It all ends at the SCG

In an astonishing gesture, Phillip Hughes’ parents come to the SCG in the morning on the first day of the final Test. By S. Dinakar.

The drive from Sydney to Bowral takes you past the delightfully varied topography of the New South Wales countryside. The 117-km ride to the place where the greatest batsman in the game’s history commenced his incredible journey is one of expectations. This is a lively town where Don Bradman has left behind his invisible but immortal footprints.

House No. 52, Shepherd Street, still stands. Bradman lived here for 13 years from 1911, till the age of 16. The water-tank against which he would keep knocking the balls to harness his skills has not lost its lustre.

The Kangaloon Hall where a young Bradman danced with his sister Lillian, was involved in fierce table tennis duels, and acted in plays has a lot of history within its walls.

The Bradman Oval where the legend’s ashes were scattered is a lush green ground with a lovely pavilion. And the museum preserving his precious memorabilia is a treasure trove.

Meanwhile, the fourth Test gets underway at the venue where Phillips Hughes lost his life to a short-pitched delivery. For the Australian cricketers, particularly those who were with him on that fateful day, those images come back again.

One of them was David Warner. He sheds tears while the Australian National anthem is being sung in the morning. The left-hander also recovers to smash a hundred. After the day, Warner is candid about what went on in his mind.

“I was quite emotional at the singing of the anthems. The little tribute there beforehand put those memories back in place, seeing that little smile up on the board before going out there, and singing the national anthem was quite hard,” he says.

The opener adds, “I had a minute to myself when I came off before we went onto the field of play at the beginning of the day and I had my head in the towel. I had to dig deep and go out there and bat the way I know I can and try to clear my mind.”

In an astonishing gesture, Hughes’ parents come to the SCG in the morning of the Test. Warner says, “I had tears in my eyes this morning when I walked out to warm-up and I saw Greg in the stands and Megs. It’s fantastic for them to be here. The hurt and the pain they’ve gone through and how much it would have hurt them to come back today. It’s just courageous for them to be here and I applaud them for making the effort to come down, it’s fantastic.”

The Sydney Cricket Ground has its own charm. It’s an arena where the new blends with the old. Tradition has been given priority. The Members Stand, the Pavilion with its lovely clock tower, and the Ladies Stand have their place amongst the modern structures.

Madame Tussauds’ wax statues of cricket legends Sachin Tendulkar and Glenn McGrath also adorn one of the main entrances at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).

A smiling Tendulkar is seen lifting both his arms, holding willow and helmet, acknowledging the cheers. He is immensely popular in these parts.

Outside of India, SCG is Tendulkar’s favourite venue. The Swami Army, India’s answer to the Barmy Army, is very visible here. It has also composed a Tendulkar anthem.

Gurnam Singh of the Swami Army says, “The Tendulkar anthem will be sung during the World Cup to inspire the Indian team.”

The Test has a Pink Day in support of the McGrath Cancer Foundation. The stands are distinctly pink.

McGrath, who lost his wife to cancer, is delighted with the overwhelming support for a worthy cause. What he is accomplishing here is greater than anything he had achieved on a cricket field. And McGrath is a legend as a pace predator.

It’s a colourful Test. Richie Benuad clones, their wigs in place, make an appearance. And they try their hands in commentary. There is laughter all around.

This correspondent catches up with Aussie greats Doug Walters and Alan Davidson. Walters, his eyes still laughing, vividly recalls his entertaining, high-voltage career. And Davidson, among the pace bowling icons, has valuable knowledge to share.

The eventful series comes to a conclusion. There is time still for a drive to Erina, a quaint town, 85 km off Sydney.

Arthur Morris, the oldest living Australian Test cricketer at 92, and his wife Judith are warm and friendly. A wonderful left-handed opener in his days, Morris’ memory is still sharp. His tales about the Invincibles’ Tour of England in 1948 and Bradman are engaging.

Morris watched from at the other end when Bradman was bowled for zero in his final Test innings at the Oval. It was also a series where Morris outscored the Don. The tour is over and it is time to pack. One journey concludes and another begins.