and fueled by the Paleo diet.
In this gluten-free dystopiathekidshadgrown up anddone away withthe thingsthat requireinvestment of time, or looking up froma screen. They’d bought investment properties andsanded awaythe rough edges of the city, thenrubbed it inby beingimpeccableon the dancefloor.Worse, they were actually really nice.
The empty New bottlehit theporch,and realised I wasdoing it. The Old Bloke Thing. Thegloomyforecast weputonthe next generation,after having it put onus.
“Hey,” a nearby voice hadsaida week earlier.A greasyfinger in my ear.
I was doingsmalltalkwith a colleague at a work thing, and a bloke in his 50s was givingme a Wet Willy. He’d been made redundant. We’d exchanged maybe eight wordsin our lives.
Switchingmyschoonerhand,I held out my right,butwas left danglingas Wet Willystruttedupto my small talkpartnerandwinked.
He raiseda thumb tohis chest,“Old Brigade”, then noddedat bumblingme,“New Brigade”.
She snorted. I drooped,but understood.
On hisdashboardwhat wasI but an interchangeableflash in the pan, aklaxon of an onrushing, declining worldhe didn’tunderstand and didn’tcare to? Iget it. Really.
Maybe, though,the grim assessments thatblokes clampon ouryoungersat barbecues, in offices andon sporting teams come fromhinterlands of insecurity anddelusion.
If we say something’s in crisis or decline –namely, the world – we implyit was oncesecure and ascending. When was that, I wonder?
We all mourn, in our way,what we’ve lost. But in2016, Sam,have all the Thunderheroes you want; who am I to stop you?Can wegotoagame?As for you,Wet Willy,there’s a handshake herewith your name on it.