I’ve had David Coleman’s signature squawk reverberating through my consciousness this week.
This of course a function of my age and disposition as a dumbed-down sporty geezer, every ‘natural’ response to news or events played out around the place being filtered through ball(s)-tinted memory.
So no surprises that what felt like an EXTRAORDINARY week of cricket-related drama – Newlands/Gayle/Big Bashings – resulted in such a violent struggle for understanding that I’m fearing I may myself have been the subject of this other Colemanballs…
He just can’t believe what’s not happening to him.
Nor can I be sure if
In a moment we hope to see the pole vault over the satellite
is something a daft-but-lovable commentator once said or a perfectly reasonable – if surrealist – appreciation of how things currently are.
Life is bewilderingly wunnerful but I’m not sure how comfortable I am with the coalescence – or should that read ‘submergence? – of World Events into the chavisthmus that is sport-in-my-head. I’m not sure how wise or practicable or manageable it is, being unsure which time-zone hold sway or where the edges are between Dukes or Kookaburras or Gun Control or Nuclear Tests. Pretty frequently, it’s turned out (sorry Bethan, sorry kids!) I’ve been both manically watchful and glazed over; immune and ecstatic; absent and then wallowing in the profound. Essentially lost to it.
This evening is a very different evening from the morning we had this morning.
Much of this is down to the Test Match at Newlands, a venue which c’mo-on, has hardly helped. As a plainly ludicrous mixture of the sun-blasted, glacially-perfect picture postcard-with-chronic-baggage and the symphonically serene (but not)… this choice of location location has done nothing to still the fast-twitch/slow-mo-ness of *experience*.
The second thrash between South Africa and England has been something else. Principally it’s been a reminder that the word epic is waaay too small, too monotone.
Five days in a Test Match. Suddenly that’s become a subject for debate not a statement of fact. The Instagram Generation snipping and snapping away – eroding. The Authorities frantically feeling the pulse of Public Opinion. (Quite rightly.) Thunder rumbling elsewhere – colourful, relevant, undeniably (financially) attractive thunder. And pray what did the gods of Table Mountain portend? Of what did they speak? And what be their message?
Firstly, that Test Cricket ain’t dead. Not even over that crazily anachronistic five day thing it ain’t dead. In fact (yes, whilst we take stock and whilst we inevitably make increasing provision for short-format cricket) Newlands spoke eloquently of the unique fascinations of the long-form game.
Nothing else has all of it. Not the brewing or unraveling individual processes with scope for redemption four/five days later… in the same game(!) Not the accruing mental challenges that wear upon the soul, the confidences, in different genres. Not that cruel exposure when your bit fails – when you let down your mates, your country – or (despite ALL THAT TIME, that selfless effort!!) you cannot make a breakthrough. Not that particular kind of poignant exhilaration, when your ton means everything to you, your dad, maybe and yet this is not, ultimately, triumph itself.
We can talk about the event or the events for decades (and may) but surely Newlands can only be understood as some kind of majestic, appalling, glorious, defiant, inconclusive tribute to (or of) our capacity to view. To understand perspective, meaning, action – substance. Look at Stokes! Look at Bairstow. Look at that shrunken Amla reinventing some form, some proper Amla! Look at the implications of that field change; the offer of that boundary over the top. Look at the newspaper, even – it’s gone quiet. What day is it – or sorry, which day is it?
The word is unique. And whilst of course this doesn’t necessarily or always mean good it does mean something. Probably that anything providing this measure of drama and tension and atrophy and drinking time and perplexity and grief and scope really may, in our short-format world, be kinda precious. The knitting or muttering aproval or the silent joy of it. Maybe especially that thing that non-cricketpeeps don’t get – that dimension of time: the thing that means it’s okay to miss something or drift from proceedings and still be completely doing the cricket.
So forgive me for not majoring on Stokes or Bairstow or Amla or the pitch. That’s all stored, for sure, alongside the blurred recognition of this week’s iconic facts and figures. What got me though was the sense of twisting, turning, unfurling but then foreclosed drama. The kind of drama over time you just don’t see.
Elsewhere the Gayle controversy confirmed everyone’s prejudices about everything – unsurprisingly. However if you didn’t hear Melinda Farrell and Neroli Meadows interviewed for ABC Grandstand then you effectively lose the right to your opinion. As I said on twitter
Not good enough to say the #Gayle thing – however it was intentioned – was ‘harmless’. Harm was done.
Finally, something sad. Two young men – one 22, one 28 – deeply embedded into that soft target the #cricketfamily were lost to us, suddenly, in recent days.
As I write the circumstances around their deaths remain (I hope this doesn’t sound either callous or indiscreet) slightly uncomfortably mysterious. But what is clear to me from my involvement with both that cricket community and the internet is that a genuine and powerful amount of love for these fellas has been stirred; suggesting overwhelmingly they were outstanding humans as well as outstanding talents.
Can we agree that in all sincerity the names of Matt Hobden and Tom Allin have been marked and appreciated within our disparate but strangely/wonderfully united throng? Can we accept both the sadness and the fact that they were involved – they made an elite-level contribution – to something fabulous? To cricket.
I’m fearful of finishing on a morbid or a corny note. But would like to say something about the value and maybe the appeal of this daft game of ours. And I promise this won’t be a quote from David Coleman.
I get why people love cricket. (I do.) It’s something to do with the richness of the challenges. The diversity. Or maybe just the feel of a new ball – a cherry-red cricket ball – in your hand. Or it’s the tactical ‘get your head round this, skip’ thing. Or it’s the slowness, or the rewards for flow, for timing, for movement. Or it’s how, in its incredible complexity it’s so simply revealing of the human. That bloke or girl swinging a bat, bowling a ball.
But hey, that’s just how I look at it.