Cricket is Such a Big Deal Here 

April 9, 2024

Step into the historic Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) and immerse yourself in a journey through time and sport.
Discover the timeless charm of the Members Pavilion and the Ladies Pavilion, pay homage to cricketing legend Richie Benaud, and experience the blend of tradition and modernity that defines this iconic venue.

Here’s what I thought about cricket before this day: It’s a game where guys dress up like they’re about to attend the world’s most formal picnic but end up playing with a bat and a ball instead. Players decked out in all-white gear, as if they missed the memo that they were going to get grass stains and not attending a tea party.  

In this sport one team tries to hit a ball with a flat bat – yes, flat, because apparently, round bats were too mainstream. They smack the ball and run back and forth between two sticks in the ground. Running in circles is just not how gentlemen do it, I guess. 

Then, there’s the bowler (yes, that’s what he’s called) who does this funny run-up as if he’s about to launch into space but instead throws the ball in the most complicated way possible. And everyone’s clapping and cheering for what looks like a missed throw. Oh, and if the ball hits the sticks, it’s a big deal. Like, celebration time. But if you’re like me and knows nothing of this sport, you might just wonder why knocking over some sticks is worth a high-five. 

The fielders, oh, they’re a spectacle! Diving and jumping around, making catches that sometimes look more like accidental dance moves. And they do this for hours and hours. In fact, something called a “Test-Game” (nobody really knows why) takes five days. Yes, days! When I heard this, I was shocked and thought that it must be because it’s a sport that was invented before Netflix, and they had no idea how to fill their time. 

But the best part? The breaks. Lunch breaks and tea breaks. This game is designed around mealtimes. Because nothing says “tough sport” like stopping for scones and tea. 

It’s a marathon of formal attire, running for reasons beyond my understanding, and celebrating the little things – like not letting a ball hit your sticks.  

Today is all about cricket. I’m invited to an important cricket game between Australia and South Africa at a legendary stadium in Sydney, Australia.  

Let’s see if I appreciate the sport more – and maybe even understand a bit of what it’s all about, by the end of this episode.  

As I walk into the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), it’s like stepping into a whole new world.

The place is huge, with a big circular design and green seats everywhere you look.

There are jumbo screens, so no one misses a thing, showing close-ups and replays. You can feel the buzz in the air in this modern stadium, as everyone is excited, and the game is already in full swing. It’s loud, with fans cheering and chatting, the kind of noise that gets your heart racing.


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Then, my eyes catch something totally different from all this modern flashiness. There’s a part of the circular stands that’s missing. And instead, there are two older buildings: the original Members Pavilion and the slightly newer Ladies Pavilion. These buildings don’t look like the rest of the stadium at all. They’ve got this old, classy look, with fancy designs and a green roof that looks like something from an old movie. The bigger of the two buildings is also the oldest. It’s got this grand, classic feel to it. Imagine a large, elegant building with lots of windows.  

Inside, it’s all about dark wooden benches and green fields out of every window, making you feel like you’re stepping into the heart of cricket history. This is the Members Pavilion, and sitting next to it is the Ladies Pavilion that shares that old-world charm but with its own twist. It’s a bit smaller and has a more delicate look, with beautiful ironwork that makes it pretty as a picture. The roof is matching its neighbour, and it’s painted in colours that blend perfectly with the green of the ground. Inside, it feels cozy and welcoming, with a view that’s just as stunning.  

These old buildings are surrounded by all the new stuff, but they hold their own, filled with stories and history. I was invited here by my good friend Steve Ahern. He works at ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), and we’ve known each other since 2009 when we were both speakers at a radio conference in Iran.

The Historic Sydney Cricket Ground 

The Sydney Cricket Ground is one of those places in Sydney that’s not just a sports venue; it’s a piece of history. Let’s take a little look into the history book. The Sydney Cricket Ground started its journey way back in 1848. Yes, you heard that right – it’s been around for more than 175 years.  

Back then it was just a simple field for British soldiers to play some cricket. But, like a small tree that grows into a massive one, it grew bigger and better. By 1878, they decided it was time for an upgrade, so they built the first grandstand. Imagine sitting there, watching a game in the 1800s, with none of the modern tech we have today. No big screens, no replays, just the game and the crowd. Fast forward to now, and the SCG is a mighty place that can seat about 48,000 people. That’s like if you took a small town and put everyone in the same place to watch a game. 

Inside The Members Pavilion 

Inside the Members Pavilion, I’m hit by this cool vibe. It’s not about shiny and new; it’s about wood, history, and a touch of elegance. You get this feeling of being part of something special, a club that’s seen it all, from epic wins to heart-breaking losses. 

Over the years, the Holy Grail has undergone renovations and updates to maintain their charm while providing modern amenities, but still, they retain the historical essence that distinguishes this section from the newer parts of the stadium. 

Richie Benaud 

Steve mentioned Richie Benaud when we passed his statue, and as he said, he wasn’t just a cricketer; he was an icon of the sport, both on and off the field. He transformed from an effective all-rounder for the Australian cricket team into one of the most respected cricket commentators globally. 

Richie’s career on the pitch was impressive, as a charismatic captain of the Australia national team, but it was behind the microphone where he truly left a permanent mark on the game. His commentary was known for its mellow, understated style, insightful, concise, and gentlemanly manner, embodying the spirit of cricket. He had a distinctive voice and a unique way of explaining the game’s complexities, making it accessible and enjoyable for both hardcore fans and newcomers. 

Beyond his voice, his personal style was iconic – a preference for cream, bone, white, off-white, and beige attire became his trademark. Something that went well with his grey hair. 

The Richies 

As I was approaching the stadium, I noticed a group of men looking exactly like that. All dressed in grey wigs, grey suits, and holding oversized blow-up microphones.

When I came inside, I saw a whole section of the stands with around 300 cricket supporters looking like the legend. And then I was told that they’re paying homage to Richie Benaud in a unique and memorable way. This group, often referred to as ‘The Richies’, gathers at cricket matches to celebrate Benaud’s legacy. 

The Richies aim to capture Benaud’s spirit and love for the game, bringing a sense of fun, respect, and camaraderie to the stands. Richie Benaud passed away in 2015, but his legacy lives on, not just in the memories but also in the joyful celebration by fans who dress up as him. 

Access to the Members Pavilion 

As I’m sure you get by now, cricket is something that is very important to Australians. The Member’s Pavilion is exclusively for members of the SCG Trust, who get some special perks and seats. So, how do I get into the Member’s Pavilion, you might think… because obviously, I’m not a member.  

Those membership cards aren’t something you can just get from one day to the next. They are more or less handed down to the next generation. But my friend Steve is a member, and he was able to invite me as his guest – but only if I went out and got myself a nice white shirt. The Members Pavilion and the Ladies Pavilion have got this classic look with their old-school architecture, featuring ironwork, wooden seats, and even those iconic gabled roofs. It’s like they’ve frozen a piece of the past in the middle of the modern buzz of the stadium. 

Understanding the Game of Cricket 

You might be wondering why we’re walking around when the game today already has been going on for 90 minutes – and by the way, this is an important match with the national team from Australia playing against South Africa. Well, those 90 minutes, that’s just today. A match like this one goes on for… wait for it… five days. 

A match going on for five days was something I didn’t know. In fact, there’s a lot I didn’t know about cricket. It was so funny, a few days earlier, I was having lunch with Steve, his wife, and a couple of their friends, and we started talking about cricket. And I casually asked how long a game is. They said, “five days” and I thought they were joking. Like saying “it feels like five days because it’s so boring.” But I was the only one laughing – and then I realized that it was actually true. 

To be fair, there are shorter games: “One-Day International” completed in one day, and “Twenty20” that is completed in about 3-4 hours. This is what’s called “Test Cricket.” This is the longest form of cricket, played over five days. Each day typically contains three sessions of two hours each (and again I kid you not) with breaks for lunch and tea. So, in total about six hours of play per day. Test cricket is considered the game’s highest standard, testing teams’ endurance, skill, and strategy over longer periods. 

A Diverse Venue 

Over the years, it’s not just cricket that’s been played here at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Also, Rugby, Australian Rules Football, and even concerts with artists like Elton John, Madonna, Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones, and U2 have filled the place with cheers and music. 

It’s a very different sport than anything I’ve ever seen. For example, there was one of the players that in between plays turned around and ran 30 meters out to some spectators and signed a few autographs and then ran back to his spot on the field. That’s not something I’ve seen in any other sport. 

On my right, there’s a whole section with The Richies. There might even have been 500 or more men in grey suits, grey wigs, and all of them swinging a blow-up microphone over their heads as they were cheering. 

Test matches between Australia and South Africa have historically been contests of high skill, with both teams boasting strong batting and bowling line-ups. Matches between them are eagerly anticipated by fans for the quality of cricket displayed and the rivalry that has developed over the years. 

And then we went for a beer and a hotdog in the bar that was full of (mostly) men all impeccably dressed in white shirts. The bar is crowded and quite loud. 

Exploring the New and Old 

Up until now, we’ve only been in the old part of the stadium, but Steve thought I should see the new part too – and it was like stepping into the future. 

Heading out of the Sydney Cricket Ground when the players went for afternoon tea, I run into some “Richies” and stopped them to see if I could borrow a wig for a photo.

More Than Just Sport 

In short, the Sydney Cricket Ground isn’t just about sports; it’s about stories, memories, and a connection to the past. It’s a place where new tales are made every time a game is played, adding to its rich tapestry of history. The “Richies” embody this perfectly – their presence adds a sense of fun, respect, and camaraderie to the stadium, keeping Benaud’s spirit alive. 

So, do I know more about the culture and the rules of cricket – the world’s second most watched sport? The culture for sure, and I have a better understanding of why so many people love it. The rules? Hmmm, not so much. 

I found it all fascinating, and a big thanks to Steve for inviting me and explaining this gentleman’s sport.  

So, Steve number 1 in Canada introduced me to Baseball, Steve number 2 to Cricket. Now I’m just waiting for other “Steves” to take me to other sporting events I know nothing about. I actually found another Steve; he’s from South Africa and a huge fan of Rugby. So, that might be something I should do. 

I’ll be back next Travel Tuesday with another adventure, but before that we have a Flashback episode on Friday and in the weekend another Vagabond Short – that’s also available as a video on YouTube and Facebook. That one is my suggestion for a week-long road trip up The Pacific Coast Highway in California. Make sure you don’t miss that one. 

My name is Palle Bo, and I gotta keep moving. See you.


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