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Vinnie Duber's White Sox Grab Bag: Adventures in Cricket from Down Under

Vinnie Duber Avatar
November 17, 2022

G’day, Sox fans!

Fate would have it that the first of my “White Sox Grab Bag” newsletters is coming to you from Down Under. I’m actually on my honeymoon in Australia, and though I wrote a draft of this to have ready to go before I left, I was struck by some inspiration and am calling an audible.

Mere hours after arriving in the country, my wife and I attended the final of the World Cup of cricket, and it was an absolute blast.

As we sat there trying to piece together the rules as completely novice cricket watchers, my mind, of course, was constantly going back to baseball. It really never left baseball, be that there are plenty of undoubted similarities between the two bat-and-ball sports.

But I kept calling the guy throwing the ball (the bowler) the pitcher, I made an umpire’s home-run gesture on every “six,” and I was mentally referring to the guy with shin guards (the wicket keeper) as Yasmani Grandal.

The biggest connection I drew was the stuff that’s a bit more universal. There were tons and tons of fans cheering on Pakistan. Our driver from the airport mentioned Melbourne had a fairly-sized Pakistani population, so maybe it was a lot of locals giving Pakistan de facto home-field advantage. Maybe Pakistan’s relative nearness, compared to its opponent, England, had something to do with it. But the fans were so passionate, it made for an absolutely incredible atmosphere in the fifth-to-last row at the 100,000-seat Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The place exploded with cheers, shouts, yells, standing ovations and flag-waving whenever Pakistan hit a ball to the wall while batting or recorded an out while in the field. In cricket, what baseball people see as a normal fly out is a rarity and elicits the same crowd reaction as someone being thrown out at home to preserve a one-run lead.

And then there were the kids.

We had kids seated on either side of us, and they were huge fans, the kind of fan I was when I was growing up. They had their jerseys on, they were living and dying with every throw, and one little guy sitting next to my wife brought a homemade sign — really just a piece of paper with the flag of Pakistan and a list of all the players’ names written on it in little-kid handwriting.

My mom probably has one in the attic from my childhood with my most practiced artistic work — the Bulls’ logo — and the names of every player on it, down to Jud Buechler and Randy Brown. I felt so bad for that kid when he and his family took off for the night. I understood it was a school night, but come on, mom, just a couple more overs?

This was the World Cup final, so it’s not like I attended the Aussie equivalent of a late-April game against the Royals, but what an atmosphere, one that would look so great inside the walls of Guaranteed Rate Field. Sox fans got up for Game 3 of last year’s ALDS against the Astros, so much so that Tony La Russa — a Hall of Famer who’s managed more playoff games than most of us have watched on TV and won three World Series — said it was one of the best he’s ever experienced. I know you guys can’t wait to do that again.

But I’ll say this: Sox fans need to start waving flags. And not flags with the Sox’ logo on it. I mean Chicago flags and Illinois flags. That would look awesome. And so cricket-y! The North Side’s got a Helvetica “W”? Neat. The South Side’s got a few hundred people waving four red stars for every visiting team that comes to town.

The cricket format we saw in person is what’s called “T20,” a shortened version of the sport that lasts two and a half or three hours, a made-for-TV time that doesn’t last four or five days like cricket matches you might have heard about. It’s apparently helped popularize the sport a great deal, and I couldn’t help but thinking about the rule changes in baseball— and the crowd-pleasing goals associated with them — when hearing about this different style. Get ready for that pitch clock and no shift, people, it might just make every kid on your block a baseball fan.

Oh, and maybe this all sounds very amazing and you want to live the cricket life, too? Not to worry. The next T20 World Cup is being hosted in the U.S., in 2026. Get your tickets now.

You’re not going to hear from me until I get back, I don’t think. Not unless the Sox sign Aaron Judge or something ridiculous. We’ll be exploring Australia for much of the next month. Only two days into our trip, it’s been amazing, and yes, of course I visited the sculpture of Bon Scott on AC/DC Lane in Melbourne.

But you’ll want to sign up for our new Diehard Level if you haven’t already. Sox Diehards will get this newsletter in their inbox if they so choose all year long. And you can expect more Sox, more travel tales, more rock n roll rankings and more pizza recommendations in future editions.

Until then, thanks for reading. I’ll see you soon on the South Side.

Album of the Week: Obviously, I’m listening to AC/DC — who the Aussies refer to, confusingly, as “Acca Dacca” — and on the hunt for the entire Bon Scott Era on vinyl while I’m down here. “Highway To Hell” is the best of their albums, but I’ve become a massive fan of “Powerage” in recent years, so we’ll make that my rock n roll rec of the week. Happy listening. Make sure it’s loud.

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