Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A day at Adelaide

I've only seen one day of test cricket at Adelaide; it was memorable in many respects not just because of the cricket (a tough, well-contested day saw Australia close out the day at 272-6 against the touring South Africans in the first test of the 2000-2001 series) but also because of the elaborate planning that got me to the ground.

It all started with me noticing that the dates for the Adelaide test overlapped with those for the Australian Conference on Artificial Intelligence, which was being held in Adelaide that year. How convenient. I quickly ran down to my colleague and research partner's office, and asked him if he'd want to submit a paper ("Postdiction Problems in Dynamic Logic" no less!) that we'd been working on together to the conference. He agreed; it'd been in progress for a while, we'd already presented it at a workshop and got some decent feedback and it looked ready for primetime. We went over it again, cleaned it up, formatted it in the conference's required style, and sent it off to the conference referees, fingers firmly crossed. My research partner was not a cricket fan at all; he harbored no suspicions whatsoever as to the actual motives for my desire to submit a paper to the national AI conference. My boss liked the idea, and all was well. In a few weeks, we heard back from the referees; our paper had been accepted. The next step was to apply for travel and lodging funds from the department and university. Forms were filled out, signatures obtained, t's crossed, and i's dotted, tickets purchased, hotels booked. Then, suddenly, a wave of panic swept over me. What if the conference organizers in their infinite wisdom decided to schedule our presentation for 14th December, the first day of the test and the last day of the conference? I could ask my co-author to do the talk, but there was no way I couldn't be present as well for questions and the like. There was only one thing to do: lie and beg. I immediately called the organizers to plead my case. It was simple enough: I had to fly back to Sydney on the 14th, the vagaries of Qantas flight schedules and all sorts of booking hassles made it so. There was simply no way that I could present the paper on the 14th. Would the organizers do me the courtesy of scheduling the talk for , say the 12th or the 13th. The harried conference organizer, already juggling the logistics of a large event, sighed, but said that he would look into it. A week later, we received the conference program. Our talk was scheduled for the 13th.

And so it came to be that on the 14th, a successful conference presentation under my belt, I headed to the Adelaide Oval (walking distance from our hotel) with my fellow cricket fans (yup, all of them academics; the idea of submitting a paper to this conference had been suitably transmitted to them as well!). Our group included a German academic, who we had talked into coming along for what we promised him would be a singular experience. We got there a little too early; I had been nervous about not finding good seats in the general admission section. Hence the first photograph of the day shows us sipping beers with the clock showing 9:40 AM in the background.

The cricket that day was tough and hard; South Africa fought well, the runs didn't come easily and Justin Langer battled his way to a tough ton. The beers went down easily on a hot day, not just for me, but for everyone on the Adelaide Hill. As the day wore on, things got out of hand. South African fielders copped all sorts of spray (even I joined in the fun, using some of the Afrikaans I had picked up on my trip to South Africa the month before); South African fans copped it even worse. But the worst treatment was reserved for the women, no matter what nationality they were. Not only did they get the cat-calls, the hoots, the hollers, they were subjected to beer glasses and a bit of shoving as well. It was all a bit much and I wondered what Cricket Austrlia would make of all of this. (Interestingly, the bar on the Hill is the only one I've seen at Australian grounds that had a sign proudly noting its single day sales record, apparently achieved during a Australia-New Zealand one-day international a few years previously). But all in all, it was an enjoyable day marred only by the less-than-perfect day that our German friend had: he had not been an instant convert to the game, and his painful expression was a bit of a downer.

The cricket for me didn't end with the day's play. I had a game to play the next day in Sydney for my team in the Northern Sydney comp, and had made arrangements to be picked up at the airport by my team-mate, our fast bowler, Smoking Joe. The flight was on time, as was Joe. Twenty-four hours after watching Australia play South Africa in a test at Adelaide, I was playing cricket myself in North Sydney. It all felt like a bit of a dream. It still does.

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