In what could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, cricketers from Sunshine United lapped up their chance to play on the hallowed turf of the MCG last week.
The Tigers, who play in the Victorian Turf Cricket Association’s top flight senior division, featured in the Regional Twenty20 Big Bash final against Berwick, going down by 41 runs.
Irrespective of the result, it was going to be an unforgettable day for both sides as they got the chance to take centre stage in the middle of the ‘G, something normally reserved for state and international cricketers.
Tigers opening batsman Neeten Chouhan said he was struck by the enormity of the ground when he walked out to bat.
“For me, and speaking to everyone that played that day, it’s definitely a dream come true,” he said.
“Just to walk out there, you get a sense of awe in a way.”
Sunshine United’s path to the MCG was strewn with tough battles.
Both sides had to run the gauntlet to feature in the final, but it was well worth the long qualification process.
“We worked it out that you had to win 10 games in a row just to get to that point and that’s what we did,” Chouhan said.
“The fact that we got there was the great experience anyway.”
While some bemoan the length of the professional Big Bash season, local cricketers are not as exposed to the game’s shortest format enough.
Sunshine United’s players have taken to the format like a duck to water.
The Tigers have a number of players suited to the entertaining crash and bash style of play.
“We try and get the game moving along, so that helped,” Chouhan said.
Sunshine United was behind the eight ball early in the final.
Berwick, affiliated with the Dandenong District Cricket Association, set a massive task, posting 5-161 off its 20 overs.
Matthew Chasemore (67 off 35) and Jordan Cleland (51 off 40) showed no signs of nerves for Berwick as they blasted the Tigers attack.
Michael Glowacki and Nalin Amarathunga snared two wickets apiece for Sunshine United.
“We didn’t bowl badly,” Chouhan said.
“I think our captain Daniel Norris had the right game plan, but on the day they had a couple of big hitters that took it away from us.”
The Tigers were in deep trouble at 4-37 before a revival was sparked by the middle order.
Thomas Duxson settled Sunshine United with 34 off 37, before Amarathunga (37 off 27) and Leigh Sheridan (21 off 18) tried their best to pull back the required run rate.
The Tigers finished on 7-120 off its 20 overs.
While the loss hurt, this game will go down as one of the great days in the Tigers’ history.
“It was a big moment for the club,” Chouhan said.
“It’s literally putting the club’s name in the whole of Victoria’s minds for that day, which was good.”