Finding the true ‘spirit of cricket’

Members of the Senior School Cricket teams visit Lord's Cricket Ground. Charlie Terry is pictured Middle row, second from right.

Members of the Senior School Cricket teams toured England and the Netherlands during the 2023 June/July school holidays. Here, Year 11 student, Charlie Terry reflects on his experience.

While the world was debating the ‘spirit of cricket’ following an incontrovertibly legal dismissal of Jonny Bairstow during the 2023 Ashes series, as part of our cricket tour, we went to experience first-hand what the true English ‘spirit of cricket’ was. Whilst schoolboy cricket can involve some heated encounters, it occurred to me how our tour of England (and the Netherlands) was devoid of any controversy and full of the love of the game. It captured the essence of what our coaches teach us at Melbourne Grammar School: that sport is a game at play, and play certainly has two meanings.

A place of origin

In our visit to Whitgift School, a boarding school in London’s south-east, there was as much striking up of conversation as there was of striking the ball. It was off the field lessons in cross-cultural understanding. It was an appreciation of playing the game in the home of cricket where heritage speaks and origin lives. We experienced what it was like to play in a country that contributed to one of the biggest sporting traditions in Australian culture. If ‘travel broadens the mind’, then we learned that cricket develops the spirit, not only of the game but also of appreciation of other worlds.

An emerging nation

Just as England brought to us to tradition, we went to the Netherlands to experience a different form of cricket. In a nation where cricket is seen as a minor sport, we experienced a dedication borne of novelty.  We faced the Dutch under-16 and under-18 national sides; though we moved to national competition, at no point did we consider anything beyond ‘play’. For a country with 6500 cricketers out of a nation of almost 20 million, compared to 600,000 in our Australia of 25 million, we shared in the joy of a sport, small in size but not skill.

Our competition in the Netherlands also included a match with an over-50s Dutch side. While over-50s cricket occurs in Australia, it was different here; there were few memories of bygone triumphs. These men played with the zeal and vivacity of schoolboys.  It occurred to me that some of them had been playing cricket for longer than our parents had been alive, with some members of the team well into their 70s. It was therefore fitting that our match ended in a tie at 137 apiece, uniting youth and veteran players in score as well as enthusiasm.

We went on a fact-finding mission to find what the true ‘spirit of cricket’ was. We experienced a special feeling, one where the love of the game was clear to us. It was in this sense that I was struck by the great contrast between the cricket that we experienced on our TV screens, compared to what we saw with our own eyes. We were welcomed with open arms by our opponents, and had games devoid of controversy, reminding us why we chose to play this beautiful game.