There were many tributes today to Tom Maynard, and some, from his mates and fellow cricketers, were heartbreakingly raw, such is the immediacy of the form in which they now come. As you get older what you feel most is the weight of life unlived. Twenty-three years is half a lifetime away from me now - all of those days he cannot have seem very poignant.
Among the Twitter posts was one from Scyld Berry that said: 'Tom Maynard was so talented that when at Millfield [school] he played for the
neighbouring village of Butleigh, batted left-handed and hit a 100. RIP.'
Stories like that one are really about the difference between us, the distance between not just the amateur and the pro, but between professionals and internationals and between internationals and the genuinely great. Ultimately, they see the world differently. Martin Amis described it brilliantly as 'the natural severity' of the truly talented ball-player. What they do is different; when they strike the ball it makes a different sound, it goes to a different place, at a different speed.
Barry Richards once made a fifty against a club side while turning the bat sideways and using the edge, back in the day when the edge of a bat was slightly thicker than a padded envelope. David English recalled the time that Richards turned out for his charity side, the Bunburys: 'He flew from Queensland specially to
Norma Major's XI at Alconbury. He had no gear,
well worn pair of golf shoes. With hastily borrowed equipment
bat so old cobwebs still adorned the handle, the Master,
stood at the crease and proceeded tentatively at first, to
his strokes from memory. He had not lifted a bat for 12 years but scored 52.'
Just this weekend, Mark Ramprakash tweeted that he'd loaned Viv Richards a bat for a charity game, and Richards had made 40 with it. Jeff Thomson remembered a net with Don Bradman in India: 'On a rest day, Bradman was around in the nets. I was bowling only legspin to him,
but he had a couple of young blokes trying to get him out. With no pads,
no nothing ... for a 68-year-old, he belted the hell out of them on a
turf wicket. And he hadn't batted for 20 years.'
It's the same in other sports. My dad, a very decent representative table tennis player in his day, once played against Johnny Leach, the world champion, who beat him using a matchbox instead of a bat. Andre Agassi used to talk about beating players 'both ways' - playing left and right handed. Ben Hogan was said to have thrown some golf balls down on the fairway and hit one onto the green using every club in the bag from driver to putter.
That's the difference, and most of us can only imagine what it must be like to occupy it, as Tom Maynard did.
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