The year 2005 stands out in my memory as my absolute favourite. There are many reasons for this, and this may become a bit of an epic saga, but I want to get it off my chest. Before I launch into it, there is some important background to note. For many years, I had been a very, very chubby boy for some time. By the start of 2005 I had slimmed down majorly and naturally that made life a lot easier for me. Unfortunately, it didn't result (and to this day, it still has not resulted) in me becoming any less unfit, or not thinking and eating like a fat kid. Anyway, that's getting off topic. But this was obviously a major boost for me.
What was even more surprising was that in 2005 I began my love affair with sport. You would hardly have seen it coming- a fat, uncoordinated kid who was more into books than sports. Yet by the end of the year I was a devoted fan of Cricket, Rugby and League, and have since adopted the Beautiful Game and am occasionally interested in Tennis, Golf, AFL, Hockey and so on. How did all this happen? Not all too suddenly- it was a gradual thing.
Really and truly it all began one Summer evening, believe it or not, at my next door neighbours' house, watching the cricket. It was actually still late 2004, but it would have great implications for the rest of my life. The Blackcaps were taking on the Aussies, in the First ODI of the brand-new 'Chappell-Hadlee' series. I don't know how much of the game I watched, but I was definitely there for the end. And for those of you who remember the game, it was quite a finish. Hamish Marshall and McCullum combined for a match-winning partnership, including Marshall's amazing flick-scoop over the keeper for four. It was an amazing win for the kiwis, and it really got me interested.
It's not like I'd never watched sports before; my father was always watching sport, it's just that I didn't really watch it actively. There is a difference, I have come to realise, between watching a game actively and passively. I don't remember watching games that I must have watched before 2005, even when looking at the scorecards. But after that, when I really became interested, I can remember so much more- and not just because they're more recent.
So after this game, I took an avid interest in the sport- not in a 'scientific' sort of way, but in a real emotional sort of way, enjoying the drama and the contest. We almost won the second game of that series- were it not for losing Chris Harris to a shoulder injury, we might have made it. That only increased my interest, naturally! Then was the VB series in Australia, with Pakistan and the West Indies. I remember getting to stay up late to watch the end of those games, it was pretty cool- and fairly one-sided most of the time too! Things moved on from there- Sri Lanka's tour was cancelled, but in came the FICA World XI. I remember watching Fleming take Murali apart in Christchurch, that was something to behold. Then there was the 3rd game, on that minefield in Hamilton, so bad that even Jeff Wilson was getting wickets. The Blackcaps won the series, and they were starting to look pretty good- they were up to 2nd in the rankings, and could have displaced Australia at the top if they won the upcoming series at home.
That, of course, never happened. We went down 5-0. That put things into perspective for me, but it still kept me interested. The first game of the series was close; New Zealand could have won, but we threw it away. Craig McMillan getting stumped off McGrath is still the one thing I remember from that game. And who can forget Bing Lee pinging Papps on the head and the huge golf-ball-like swelling it left him with? Things started to unravel from there- injuries meant debuts for players like James Marshall, Tama Canning, Lance Hamilton and so on- fairly weak for a team to play the conquering Aussies.
The fourth ODI was nicely placed on the same day as our class field-trip to Rangitoto. I didn't think much of it until on the ferry over, I discovered that Avi had brought along his radio so he could listen. I convinced him to let us share it and pretty much we've been best friends since. We didn't learn all that much on the trip, although we did have to stop for a short while, but for all of the walking it was a welcome relief. And the teachers didn't mind either- one of them kept asking us for the score!!! Which just made it hilarious for us. Anyway we batted rather poorly, though Cairns hit a couple of sixes to get us excited. I remember how difficult it was for us to get reception on the train back to school- but we were getting the pants thrashed off us at that point. Anyway, that day was an important one for me and my love affair with cricket- and the start of a not-quite-beautiful-in-fact-rather-hilariously-mismatched friendship.
Anyway, I shall leave it at that for now, before this gets far too long. But I will likely write more, because if nothing else, I enjoy reminiscing about it!