Last night I had a terrible dream, the kind that remains with you for a few minutes after you've woken in relief... It was about my my bat, the mighty Excalibur that is the Newbery Kudos. Just as in dreams people that you know well can look unfamiliar and behave in strange ways, so the Kudos had altered: it had thick shoulders, one of which had split, leaving a deep and splintered crack running vertically down the length of its noble back. Rather alarmingly, I pushed at it with a small screwdriver, which fell into the chasm...
It's not a hard dream to interpret. The Kudos is in its second season, its middle growing ever sweeter - the great sadness of which is that it's a signal of the bat's ultimate death, its dry fibres pulling inexorably apart. Through a mix of superstition and laziness it badly needs regripping and re-covering, but there are only four games left in the season and me and the Kudos are going to get there together.
Dreams about cricket happen quite regularly - anything that occupies the waking mind for long stretches must manifest itself there too. My anxiety dream is always on the same theme: having to go into bat but being unable to get my pads on - nightmarish velcro that won't hold - or not having any boots. Less often, I dream that I'm playing well, scoring runs in a game that, it gradually becomes apparent, isn't actually a real game or on a proper ground.
I think it's universal among amateurs and pros. When I met Ricky Ponting (clanging name drop) he said his was leaving the dressing room to go in to bat and getting lost in a vast and unrecognisible pavilion. Horrifying, but not a situation the amateur will ever have to worry about... My team-mate Tom's is that he's running into bowl "faster and faster, swing my arm down harder and harder and the ball just plops down on the wicket..."
However, he happily admits to occasional dreams in which he's "a brilliant batsman". Tom was once coached for two hours by Alastair Cook, who, somewhat perversely, taught him how to play the on drive (I say perversely because the on drive is a) difficult and b) not a shot you often see Alastair Cook playing). In the next game, he made 24 not out, and nailed an on drive, feats he is yet to repeat. This year he's trying to score a hundred - in total, not in one innings - for which he's being sponsored in aid of an orphanage in India. After a swaggering start to the season in which he racked up his first 44 in short order, he is now engaged in a run of noughts so destructive that in a recent match he was telling the bowlers that they were "ruining the lives of orphans" before he'd even taken guard, a reverse sledge that sadly didn't do him any good.
Will such a run of batting provoke an anxiety dream about bowling? Can dreaming of batting well ever cross the strange, liminal border between the unconscious and conscious mind? Apart from their uncontrollability, is there a vast difference between dreams and visualisation? What about the neutral, unthinking 'zone' that is so often aspired to - what goes on in there, when batting itself can feel like a dream in which nothing is unanticipated, in which nothing can go wrong?
NB: If you're one of the bowlers that has plucked food from the mouths of orphans by dismissing Tom and now feel guilty, or if you just want to get caught up financially in the drama of his final push for 56 runs from a possible five innings, you can sponsor the great man here.
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