Monday, 6 May 2013

Cricket and sadness

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.

9 comments:

John Halliwell said...

It is a difficult one to pin down. My favourite OB posts are those that are poignant, in some ways poetic and timeless; possessed of a quietude, that I often read with a smile and a degree of that almost indefinable sadness; all in sharp contrast to a post on the IPL that screams vibrancy and raucousness - always a great read, but no sense of sadness, none whatsoever. So is it about relative quietness that allows unfettered introspection, a harking back to a time when the values of cricket mirrored those of a more courteous society? Or is it the ambience? Watching Barry Richards at the MCG batting like a god in front of thousands would have filled me with pure joy and excitement; watching him bat like a god at Denby Dale, Derbyshire, on a glorious summer’s afternoon in front of a few hundred would have filled me with joy and sadness, sadness that I was watching greatness in an old-world English setting, and unlikely ever to see this magnificent batsman in such a place again.

In other words, I haven’t a clue.

Backwatersman said...

Too true. I think it has something to do with cricket being 'the Summer Game'. Matches begin in the morning, end in twilight. The season begins in Spring, ends in Autumn. Something lost, I think, if you see it as a 365 day a year game to be followed on TV.

Martyn Glover said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martyn Glover said...

Cricket seems to lend itself to introspection and, most importantly, the passing of time in small chunks. Nearly lunch. An hour until tea. Come back tomorrow and carry on. 10 minutes until close of play. Might be rain in a minute. I think it is these markers, mundane in isolation but significant over time, that give cricket its particular force. You carry on as the clouds roll in. Wait around in the hut as the rain falls. Pack up when the clouds hide the sun. Team mates talk, during the days that are grey, about the days that were golden. I think it is not so much sadness but a melancholy, which can be achingly beautiful, that places cricket on some kind of different level. I watched part of an IPL game today on the box and it was sort of fun for a while but nothing turned on it, nothing resonated, I can't even remember the scores other than Mitchell Johnson bowled well and Sachin T did a great runout. In 40 years if I live that long I will be 87 but I can remember cricket now from when I was 7 and I doubt I will remember the IPL 40 years from now. I worry that the capacity for cricket to engender sadness, melancholy and deep excitememt will be lost amongst wham, bang and all that.

Eimila zoe said...

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Tim Newman said...

My own opinion is that I find late summer evenings very melancholic. I don't know why, but I've always found an infinite sadness in the last 30 mins of a beautiful summers day in temperate climates when the sun sets very late. It's almost a feeling of not wanting it to end, and of realising that the day is over, never to return.

I don't know whether it is because, growing up in Wales, such days were rare, but I felt it as early as I remember and I still feel it now. Just last week I was alone in a training centre on an island in the Seine river in a suburb of Paris - everyone else had caught flights home, mine was the next day (to Melbourne, my soon-to-be new home) and I found myself unable to go inside until I'd watched the sun set. I never felt this way in the Middle East or Africa, but in the UK, Europe, or Sakhalin it's a very powerful feeling. It's why I always thought the end of a cricket match was sad, coupled as it often was with the sun about to set on a glorious day.

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