April 28, 2007

The World-Cup-shaped void at the heart of my days

ESPNcricinfo staff
Glory all around for this West Indian fan, West Indies v India, 5th ODI, Trinidad, May 28, 2006
 © AFP
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This is the last piece I do here during the World Cup. I shan’t be writing something the day after the final. I’m off on holiday hours after the game ends. I timed this trip to perfection. It’s a terrible feeling (I’m sure many of you know it) the day after an event like this one ends. I’m glad I’m getting out.

The end of a World Cup leaves me with a strange feeling at the pit of my stomach, a sense of intense discomfort as I go about the routine business of the day. Actually, there is no routine business. That’s part of the discomfort. The cricket will have left a void in the rhythm of the day, the days, and I’ll keep reaching for the remote at seven o’ clock in the evening my time and then realising that, well, there is no game to switch on to. (I know this from experience. I’m sure you do too.)

The evenings will seem empty because of there is no match; the days will because there is no match to look forward to in the evening.

So I’m escaping. I’m off to a place (Thailand, in case you’re curious) where cricket isn’t quite a national sport. And I shall take with me the new novel by Ian McEwan and the new book of essays by Susan Sontag to read and JM Coetzee’s Disgrace – for my money, the best book that Coetzee has ever written – to re-read. Besides, the beer will be pleasant, cold and plentiful; and the sea will be nice.

But I’m not so sure that that will fill the World-Cup-shaped hole at the heart of my days. I shall leave you now, as the final approaches, with a short extract from my book, You Must Like Cricket?. The bit that follows talks about how, especially as we grow older, the game offers us a unique, otherworldly thrill. If you've enjoyed reading these pieces – and if you enjoy reading the extract – you could do worse than to buy the book. It’s available on the web (indeed at cricshop linked to this site) and, as my publishers keep saying, at all respectable bookstores.

***

“Life, in its everyday accumulation of miseries and disappointments, its chaos and its agony, is more than we can bear. We, those of us who love the game, continue to love the game even as we grow old because we come to see how cricket offers us a parallel universe to inhabit in our living rooms. The thrills from there seem otherworldly; the disappointments do not have a bearing on my job or family.

And I need only to switch on the remote to switch off from everything else. There is another, calculating, self-serving reason to feed this middle-aged obsession with the game. It is similar to one of the reasons why some people want to have children: so that our kids, once they grow up and we grow old, can take care of us. I have no such ambition for my daughter. But I do see cricket performing a somewhat similar, if surrogate, function. It’s like this. I imagine a situation (and the older I grow the less difficult it becomes to imagine it) in which my career is over; I have arthritis or some other illness which prevents me from travelling much or playing tennis or going swimming; my daughter has left home, my parents are dead, my wife no longer finds me an amusing or interesting companion; and my friends have all died or gone to live in other cities. What will I be left with then? What is it that I know will prevent me from going over the edge, a slobbering old man drooling into his bowl of soup or plate of boiled vegetables? I know for sure that should such an eventuality come to pass (and with life, you just never can tell — life does have a habit of coshing you over the head), cricket will be my most reliable ally.

I will be able to, at the flick of a switch and the turning of a knob, with the riffle of a newspaper or the click of a mouse, be able to invite into my life those familiar images, those thrills, that construct of cricket being life. There would be nothing else. It would be, like many of the ways in which old age is, a second childhood.

I can’t afford to, in spite of pragmatic compulsions, not nurture the friend who I think will help me preserve my sanity. It would be stupid of me, wouldn’t it? Even a cricket fan wouldn’t be that dumb.”

Soumya Bhattacharya is the editor of Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He is the author of two volumes of cricketing memoirs - You Must Like Cricket? and All That You Can't Leave Behind - and a novel, If I Could Tell You

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Posted by Joker on (May 15, 2007, 15:14 GMT)

Interesting....

Posted by Galib on (May 9, 2007, 8:48 GMT)

Yeah, sure, the world cup was soooo boring. Specially for Indian, Pakistani, England, West Indies and Zimbabwe fans. Tsk, tsk, tsk, only if India could beat Bangladesh and Srilanka, and Pakistan could beat Scotland, it would have been the best world cup ever, right?

Posted by mez on (May 9, 2007, 1:04 GMT)

KL, what do you mean the aussies bowlers just aim for batsmens chest? take a look at the dissmissals in all the games and the number of brilliant deliveries which clean bowled opposition batsmen or got them out LBW. clearly you are jealous of Australia's insurmountable performances. Other nations only aspire to play the clinical fashion in which the aussies do. This has nothing to do with being a "gentleman's" game. Bowler's may aswell tell batsmen where they are going to deliver the ball if you want the game to be played in that soft, spineless, "gentlemen-sih" way.

Posted by Virgo on (May 8, 2007, 12:13 GMT)

The World Cup should never return to the Caribbean. This was a flop show from the opening ceremony to the final. Booooo..

Posted by Azfar Alam on (May 8, 2007, 11:46 GMT)

I have been following Cricket since 1982 (when I was 11 years and there was no TV in my town).I have also read a lot about the '75 & the '79 World Cups. What a drag the 2007 edition has been!! I fail to understand why should so many (8) minnows be allowed into the WC.By the very definition World Cup in any game should be a competition between the best teams in the world...but in Cricket we have this strange concept of allowing non-entities like Bermuda,Canada,Scotland etc in the name of exposure. There are hundred different ways of providing exposure to these teams...allowing them to participate in the WC is the worst of all.ICC has devalued the WC by doing this. This practice should stop immediately.Freak results are quite possible in One Dayers and this is what happened when India & Pakistan were knocked out by these minnows. The charm of the event went out after that. This also resulted in huge monetary losses. It defies ny imagination as to how ICC cannot think of such things which are so obvious to the man on the street. ICC is killing Cricket. In fact the Cricket Administrators around the World are absolute duffers. They are creating a situation where something like Packer affair will recur. Take India - Sharad Pawar is a consummate politician who only know how to win election and survive. Has he come out with even one original idea to improve Cricket? He is a master in manipulating public opinion. He is shrewd enough to involve reputed names like Gavaskar, Shastri, Venkatraghavan so that he doesn't get the blame. Then there is Niranjan Shah...by the way who is this guy...what are his credentials...he cannot speak....talks like a moron...how come such people are running Cricket in Inda ?? Indian Cricket will not go anywhere till these guys are at the helm.

Posted by Sam on (May 8, 2007, 2:43 GMT)

It was not a game of school cricket - God Sake It was world cup final why can’t ICC invest on floodlights so the game would have played in decent condition not in pitch black.

Posted by arjan on (May 7, 2007, 17:49 GMT)

The final was a disaster. Everybody has his own thinking and in different way. So it is about time to forget about the world cup and start doing something worthy for yourself and your family. See you all in the next world cup. Cheers. Dont worry be happy.

Posted by Ajith Fernando on (May 6, 2007, 13:52 GMT)

It is sad that the tournament did not live up to expectations. It was far too long in the first place. Then the key teams such as India and Pakistan had to pack their bags at the end of the first round. There were very few good/close matches to keep all biting their fingers. At the end, the finals could not be a full game as should have been. Think at least in future the ICC has to ensure that finals would be of full 50 overs. ICC has to learn a lot from their mistakes and do a better job in future.

Posted by Chris on (May 5, 2007, 20:22 GMT)

At last someone else who doesn't quite know what to do with their time now! OK so here in the UK we've had the snooker, which has been on telly at least as often as the cricket was on the radio. But even that will end on Monday. Then what shall I do? I must sound like a real saddo here, but I truly can't wait another 12 days before the next test starts... I must be addicted... it's better than any soap opera!

Posted by David Norton on (May 4, 2007, 23:21 GMT)

Almost as boring as your book but at least this time I didn't have to shell out £12 to read more of your self-absorbed nonsense. All credit to Australia for beating everyone out of sight, but their excellence apart, the World Cup threw up no more than a handful of interesting matches and a succession of predictable and uninspiring ones played in half-empty grounds.

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