Imagine an artist at the canvas on the boundary fence of a packed SCG on the opening day of the New Years Test. Imagine Jack Russell, brush in hand, white floppy hat, characteristic moustache, outlining the curves of Aussie Stadium peeking from behind the Noble Stand, the clock on the Members Stand showing a quarter past four.
A man neatly dressed in a suit appears in the middle of the arena. But it’s not the CEO of one of the myriad of sponsors – not unless he is a classically-trained opera singer. Suddenly, the painter’s hat flies away, the moustache curls up, Jack Russell has morphed into Salvador Dali, and the SCG clock melts away.
Could they have ever had imagined that this day would come around? When Shane Warne was tonked for his first six by Ravi Shastri? When Justin Langer ducked his first bouncer from Curtly Ambrose? When John Buchanan mislaid his first Sun Tzu extract? When Glenn McGrath took his first five-fer? That they would be publicly serenaded by a Pommy tenor.
A Burnley supporter, no less.
Sean Ruane, who according to his website is “the operatic voice of sport”, enchanted the 46,000 patrons lined up at the bars, toilets and TABs with a tea-time rendition of Andrea Bocelli’s 1995 hit single “Time to Say Goodbye” (Con te Partiro).
It had me thinking: was this just another Pommy sledge, or a pagan ritual aimed at raising Sir Neville Cardus from the dead?
You can just imagine the conversation as the three Australian soon-to-be-retirees stood on the dressing room balcony.
Glenn McGrath: “Mate, what happened to John Williamson?”
Shane Warne: “Dunno Pidge, Eddie promised me The Nevilles.”
Justin Langer: “I want a soprano so I can sing along.”
Midwinter-Midwinter points for Day One: Ian Bell 3 pts; Kevin Pietersen 2 pts; Andrew Flintoff 1 pt.