Rain delays at sporting events are not reserved exclusively for reading Australian literature, which I think is a great shame. For example, in July 2016, Alex James, a cricket fan from Brisbane, decided during a washed out session of the First Test between Sri Lanka and Australia to frolic naked on the slickened ground covers, an act for which he was jailed for a week and fined 3,000 rupees (approximately $28). I know this because I overheard two men discussing it merrily on my regular train trip between the Blue Mountains and Sydney. Normally I would have been mildly annoyed – we were in the quiet carriage – but, since I was in the process of reading Jock Serong's second novel, The Rules of Backyard Cricket, their intervention seemed timely.
'Timely' is how Malcolm Knox, on the front cover, describes The Rules of Backyard Cricket, and it's clear he means no coincidence with Sydney Trains or with my reading habits; he means the scandals that dog professional sport, from performance-enhancing drugs to match-fixing, via the occasionally appalling off-field behaviour of young men and women (though mostly men) caught up in the heady mix of being an élite athlete, a celebrity, and a role model. How this behaviour may in some instances shade from larrikinism to self-sabotage, or even cause lasting harm to other people, is the driving concern of Serong's new novel.