This summer Australia will fly to England for the World Cup and, later, the Ashes. It will take about, oh, let’s say, 22 hours, with probably a stop or two. They will cross through 11 time zones. So the 22 hour flight will actually land them 33 hours into the future. Almost half an entire day. Oof.
They are used to such travel, though, surely, and they will probably be able to sleep, and it’s not like they will be flying in the cattle car that we are all used to. And since they are a professional sports team, they will have doctors with regiments prepared to get them over the jet lag as quickly as possible. But, still, it’s amazing, when you think about it, that you fly to the other side of the world and then have to play cricket at the highest imaginable level just a few days later. I supposed at some point time becomes a little meaningless. They eat, sleep, play cricket. All that matters is answering the bell when it rings, like boxers in a 15 round marathon.
But it’s still better than it used be. When England first traveled to Australia to play cricket in 1861, they sailed from Liverpool on Oct. 20 and didn’t arrive in Melbourne until — gulp — Dec. 24. 65 days! Just to play a little cricket. One famous story I found is that the England team had to wait in quarantine after a breakout of typhoid — typhoid! — on their trip over in 1920. An boat travel didn’t disappear when Lindbergh skipped over the Atlantic in 1919, it was the go-to travel option up until the 1960s when jet travel finally made the journey at little easier.
But here’s the deal: I have been home since Saturday but I am still jet lagged and a little sick and travel is one of those things that I adore but every time I do it I’m like: humans aren’t supposed to do this. Like, our hunter-gatherer brains simply can’t handle the whiplash of intercontinental jet travel. I hope to remember how I feel right now when the Australian openers head out to the crease on June 1 in England against Afghanistan. I am going to bet they wished they had spent 60 days on boat instead. (Probably not, but you know what I mean.)
And all this travel is further reminder that cricket is not a sport dominated by domestic leagues, like every other team sport. It is a sport of nations. The rivalries aren’t between two teams in London, or two teams in Ohio, but between two countries 6,000 miles apart, one the colonizer, the other the colonized, the rivalry so intense teams would take to boats and travel across oceans for two months just for the chance to school them on their own patch. That’s pretty cool, I think.