Diary Australia

Sydney diary

15 January 2022

9:00 AM

15 January 2022

9:00 AM

The Test matches between Australia and England in Australia have not been much of a test of the Australian side. The much-anticipated Ashes series has been a no contest. England has competed only occasionally, in brief spurts and has been thoroughly outplayed, outclassed, outfought, and outthought by a superior outfit on every front.

Having watched the match both at home and at the Sydney Cricket Ground, it is on television that one can see the game in the best possible light. Indeed, the pace of Test matches, like T20 games, is now controlled by the dictates of broadcasting. While the expert commentators complain about the slowness of the over rate, that slowness is perfect for the commerce of television. But at the SCG, and paying $190 for the privilege, I was once again reminded of just how poorly the spectators are treated. The food and drink arrangements are primitive and limited but it was the slow pace of the game that really struck me, and the weakness of the umpires in not doing more to keep the game moving forward. Umpiring is a difficult task but their meandering between overs, particularly that of Paul Reiffel, made me wonder if he is physically up to the task of standing and concentrating for five days. Perhaps the time has come to have umpire changes during the match, in the same way that we have bowling changes. Three umpires could rotate, session by session, two on, one off.

There is no doubt that Smith is once again the most powerful player in Australian cricket. Pat Cummins may be the captain in name, but wonderful player that he is, he is a glove puppet and Smith the hand. He is an incredible batsman but the Smith and Labuschagne show has become a little tiring. Watching the two in the dressing room (only visible on television) pushing each other and giggling like a couple of tweenies, it really does make one wonder. When either one is out, it takes an age for him to drag himself from the field, implying that the dismissal is always unfair and the cause for simmering teenage resentment, rather than due to the skill of the opposition. As I watched Marnus Labuschagne leave the field after his dismissal in the first innings, I remarked to my partner, who had just walked into the room and has no interest in cricket, that the departing batsman was acting like a sulking 13-year-old. She remarked that our son is a bit like that, but he is only 13 years old. Would that in the future he has the skill in his chosen field that Smith and Labuschagne have in theirs, but hopefully not their manners or mannerisms which border on insulting to the opposition. This is another aspect of the game which the umpires should be monitoring, as with the constant delivering of messages to the batsmen in the guise of bringing on drinks.

One forgets that this is important stuff for a 13-year-old, that they take it all in and mimic; the way their heroes behave, the betting ads, the fast-food plugs, the inane social media sponsors. Some children in the crowd try to make snakes of their bucket hats imitating the louts with their snakes of beer cups. The examples set by some of the players, and the governing body of this and many other sports need to be questioned. Thank goodness then for Usman Khawaja. Finally, at the risk of being called a whingeing Pom, I would dearly love to see an analysis of the umpire’s call and whether it favoured the stronger team. To me it seemed like the ‘luck’ was always on the side of the favourite. But then, maybe I am just clutching at straws as England has been abject against a good Australian side.

After everything that we have been through over the past two years and may have to go through in the coming year, there is still so much reason to embrace life and spirit. This I discovered when visiting the exhibition Matisse Life & Spirit, Masterpieces from the Centre Pompidou, Paris. It is a marvellous, uplifting exhibition of colour and joie de vivre that runs until 13 March 2022 and the perfect antidote to the drabness that has been foisted upon our world by disease, politicians, and the media. The ‘lightness and joyousness’, colour and inclusion of more than 100 works which have come exclusively to the Art Gallery of NSW from the collection of the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris and select private collections, is outstanding. It allows the visitor to follow the life journey of Henri Matisse (1869–1954), who discovered ‘a more remote and far more marvellous country. He discovered Joy.’

Life & Spirit, provides the visitor with untold joy, from Matisse’s early fauvist works at the start of the last century, through the radical years of The Great War, his sculptures, his years of experimentation, his Tahitian adventures, the famous cut-outs, his personal upheaval in the 1940s through illness and the torture of his wife Amélie and their daughter Marguerite as members of the French Resistance, through recovery and renewal to peace and calm exemplified by the creation of a spiritual masterpiece between 1948 and 1951 at the Riviera hill town of Vence with the Chapel of the Rosary, this ‘grande composition’ for the Dominican nuns delightfully re-created in part within the exhibition. Born on New Year’s Eve in 1869 and raised in monochromatic northern France, his epiphany occurred with a gift from his mother. He said, ‘The moment I had this box of colours in my hands, I had the feeling that my life was there. Like an animal that rushes to what it loves, I plunged straight in…. Before, nothing interested me: afterwards, I had nothing on my mind but painting.’ If in time the colours in your mind’s eye begin to fade after visiting Life & Spirit, and just in case travel to Paris, the Côte d’Azur or Tahiti is on hold in 2022, purchase the superb catalogue. In its pages you will be able wistfully to return to a life of joyous colour and spirit.

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