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  • Paul Fink

Cricket is a religion...

Mecca is regarded as the holiest city in the religion of Islam, Jerusalem is the holiest city in Judaism and Melbourne is the holiest city for sports fans. Its has a lots of 'holy sights' but always number-one is Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) or the 'G'.

I was born in Melbourne, live in Melbourne all of life , and I love the city. Regarded as the sporting capital of the world and where sport is a religion and I live for it. 26 December is my favourite event of the calendar.

Last post was talking about goals and I had good feedback on this topic. 11 months after of my stroke, I went to the MCG at Boxing Day Test - Australia versus India. Somewhat fitting because India is also very passionate of cricket almost religiously. I've always loved watching India play cricket. I went to India, 14 years ago to watch cricket (two test matches - Bangalore and Chennai) and five years ago I was able to meet and bowl to my heroes (Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S Laxman, and others at MCG net session) when they last visited Australia. I was really desperate to see them play again, even though the thought of going to the MCG made me very anxious.

Net Session with Indian Test Squad

I went with my dad and a lot of friends and I had a huge milestone and goal. I try to make this pilgrimage at the G' every year but after my stroke I was not sure how to able to reach the goal... but I went, survived and safe-to-say it was memorable, exhilarating but exhausting day.

I started my love affair with cricket in the backyard of my old house at Doncaster. Cricket was a big part my childhood. My brothers, my Dad, friends, always I playing backyard cricket at the garden (and my dog - Max - always joined). Max was a expert fielder and chasing every ball. Max was a border collie, very fast runner, and I remembered one time he ran out Dad's friend Ivan - classic stuff. (I wrote a satirical article of Max 15 years ago titled "Max Notches up Maiden Century")

I am youngest of three brothers, and I had active childhood. I played juniors basketball and cricket (only two seasons) but after finished high school I played seniors cricket and also was heavily involved with my amateur cricket club - Maccabi AJAX. My made lots of friendships, lots of 'good times' with the club, and a lot of my friends now are because of the club.

I am a cricket tragic, purist and agnostic cricket watcher. Means -> I like good test cricket, irrelevant what country or team is playing but I more closely watched the Australian team because I am a Aussie and I am a typical couch-selector. Everyone has their opinion but in my opinion 'I want to pick 11 best players in the country - irrelevant how old, and not pick 'potential' players because I reckon they devalue the valued 'baggy green'. I remember Steve Waugh (former of Australia captain) always emphasis on baggy green as treated special. "as an enduring symbol of Australian cricketing excellence" (- Gideon Haigh) . Lot of examples of deserving and donning a baggy green but never received it eg. David Hussey, Darren Berry, Jamie Siddons, Michael Klinger.

My preference is test cricket always but don't mind any format (test, one-day or 20/20). My mindset is 'cricket on the TV... I will watch'. Saying that, I rarely watch TV now (in general) because affects my fatigue. I watch footy (only melbourne's games), Socceroos games, cricket games... and sometimes movies. I sometimes watch TV while doing some of my OT or physio exercise and watching cricket same time is easy being don't need to watch every ball. I also don't mind just listening to the commentators on the radio.

My OT (Bianca - at the Caulfield Hospital) always encouraged me to go to the MCG. In fact she offered to come to a footy game much earlier (at the winter) - but I was definitely not ready for the footy. I was still in hospital/rehab, my fatigue was quite high, still anxiety quite high, and also footy games start at afternoon, hence the time not ideal. My brain normally performed best in the morning. Footy is a bigger challenge for me as it's fast-paced compared to cricket and the fans are often louder and more distracting.

I set my goal to make one session at Boxing Day Test (2 hours). I was excited and nervous. I was nervous because of first time to the going MCG (after my stroke) and not sure I can cope with walking long distances (I still had walking stick), loud noises, lots of conversations same time, and also weather forecast was cold and maybe raining etc. The crowd of 69,993 on day one was the second-highest Boxing Day crowd between the two teams.

A lot of planning went into the day, to ensure I could manage and reach my goal. I showered and ate breakfast after that I rested three hours at home because I was trying to conserved energy for the day. My dad drove with me and dropped me off, he parked the car, to the nearest entrance, after we walked in the ground my feelings 'I am home - sort of religious experience - very good feeling' and I thought 'I am lucky be here now ... not six feet under'.

Luckily not raining in the morning and my seats located on the bottom level (on purpose) because the stairs were large and shallow and easier with my walking. Upper deck was not an option because too steep.

I talked, I watched, I ate, meet up with friends and overall I had a huge, awesome experience that day I will never forget. In fact, I lasted almost four hours (after lunch and after the drinks break) I went home to sleep. No therapy this day because I was zonked.

Just for the record, Australia drew India. Steve Smith scored 192, Shaun Marsh 99 and the visitors scored Virat Kohli 169 & 54, Ajinkya Rahane 147 and Ryan Harris received was awarded Man of the Match for his 6 wickets for his 6 wickets in the match and 74 in the first innings. And MS Dhoni retired from test cricket after the match. (scorecard)

Last year I went boxing day test with my wife and son - also memorable because Oscar (debut) and this month I will going to the Boxing Day test with my Dad. I am very excited see Pakistan - particularly Mohammed Amir and Yasir Shah - the leg-spinner with very similar action with Shane Warne.

Hopefully I will watch top class, memorable cricket and of course lots of 'good times'.

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