A search for diversion from the grimness of the news meant a click on the sports tab on the BBC website. What a moment of delight!
There was coverage of a test match between the West Indies and England, from the Sir Vivian Richards ground in Antigua. England were 48-4. but what matter? Cricket is something much more significant than mere results.
Growing up in Somerset, I remember watching Viv Richards at the County Ground in Taunton. He was a player in a different class.
Somerset were in their golden age at that time. In the Fifth Test Match between England and the West Indies in August 1980, Somerset provided Ian Botham and Brian Rose to the England team, Viv Richards and Joel Garner to the West Indies team, and a recognition of the past came in the fact that the umpires were both men who had been distinguished players at the county, Bill Alley and Ken Palmer.
Cricket seems an expression of the quintessentially ordinary. It represents a world that is ordered, that is predictable, that is even dull.
Cricket is an expression of an idyll. Anyone who remembers the closing scenes of Blackadder Goes Forth will remember the desolation of the moment. There is a powerful pathos in Captain Darling’s expression of a forlorn hope that he might have returned to his peacetime job, married his sweetheart, and played cricket for the local club.
Lieutenant George: …Sir
Captain Blackadder: Yes, Lieutenant.
Lieutenant George: I’m scared, sir
Private Baldrick: I’m scared too, sir
Lieutenant George: I’m the last of the tiddly-winking leapfroggers from the golden summer of 1914. I don’t want to die… I’m really not over keen on dying at all, sir.
Captain Blackadder: How are you feeling, Darling?
Captain Darling: Ahm- not all that good, Blackadder. Rather hoped I’d get through the whole show, go back to work at Pratt and Sons, keep wicket for the Croydon Gentlemen, marry Doris. Made a note in my diary on the way here. Simply says: “Bugger”.
Captain Blackadder: Well, quite.
[Outside: “Stand to, stand to, fix bayonets”]
Captain Blackadder: Come on, come on, let’s move.
[at the door, Blackadder turns to George]
Captain Blackadder: Don’t forget your stick Lieutenant
Lieutenant George: Rather, sir. Wouldn’t want to face a machine gun without this.
[they walk into the misty trench, waiting for the off – suddenly there is silence – the machine guns stop]
The aspiration has not been for anything extraordinary, it has been for nothing more than the ordinary things of life, the things that might have passed unremarked, gone by unnoticed. George wishes to return to the gentle eccentricity of his former times; Darling wishes to go back to a predictable domestic routine, work, family, and cricket..
The Chinese curse, “may you live in interesting times,” recognizes how much the dull and the monotonous means to us, how much we value the ordinary, including cricket.