I have been to 6 test matches since July 2011 across 4 continents, including this one, and the day 4 here was easily shortest amount of cricketing action I had seen, by a fair distance. As the day started and Australia wrapped up the last West Indian wicket, there was still hope that this test may see a result and some Windies faithful thought of an improbable win even. But the torrential thunderstorm in the afternoon, which left the entire outfield completely waterlogged, put paid to those hopes.
I decided to take advantage of the rain break and visit The Oval Cricket Heritage Museum. Entry to the museum is from the main entrance to the ground but you can get to it from the player entrance but it’s only for “members of QPCC and Players”, but if you put on a confident air, the security doesn’t bother stopping you.
Some very iconic photographs and collectibles are kept in the museum (as any museum should) but considering the history of West Indies Cricket, all of these take additional significance. There is a picture of people laying the groundwork for the first turf pitch at Queen’s Park Oval, the bats Brian Lara used to score his 375, 501 and 400, one of the most iconic photograph in cricket – the first tied test in Brisbane 1960-61, Courtney Walsh dismissing Ian Healy for his 400th wicket, the scoreboard after Curtly Ambrose ran through the English amongst others. The museum is not as elaborate as the one in MCG but is a pretty fulfilling experience nonetheless. I stopped over at the Gift Shop and picked up a West Indies hat, jersey from the 2007 World Cup, autograph bats, a cricket ball. It’s a shame that the gift shop is not bigger than the living room of any average two bedroom flat. As I left the museum to get back to the stands, I took the wrong turn and ended up at the player’s gym where Ryan Harris and Mitchell Starc were working out. Since a gym should be the last I should ever be found – alive or dead, I quickly retraced my path back to the stands.
I was getting updates from a friend living in the eastern part of the island that warned that thunderstorms were heading our way soon. In the short amount of time play was possible after lunch, Ed Cowan was dismissed LBW by Kemar Roach and soon the skies opened up, this time to wash off the rest of the day. From then on, it was just a waiting around to see when, and not if, they would call the day off, officially, so that we can actually ask the cricketers for autographs and pictures. ICC rules prevent the fans from interacting with players during play and vice versa.
As we (The Aussie fans I met during Day 3 and I) were waiting for a chance to get the autographs, we noticed Ed Cowan coming out of the dressing room and walking in to the stands we were in. We caught up with him and he asked, “You know where to get Honey Roasted Peanuts? Jumbo seems to have run out of it.” Jumbo, not to be confused with Anil Kumble, is a local man, who sells assortment of nuts in the ground and has his own inimitable way of dealing with his customers. He can be on ground level and you on the third tier, throw the money down and tell him whether you want “salted” or “fresh” nuts, he will throw the packet of nuts (underarm) to you accurately. He even made couple of throws from the Carib stand to the Aussie dressing room and hit James Pattinson in the breadbasket. He is that good.
Ed Cowan was a lot nicer than he had to be, to us. When I told him that I was standing at the boundary soon after he got his baggy green at the G, wishing him well, and thanked him for retweeting the podcast I did with Jarrod Kimber and Sam Collins on “Death of a Gentlemen”, he asked, “Where are you from, mate?” and upon hearing I’m from U.S. he quipped, “You’re a great supporter of cricket” and graciously allowed me to have a picture taken with him. As any good opener, he opened the account on my autograph bat and with self-effacing wit, added “you’re devaluing your bat, mate”.
Rest of the day was spent on collecting autographs as many as I could fit in the little autograph bat I had purchased from the Gift Shop. Craig McDermott, Nathan Lyon and Michael Hussey were kind enough to walk up to us when we waved at them but the others, we obtained, as they were about to leave the ground on the team bus. Richie Richardson, Justin Langer, Devendra Bishoo, Kragg Brathwaite, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and the officials Ian Gould and Jeff Crowe. When told he was the better Crowe, Jeff responded, “I don’t know about that but certainly, I have the better taste in wine.”
I am heading back to the ground soon for Day 5. It is highly doubtful play will start on time and even if it does, it is sure to meander its way to a draw. One last chance to be inside the Queen’s Park Oval, on this trip anyway, to take in the views and mingle with the fans, and possibly a few more autographs.