Somewhere within it, cricket has a deep, maybe unending, payload of sadness. It's there in its history, in its psychology and perhaps more than that, it's part of what the game acually is.
By sadness, I don't mean melancholy or unhappiness: they are something different. It's not about tragedy, although the game has had its share of those. Rather, it's an emotion that cricket in some way seems designed to evoke.
The late Jonathan Rendall captured something like it when in one of his books he described a man he'd seen sitting in a bar on his own, a drink in his hand and a tear running down his face. "He just needed to let something pass through him," he wrote. Having done so, he drank up and left. That's sadness.
As a writer, Rendall had that exquisite sadness to him and in Twelve Grand he has some wonderful passages about cricket matches at school. The game attracts many people of this character; they see something they need reflected in it. There's a German word, sehnsucht, which is hard to translate exactly. It means hunger but also longing, and describes an emotion both positive and negative. It's there in the first lines of John Arlott's poem about Jack Hobbs:
There falls across this one December day,
The light, remembered from those suns of June,
That you reflected, in the summer play,
Of perfect strokes across the afternoon.
Arlott knew the sadness of the game as well as anyone, and how closely it was linked to the joy and fleeting moments in time, too. At the end of his career, he was visited at his home on Alderney by Mike Brearley for a TV interview, and there are passages of great tenderness and poignancy. Arlott is at times wordless in it.
There's something about the vastness of cricket's interior landscape that can absorb emotions as ineffable as this. In Bret Easton's Ellis' novel Imperial Bedrooms he writes: 'sadness - it's everywhere'. He's right, sometimes it is.
On Talking and Writing about Cricket
3 weeks ago