The first day

Why there can be mixed emotions on the first day back of Test Cricket

The green light would illuminate Uma Thurman and Kramer from Seinfeld, and then I'd know the cricket was back. But it was different for you. Maybe you're a James Joyce kind of fan. "In the soft grey silence he could hear the bump of the balls: and from here and from there through the quiet air the sound of the cricket bats: pick, pack, pock, puck: like drops of water in a fountain falling softly in the brimming bowl." Or maybe cricket being back just felt like having an old friend embrace you.

There is something about the first day of cricket that is more special than most sports. It's the signifier of summer to come, some home, a brighter timeline.

The first day of the Ashes were always something I remember. Those posters of Uma and Kramer had replaced the 'Victoria wins the Ashes' poster before it. The green light came from my grandfather's radio, a third-generation family heirloom/handmedown.

The radio was part of an old unit that had a tape deck and played records. It was 97, so I didn't listen to anything other than CDs. It meant I had this substantial wooden box to play the radio - that would only tune in for AM - and its giant screen lit up my room almost as much as a TV would. I'd had it from 1993, it probably would have been affordable for me to get a cheap radio, or even borrow one of my father's. But I never did, and perhaps part of the reason was this was my cricket radio, and because that radio was my grandfather's.

My Grandpa was an orphan, he worked in a box factory before becoming a school principal, and there was a significant war in there somewhere. He was also a cricket fan. The family story was that he climbed the MCG fence to see Bradman — who made a duck. But I looked that up once, and I'm not sure it's true. It doesn't matter, he liked Keith Miller more, anyway.

My Grandpa was one of the few people I could talk to in those years. The other adults were worried about what I would do with my life and why I was struggling. Grandpa didn't do that. He just talked to me. Mostly about sport, occasionally about Law and Order. One day I was helping him with something, and we were chatting when he mentioned Greg Chappell's lousy run. In 1981/82 Chappell played seven international innings against the West Indies and Pakistan and made five ducks, a six and a 12. And Chappell said something like, "I'm not out of form, I just keep getting out". At least that's what my Grandpa told me that day. I think he told me that because he saw me struggling, or maybe it was because he enjoyed talking cricket. But it all helped.

He was such a sensible man, and while usually on the first day of a big series or start of summer I'm thinking about the radio. Now I'm wondering what the man who purchased it thought about cricket being played during a Pandemic. He would have understood that people needed sport because he did. And he would have thought life had to go on because he lived through the war. But would he be excited for it, right now, I wonder. He'd have been just as happy re-watching all the Law and Order spin-offs and waited out the virus that way.

First days don't mean the same for me any more. My entire life has been cricket for so long that cricket doesn't leave me. If I finished playing in Melbourne, or London, there was still international cricket. It took a global catastrophe to take cricket from my life. And even then, I was paid to write and talk about it.

And as I've written before, I am not sure sport should come back. Although I'm sure it shouldn't be coming back to the UK while people are still dying at alarming levels. So while I see people joyous at what will probably a rain-affected Test, I'm left feeling conflicted. It's brilliant so many people want cricket back, but not like this.

Many conversations between me and other sports fans go the same way. I say “we shouldn’t be playing in a pandemic”, and they say “yeah, but we need to give the people something”. Look, I get it. I really do. My friends need jobs, people need something in their lives. But, I can’t get past the other side of it and I just don’t think it’s worth it.

So we'll have cricket in a secure bio-dome within the Test nation most affected by the virus while we've brought over young black men from islands smaller than the UK death toll play in front of faux crowd noise so we don't remain bored.

And it's ok if you don't feel this way, a major part of your life was taken away, outside your control. The thing you use for distraction, inspiration, that reminds you of family, makes new friends, that's a spiritual release, that changes who you are, keeps you from losing the plot, that vents out all your worst tendencies, it left. And now it's back, of course you can be happy.

But it's also ok to feel the opposite. That - perhaps the first time in your life - there are more important things right now. That medical supplies should be sent elsewhere, that flying people around the world isn't a sensible thing, and that no matter how many times you hear about a bio-dome, you know they're just in a cricket ground with a hotel inside; not playing in a hermetically sealed sports womb.

Cricket is such a part of my life, and I've missed it greatly. So while I don’t think it should be back, I'll watch it, because I always do.

Some of you will be excited, and that’s ok too, it’s been a tough time, and seeing Kermar Roach devour lefties from around the wicket will ease that.

But if you're conflicted about the first day back for cricket, that's ok. There is something about the first day of cricket this time that doesn't feel right. It's the signifier of how we're putting sport above safety. There will still be many more wonderful first days into the future, me with my green light, you with your pick, pack, pock, puck.

If you still have a couple of minutes, I’ve made a video about why I think cricket should be in the Olympics.