Melbourne, Dec 22: Part of Cricket's pageantry is the Boxing Day Test, which has been a long-observed tradition in Australia. In recent years, the practice of hosting a Test encounter during that special day has been mimicked by South Africa, the only other Test playing nation to reach the peak of the summer season during Christmas.
Truth be told, there is no clear origin of the name "Boxing Day". The term for the day in question - Dec 26 - perhaps derives from the tradition of giving boxes of money and other gifts to the needy and to servicemen. The European tradition dates back to the Roman and early Christian era where metal boxes were placed outside churches to collect special offerings related to the feast of St Stephen.
Another possible explanation is that in several countries, commodities are sold at tax-free rates and goods are "boxed" for large purchases and whole-sales. Boxing Day is also a bank and public holiday observed in most of the British Commonwealth as well as Germany, Austria, Romania and a few other countries.
There were no Boxing Day Test matches played in Australia between 1953 and 1967 and the feature was an on and off affair till 1980 when the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and the Australian Cricket Team secured the rights to play the match annually. So, the Boxing Day Test has been a thriving and continual tradition for the last 30 years.
The Test match on that particular day has been known to unfold to very-large or sell-out crowds. At the MCG, there have been record audiences, averaging between 70,000 and 80,000. At the last Ashes encounter between the visiting English side and Australia in 2006, the crowd was recorded to be 89,155-strong.
This Dec 26th, the tally is expected to go up to about 100,000 as India play Australia, while South Africa play Sri Lanka at Durban, organisers are expecting close to a house-full as well.
Australia has hosted a one-day international against Sri Lanka on Boxing Day in the year 1989 which the home team won by 30 runs to extend the track record at home. While Australia has so far hosted 36 Test matches since 1950 on Boxing Day including four matches against India.
Though India face odds as Australia has dominated 3-0 during the last four encounters, this time around India are termed favourites to register their first test series win against Aussies at their backyard.