Australia is well and truly a sporting nation which has deepest respect for the history and legacy of its sporting legends and institutions.
As one enters the strikingly beautiful 159-year-old Junction Oval ground at St Kilda, an entire gamut of emotions starts working ecstasy one moment, a bit of awe, the very next moment about the ground’s history.
And even in his absence, the towering ‘presence’ of a certain Shane Keith Warne was felt at every nook and corner of the ground.
Barely into his teens, Warne arrived at St Kilda Cricket Club as a chubby blonde hair boy from Brighton, who came as a batsman but then gave a new definition to the art of spin bowling.
Warnie came over here as a little boy and was introduced to us as a specialist batsman, who could also bowl seam-up stuff. He was chubby and pretty heavy lad, and never short of a prank or two as kids of that age normally are. He first used to play those Grade III and IV games at outer ground which is known as Ross Gregory Oval, Steve Wain, the in-charge of the ground for the past 33 years, told PTI today.
Interestingly Gregory who played a couple of Test matches for Australia back in 1920’s is the club’s first in-house legend.
He became a soldier later and died while fighting World War II. He was the first hero of this club followed by the legendary Bill Ponsford, greatest batsman from Victoria. After Gregory and Ponsford, came Warnie and as you all know, rest is history, you could see the pride in Steve’s eyes.
The club’s reverence for its heroes can be gauged if one enters the cafeteria, where there’s huge life size autographed poster of Warne in Australian ODI shirt flanked by Gregory on one side and Ponsford on the other.
On the ground floor of the Blackie-Ironmonger stand, named after Test cricketers Don Blackie and Bert Ironmonger is a beautifully decorated room filled with memorabilia’s and rare photographs of the early 20th century till date.
Steve was only too happy to recollect stories of the good old days, mostly involving Warne.
Warnie’s leg-spin skills really developed when his father sent him to England to play club cricket. But it was his first Victoria captain Shaun Graf, who thought that we had a bowler rather than a batsman. I remember his first first-class match at this ground. Victoria were playing South Australia. Tom Moody, launched into Warnie, hitting him for a straight six. But he somehow dismissed Moody, Steve recollected.