Friday morning was frigid. It was freezing. The temperatures around Melbourne ranged from 9 to 14 degrees. It was one of those mornings, where you had to grit your teeth to even get out of bed. It seemed like a dare. And they still say it is summer over here. You were only shivering more as you reached the MCG with the cold breeze smacking against the face, almost like you were walking past a massive open refrigerator.
It was a day where the queues around the coffee shops in and around the MCG seemed longer than those at the beer stations. It was a day suited for settling down in a cosy jumper and holding a warm cuppa.
Yet within the first two hours of the Test, 21 unruly fans had been evicted from the G for having had one too many pints and being suitably worse for wear.
“How could anyone get drunk on such a morning in such weather?” you wondered. That too on beer. Even if you are Australian. But this was Boxing Day. A day on which anything goes.
The William Barak Bridge that connects the bustling Flinders Street to the MCG had been teeming with people since the wee hours of Friday morning. There was an assortment of Australian cricket jerseys on view, ranging from the 80s, 90s to the noughties. But the Indian jerseys too were making their presence felt en route to the G. Just how 40,000 people entered the venue without any fuss or mayhem seemed as unfathomable as the high number of drunks by lunch-time. It was just that easy. Or so it seemed. The members were all there, each looking dapper than the next, with collared shirts a must to go anywhere near their enclosure. Some preferred covering themselves in Australian flags, some chose the more conventional techniques, like cardigans and pullovers. But the atmosphere around the G was just about to heat up.
The Boxing Day Test has over the years become like this mythological epic that you grow up hearing about, and have a fair idea of the atmosphere thanks to Channel 9 and the coverage in India. But being there at the MCG with minutes for the first ball can be surreal. Even if it was far from a full-house by the time David Warner and Chris Rogers walked out to the middle.
Full-house or not, the roar that went up as soon as Ishant Sharma began his run-up for the first ball was deafening. On the ear-wig, it was a familiar voice welcoming the world to the MCG. Bill Lawry was back in business, and leading the charge. Within minutes the former Australian captain and legendary commentator would unleash his customary, “Gonnnneeee…” as Warner edged Umesh Yadav to Shikhar Dhawan at third-slip. Lawry had come alive. MCG had come alive. Boxing Day had come alive.
The crowd just kept increasing in the thousands as the day wore on, and before long there were over 60,000 crammed into the vastness of the MCG.
By the second session, the action in Bay 13 had picked up. The beach-balls were being bounced around a lot more passionately. The calls for the Mexican Wave were getting more demanding by the minute, with every section that refused to bow down to their demands being booed vociferously. The Swami Army were being as vocal as any of the other sections, and the Indians kept them interested for a major part of the day. Debutant Joe Burns received a rousing reception, and the young Queenslander’s first runs were cheered as raucously as if he had scored a ton or like Lawry put it, “like he was Victorian”.
The queues towards the coffee shops remained long but as the final session arrived, demands for cooler liquids had taken over, even if the mercury levels didn’t rise to any great extent. And the roar that welcomed the final ball of the day was as rousing as the earlier one. Only that there were around 40,000 more people who were making themselves heard around the MCG. This was Boxing Day.