Whenever there’s a lull in the cricket, or it’s three-quarter time at a Swans game, it’s hard not to day dream about sitting in the Members. You sit there dreaming about what it would be like to rub shoulders with Sydney’s haute monde in the 1878 masterpiece, drinking full strength beer out of a glass (none of this Carlton Mid in a flimsy plastic cup rubbish), discussing the finer points of the game without the riff raff trying to start their Mexican waves and construct their beer snakes.
So often having been a pleb sitting in the SCG outer – from my first Test as a seven year old watching Darren Gough claim a hat-trick in 1999, to Michael Clarke’s 300 last summer – scabbing a ticket to the Members on Wednesday for the BBL clash between the Sydney Sixers and Melbourne Renegades ensured that I was certain to savour it. A rags to riches story to rival Cinderella, this. Maybe not quite, but I was sure to enjoy the carpeted floors and memorabilia on the walls and the well-dressed cricket glitterati, the statues and the so-called ‘Walk of Honour’ that snakes around the back of the stand, reminding you of the history ingrained in the venue.
The Members lived up to expectation and so did the cricket. It was my first BBL outing of the season and Alex Hales – also making his first appearance for the campaign – put on a show befitting the fireworks. The Englishman clobbered eight sixes en route to 89, including one lusty blow that punctured a large dent in a Ladies Stand pillar, one of four maxima in a match-losingly expensive over from Stephen O’Keefe. Sydney hardly fired a shot in the second innings and Melbourne went home with the points.
I’ve got no idea how that impacted on the table or who’s playing finals – that doesn’t seem to be a pressing concern in the BBL – but the cricket was entertaining. Triple M’s inimitable Gus Worland was MCing the gig and kept referring to the crowd as “Sixers diehards”, which raises a smirk when you consider the franchise only hosts four games a year and most of the gallery doesn’t seem terribly fussed about the fortunes of the Sydney Spungos or the Melbourne Whatzits. That doesn’t seem to be the point, though, so long as Brett Lee is sending light-up stumps cartwheeling and ‘Gangnam Style’ is pumped through the PA; the garishness of the whole affair providing a marked contrast to the genteel surroundings of the Members.
The BBL can be criticised for a lack of star power – with eight Test players rested from a 13-man ODI squad, that means the top 21 players in the country are missing, in addition to the foreign players presently committed to overseas duties – but the same knock applies to the upcoming Australian series against Sri Lanka. The second-string outfit is an insult to the tourists, who are a juicy $3.10 to defeat George Bailey’s B-Team over the five games, and the broadcaster Channel Nine, who fork out big dollars to showcase Warner and Clarke rather than Doherty and McKay.
Perhaps the biggest slap in the face is to anyone who had purchased a ticket before the Diet Australian XI was announced. It costs $145 for a premium ticket, which seems obscene for a fixture that is unlikely to crack the 20,000 mark, especially when compared to the alternatives. Melburnians could save their pennies and put them towards an A-League membership ($205, which entitles you to 13 matches), an Australian Open quarter-final ($134.90), or a far more popular T20 fixture, either the BBL for $20 or the international against Sri Lanka in three weeks time. A record low crowd is expected for the opening one-dayer this afternoon, which will give Cricket Australia a little clip in return.