The Googly

There are peculiarities, peculiar to peculiar countries that others find, well, peculiar.

Australian Vegemite, Khmer fried spiders, Scottish Haggis, American Rocky Mountain Oysters et al. Unless you’re raised on such delicacies, it’s fair to say you’re unlikely to acquire the taste. (Except perhaps for the fried spiders, which actually taste like crispy fried chicken skin, who doesn’t like that?)

This is also true of cricket. You can’t learn to like cricket, you have to be born to like it. Nature trumps nurture.


Cricket is not an acquired taste

Predictably, if you ask an American about cricket, the responses range from the quaint “it’s so adorably British but I don’t understand it” to the downright off base “it’s like a four day game of baseball, who has the time?” It’s not their fault of course and I don’t intend to cause offence. They were born to connect with ‘World Series Baseball’ and ‘World Series NBA’. Neither of which involve anything to do with the ‘world’ at all. Neither of which I like either.

The phenomenon is absolutely mutual. It can be applied infinitely. Canadian NHL ice hockey, Thai Kickboxing, Chinese Ping-Pong and Estonian Naisekandmine. You get my drift.

One of the delightful aspects about writing about cricket is I know the readers of this post are all cricket enthusiasts.

Everyone else stopped reading two paragraphs ago.

Sometimes I read sports news articles about cricket that explain the basics of a dead ball ruling or where silly mid on is compared to short leg and ponder why the writer bothers. Anyone who doesn’t know cricket, doesn’t read about cricket. It’s a fairly simple universal truth don’t you think? (It could also be that writers just like talking about ‘silly mid on’. That is also universally true.)

So, hello cricket devotees. It’s just us now. This is safe space to be your – cricket loving – self.

I’m a proud product of 1980’s cricket. An era that saw my – mustache growing and always weirdly sweaty – heroes painstakingly gathering momentum to begin a new era of Australian dominance by the decade’s end. In fact I really didn’t know Australia could lose the Ashes until I was all grown up. It was quite a shock, let me tell you. I still associate Ricky Ponting with feelings of helpless despair.

Naturally, I grew up watching Kerry Packer’s colourful World Series Cup ‘one dayers’. A world series that actually involved the world. The relevant parts anyway. David Boon, Alan Border, Merv Hughes and Steve Waugh were setting exciting benchmarks (both in cricket and in beer consumption). And Kapil Dev, Courtney Walsh, Ian Botham were famously formidable opponents. All resplendent in weighty gold neck chains.

Thames Cricket 1986

Australian – World Series Cup – team in green and gold in 1986

We also played endless backyard cricket. My father spent hours trying to teach my sister and I bowling techniques. The basics. Pace. Swing. Spin. Then the miraculous Googly and the great – equally perplexing – Doosra. (Even today I wonder if ‘The Doosra’ is my dad’s favourite saying, it comes up very frequently.) All lessons I hope to inflict on my son with the aid of Youtube tutorials from – the greatest leg spinner of all time – Shane Warne and perhaps some batting advice from the endlessly captivating Sachin Tendulkar (my two cricket soft spots).

So it follows that my favourite film of the 1980’s features cricket nostalgia. Oscar nominated Hope and Glory (1987) is John Borman’s memoir about a great war, an English river and cricket. If you’ve ever swooned over cricket, and I know you have, then this is the movie for you (rent it on Itunes for $3.99).

Of particular poignance is the scene where the protagonist Billy is preparing for his father to depart to serve in the army in World War II. As they play cricket in the yard Billy’s father Clive pulls him close in a tender embrace, separated only by a battered red leather cricket ball.

“Billy, before I go there’s something I want to tell you. You’re not quite old enough, but, well it’s the Googly. Your hand is too small to master it, but you can make a start.”

We – the viewers –  are then blessed with a captivating and romantic description of the power of the Googly. “It looks like an off break, but it’s really an leg break.” We witness Billy’s most important moment with his father. Decades after first seeing the film I still remember the scene with utter reverence.


Billy’s dad explains the Googly

As the film draws to a close, Billy’s father returns from his post to find the family house in London is no more and the family have relocated to Grandpa George’s house on the Thames. And little Billy has indeed mastered the Googly.


Grace – Billy’s mother – raises her glass to the Thames and says “I never want to leave the river again” at the end of Hope and Glory.

The family are so taken with living by the Thames they vow never to return to the city. “To the river” they cry as they raise their glasses. For that scene alone, I’ve always wanted to spend a summer by the western Thames either in Berks, Bucks, Oxford or Surrey. Perhaps even buy a weekend home there.

Thames Map

Hope and Glory’s Thames scenes were filmed 5 km west of Kingston on Thames at Shepperton Lock, Surrey

I’m very drawn to buying weekend home on the river itself. Needless to say an absolute riverfront house is out-of-my-league. So I’m leaning toward something a little more unorthodox.

A narrowboat perhaps.

A traditional English narrowboat is no more than 7 feet wide and 70 feet long. Although that means living on a small scale (oh yes please), it ensures we can zip up and down those lovely – overflowing with history – canals in England’s southwest.

Yes, I know there will be mooring costs of around USD$5000 per annum to incorporate into my budget. That sounds quite reasonable to me, considering we will be so close to London.

I have to wonder if I will be able to dock my narrowboat at London’s Vauxhall Bridge and wonder up Park Lane to Lord’s Cricket Ground? Or perhaps a ‘visitors mooring’ at London Docklands and tube ride on the Jubilee Line to St Johns Wood? Sounds perfectly plausible to take my weekend home to the Ashes rather than commute don’t you think?


Berkshire, UK


Thames Boat 1.1

The Maisie, 55 feet of British navy blue loveliness

Thames boat 1.2

The double bedroom, bath and living area will need a spruce up. Some additional berths are essential. I do like that charming wood burner though!

Maisie Maisie, how do I love thee? Let me count the waves (awful sonnet butchering I know, I can’t help it). I’ll take it.

Thames & Kennet Marina

Berkshire, UK


Thames Boat 2.1

Built in 2003, the 57ft Elwood II has one double bedroom, bath and functional kitchen

Thames Boat 2.2

Break out the lime wash!

See you at the Ashes! I’ll take it.

The interior of my narrowboat would be deciededly muted. Just like this visionary Otters Boat Hire boat in – Old Trafford land – Lancashire.

Thames Aga 2

Taupe tones expand and lighten the space

Thames Aga

A mini Aga? Oh yes please

Thames Kelly Hoppen

Cap that off with a splash of Kelly Hoppen luxury and we’d have the perfect narrowboat

I’d really like my narrowboat on the Thames to have a neutral and modern feel with some courageous splashes of London glamour. It would suprise and belie it’s traditional external appearance. Not at all what you’d expect.

Just like a Googly.


6 thoughts on “The Googly

  1. When I saw this was about cricket I had to steel myself… Although English and living in Australia I can’t understand the joy in it at all. However, you’re writing about buying near London! My home! And I love your ingenuity in finding something in the South East of England for $100k or less. Anyone who chooses a boat based on its Aga installation immediately gets my vote!


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