Events and people that shaped the game

No. 12

Neville Cardus' writing

The man made matches come alive - so what if at times they read vastly different from what actually happened on the field

Scyld Berry

March 13, 2010

Text size: A | A

Neville Cardus makes a speech at the Cricket Writers' Club dinner for the touring West Indies side, 1950
Cardus put in what agency reports left out © Getty Images
Enlarge
Related Links
Players/Officials: Sir Neville Cardus
Teams: England

1930s

If you wish to understand the significance of Neville Cardus, take the agency report of any cricket match. "On the first day the home side scored 268 for 5, the highlight being a century by so-and-so with two sixes and nine fours. The stand-out bowler was X, who took 4 for 65" etc.

Cardus put in what agency reports left out. He introduced the crowd, the atmosphere, the ambience of a cricket match, the personalities involved. He made the match come alive.

It could be argued that this kind of finer writing - writing not reportage - would have been introduced to cricket whether Cardus had lived or not. It could have been introduced by Raymond Robertson-Glasgow, who started writing within a decade of the start of Cardus' career in 1920, or by Peter Roebuck. But it is not inevitable: if Cardus had not set the trend, it is possible nobody else would have done it. Look at all the other sports that are reported to us in the barest prose.

There is a drawback, of course. Cardus' writing was based on his own subjective impressions. If he had got out of bed on the wrong side and felt in a gloomy mood, he projected that mood on to one of the players - perhaps one of his favourites, like Harry Makepeace or Emmott Robinson. Cardus called on literary licence and often took it, for modern taste, too far. He had no television to say he was wrong. He could wander round the boundary at Old Trafford, or even not watch the game at all, and write in the evening that the ball had spun viciously all day and Makepeace had batted to perfection, without anyone contradicting him.

The next stage in cricket writing is to capture objectively the players' feelings and thought processes by closely interviewing them - not by projecting the writer's own thoughts and feelings onto them. Cricket is a unique game because of the time it allows for the inner struggle. And capturing this should be the goal of cricket writers of the present and future. Cardus, the inspiration, deserves nothing less.

This article was first published in Wisden Asia Cricket magazine

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print

    In Larwood country

Diary: Our correspondent makes his way from Trent Bridge to Nuncargate to find out more about one of England's most fearsome fast bowlers. By Sidharth Monga

    Pitching it up

How a medical charity convinced the MCC and the Swedes to help spread the message of cricket among kids in Afghanistan

    'I'd run to watch if Gower was playing'

Part six: Martin Crowe on David Gower's footwork and the steely determination beneath his elegance

    A tale of two SSC Tests

In 1993 and 2006, South Africa's bowlers had vastly different results in Colombo. Brett Schultz and Makhaya Ntini look back

The value of a cricketer's brand

Michael Jeh: Andrew Strauss will recover from the indiscreet remark about Kevin Pietersen, but his image won't be entirely as it was

News | Features Last 7 days

Defensive captains' extended test

The duration of the Test series will allow Alastair Cook and MS Dhoni to reassess the strategies, or provide enough time to get thoroughly exposed

India look for their Indian summer

Billboards are calling the series England's Indian Summer, but it is India who are looking for that period of warmth, redemption after the last whitewash, for they have seen how bleak the winter that can follow is

India's bowling leader conundrum

The present Indian bowling line-up will tackle its first five-Test series without the proven guidance of Zaheer Khan, their bowling captain. India had unravelled without him in 2011. Will they do better this time around?

Bevan's best, and a combined Indo-Pak team

A look back at five high-profile exhibition matches

Five key head-to-heads

From two embattled captains to the challenge for India's openers against the new ball, ESPNcricinfo picks five contests that could determine the series

News | Features Last 7 days

    Defensive captains' extended test (118)

    The duration of the Test series will allow Alastair Cook and MS Dhoni to reassess the strategies, or provide enough time to get thoroughly exposed

    India look for their Indian summer (87)

    Billboards are calling the series England's Indian Summer, but it is India who are looking for that period of warmth, redemption after the last whitewash, for they have seen how bleak the winter that can follow is

    India's bowling leader conundrum (44)

    The present Indian bowling line-up will tackle its first five-Test series without the proven guidance of Zaheer Khan, their bowling captain. India had unravelled without him in 2011. Will they do better this time around?

    What spinners should know about bowling in England (35)

    Bide your time, put your body behind each delivery, and play with the batsman's mind

    Five key head-to-heads (33)

    From two embattled captains to the challenge for India's openers against the new ball, ESPNcricinfo picks five contests that could determine the series