By Louis Nowra

You can tell a lot about someone when you play cricket with them. The game
allows plenty of time to talk and reflect. For four years I played for the
Metros, a team captained by the playwright Alex Buzo. We played Sundays and
prided ourselves on our professionalism. We were a team of playwrights, sitcom
writers, actors, teachers, riff-raff and once or twice a poet (every team needs
a whinger).

Alex was a medium pace bowler who once remarked that as you get older
you never
have a faster ball, but a slower one in your repertory. He was also a
batsman. But as he also said: “The problem with the Metros is that
everyone can bowl a little and bat a little – but no one seems to be
better than
average.” Alex had a very dry wit. One match we had to resort to
having the self-mythologising writer Bob Ellis in our team. He was
hopeless at
cricket and completely unathletic. A batsman slashed at a ball and it
into Ellis’s rotund stomach. After reacting to the fact that something
had hit
him he extracted it for a catch. Alex remarked to me as he strolled (he
ran) to congratulate the lucky fieldsman: “This is the only time I’ve
a gutful of him.”

He was a stickler for sartorial elegance. One time (and only one time!)
I wore
black runners when I couldn’t find my white ones. Years later he would
continue to write about my sartorial blunder. And this was the thing
about Alex – he was a man obsessed by details. This was a feature of
his plays. He paid an
inordinate amount of attention to rhythm, style and punctuation, which
made his
plays so distinctive. The difference between a comma, semi colon and
mattered hugely to him. Some of the actors who played in the team would
about the times they acted in one of his plays when Alex would pull
them up
with: “That’s a comma, not a full stop.”

Although he was competitive, he didn’t brood about our losses (that would have
been too time-consuming anyway), because he just loved playing the game. He
also had a hopeless passion for a hopeless rugby league team that is no more.
He could be a miser. If you travelled in his car to a game you had to
contribute petrol money and once he asked my advice on the amount of interest
he should charge his grandmother when she asked for a loan.

Although he felt hard done by in the late stages of his career when theatres
were not interested in producing his work, I never heard him whinge (unlike
poets). One time as we sat under the shade of a giant fig tree in Centennial
Park watching another of our team’s batting collapses he said to me with all
the dry sadness and satisfaction of a man who achieved fame early: “I’ve
had a a good life – not many people can say that.”

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