December 11, 2013

Why do we choose cricket?

When you stop to analyse Test cricketers, you can start to see the reason they took up various roles within the game
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Over recent weeks, sitting in front of aspiring young cricketers, I have found myself asking them the question, "Why did you choose cricket?"

Some weren't so sure, yet for those who gave a clear reason, it was like watching a candle glow brighter as they spoke. The joy in their clarity was not only revealing to me, it was inspiring to them.

One said, "I love the moment when it's just me out there. That moment when it's one on one, the bowler running in at me with everyone else watching the two of us go at it. And sometimes it's not even that. I don't see the bowler, just the ball. I am in my own world, yet I am not alone. It's an amazing feeling."

This young man was obviously a batsman. He had articulated in words what I had been searching for all my life, as to why I had become a batsman.

Naturally I was influenced early by my dad, who was a batsman, good enough to play first-class cricket. And of course by my brother Jeff, who was special enough to smash Marshall, Garner, Walsh and Davis all around Sabina Park in one of the great Test hundreds I have seen. I looked up to those two and wanted to emulate them. Why?

Being the youngest I wanted to be noticed, especially by my older brother. I grew up seeking his attention. The best way to get it was to bat as well as him, if not better. Simple as that. So I chose batting as my life's path. Or did it choose me?

And like the young man who so eloquently described his choice, I grew to realise that batting was a special role that fit my personality and character. I wanted the attention and batting gave me that stage.

Why do so many others choose cricket, or specifically batting, bowling or wicketkeeping? How is the allrounder born in a cricketer?

Here is another answer from one of those young men questioned recently. "I find bowling suits me because I can impose myself physically. From a mental point of view I enjoy the fact that it is me, and no one else, who initiates the play. I like to see the reactions from the batsman and then the fielders, to my skill. It starts with me. And when I am in full flow I feel I can control a game."

Then the small keeper said, "I am in the game every ball. I have the best seat in the house as the bowler runs in, as the batsman taps his bat. I am the bowler's key man, the keeper of his work. I love that description: the keeper. I keep the game going with my presence and energy. It suits me physically to keep moving, mentally to keep thinking, and it fulfils me emotionally to be involved all the time. And when I bat I can have that moment of feeling the spotlight, but it's not a priority. I am the drummer in the band."

Cricket is a unique sporting symbol of life; many characters searching for their role in life through a sport that tests one's resilience and resolve, man against man, country against country, day after day

When we stop to analyse the greats of our day, or even the masses who enjoy cricket, you can start to see the reason why we take up various roles within the game.

As I look around the Ashes in full flow, I see the fruits of many years since when these young men first took up their respective roles and started playing cricket with freedom and expression.

Here is a selection of those who stand out:

Alastair Cook: Born to open the batting, to see off the new ball first, to bat long into an innings. Patient, consistent, dependable, honest and steadfast; these are the characteristics that epitomise Cook and what his role requires under pressure.

David Warner: Proactive, aggressive, punchy, driven. This is a style that is needed also. Two openers begin the innings, so a balanced combination of Cook and Warner would easily portray what an opening partnership is all about. Hayden and Langer were the last truly great pair to display this ideal combination.

Kevin Pietersen: A tall, free-flowing ego, an enigma with the ability to steal the show when in the mood; a man wanting to be noticed after a long period of being ignored while he learnt the game. He has matched his drive and mission in life to stand above others with his strapping, flamboyant flair for the occasion. Alas, in taking such a stance he makes glaring mistakes while going about carving out his sublime skill. As the game unfolds, the anticipation rises, the more the stage is set, so batting in the middle order is ideal for him.

Michael Clarke: Athletically balanced and fleet of foot, an intriguing and perky mind, an all-round game against all bowlers, he can change gear to match the occasion, and force his personality onto every match he plays. He is the master and commander of the stage he is on. Or in cricket terms he is the best batsman on the planet.

Ian Bell: A technician, a machine-like run-scorer. Consistent, controlled, economical of movement and emotion. Bell could, frankly, bat anywhere.

Brad Haddin: A fine, upstanding all-round person; not surprisingly, a fine, outstanding allrounder. He epitomises being the drummer and the back-up vocals, a team man and the glue in the team.

Mitchell Johnson: Physical, imposes himself through powerful energy and will. With a clear mind, he is free to express his pace and pleasure for the game. He starts the pain.

Peter Siddle: Likes to be second fiddle. He is modest, unassuming and dependable. His line and length are mesmerically accurate. He will drive geniuses like Pietersen to distraction.

James Anderson: The James Bond of bowling. He looks smooth in all he does, yet has that killer instinct to surprise the unsuspecting. There is the silent-assassin look about Anderson when he is focused on rhythm and swing.

Graeme Swann: Quirky and happy. This demeanour is vital for a spinner, who must toil for long periods, keeping a sense of humour and keeping life real. He knows if he is true to himself he will have his day. Spinners often need to accept a back-seat role, waiting for the right conditions and occasion. Swann is a natural who fits this crucial role the best.

So why did these ten men choose cricket? Or did cricket choose them? Some will say they watched the Ashes when they were young, they felt the inspiration to dream that one day it could and would be their destiny. Some picked up the inspiration to just be a part of a game that fitted their resilience. Some just happened to make it through the maze and appeared. Yet they all fit nicely into the game. They belong.

Cricket is a unique sporting symbol of life; many characters searching for their role in life through a sport that tests one's resilience and resolve, man against man, country against country, day after day. Many sports provide this in different ways, over shorter durations, yet I just wonder if Test cricket isn't the game that really tests the entire gambit, truly reveals a man's life.

Long may it continue.

Martin Crowe, one of the leading batsmen of the late '80s, played 77 Tests for New Zealand

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • concerned_cricketer on December 11, 2013, 10:48 GMT

    Really nice article. Absolutely enjoyed reading it. There are many moments in my life when my mind automatically tunrs to situations in cricket which is analogous to my situation in life at that point. And what i would have done on the field helps guide me to what I should do to deal with my situation in life. When life just goes on ie get up in the morning.., go to work.. eat... work... catch a train... get home and have supper....go to sleep...get up in th morning... --- Thats like cricket - bowler runs in.. bowls a good length... batsman me dreams of hitting it along the ground to cover boundary but just defends it to Mid off... bowler goes back to his runup...and so on. A week is like an over. Then suddenly things change.. I have rush of blood and I take two steps down the pitch and have a swing.. I miss and is stumped. I am gutted in that moment of realisation that its all over till the next match ion next saturday in terms of batting. There are also moments of ecstasy!

  • crying_game on December 12, 2013, 15:49 GMT

    I cannot agree more with D-Ascendant's comment. After all introspection, this simple but weird answer is closest to truth:"we dont choose cricket, cricket chooses us"

  • on December 12, 2013, 6:29 GMT

    great article mr crowe... really,, why we choose cricket? spccially when we couldn't be a cricketer...much valuable question then... even though me not a cricketer but majority of the time of my life i feel like spending in the middle of a cricket field...cricket been such vest of life..

  • Insult_2_Injury on December 12, 2013, 2:44 GMT

    Nice to see someone involved in cricket for such an extended period of their life passing on the virtues of the game and its players. It's refreshingly different to the 'find the negative in everything' which seems to be pervading cricket at the moment. It's great to know that attitude is around young players. Good on you Martin; as refreshing with the keyboard as you were with the bat.

  • on December 11, 2013, 23:05 GMT

    Sublime. Mr Crowe, your batsmanship and your writing as well.

  • cloudmess on December 11, 2013, 22:32 GMT

    Wonderful little article. I loved the youthful descriptions of the batting/bowling/wicket-keeping roles. Like performers from all walks of life, so many batsmen are basically introverts who like attention and appreciation - but from a controlled distance

  • on December 11, 2013, 21:26 GMT

    How could you ask us this question Martin Crowe? Cricket is just in my blood when i was born. Inside my blood there are trillions of small red color cricket balls flowing. Can you tell me any sports where a batsman has as many choices as a batsman has in cricket. No other sports has that much versatility.

  • on December 11, 2013, 18:20 GMT

    Yes Martin, life is cricket. Sadly, for me, I have been separated from my first real love for a decade now and how everyday I makes plan to get back to the game, but this world simply wont let me anywhere near the greatest place on earth, the field, for my love, where I am alive, breathing, and living my life. My life is cricket and it is the master of my universe. So, for people like me, the only true pleasure of being alive is achieved by watching and living the glorious game of cricket. The love is like a free fall where I am constantly falling over a never-ending space trying to hold on to the only sanely thing of my life, that is my first real love, the glorious game of test cricket.

  • on December 11, 2013, 14:19 GMT

    Long may it continue, this glorious game of Test Cricket! .. Amen

  • on December 11, 2013, 10:59 GMT

    Cricket is who we are....the kid is right....when there are two persons against each other you forget about the world n try to be in it as long as possible n make your time out there count....8 guess tht is what being in the zone is all about....perhaps cricket is the only time when we feel complete control over hands eyes n mind....we are children of cricket

  • concerned_cricketer on December 11, 2013, 10:48 GMT

    Really nice article. Absolutely enjoyed reading it. There are many moments in my life when my mind automatically tunrs to situations in cricket which is analogous to my situation in life at that point. And what i would have done on the field helps guide me to what I should do to deal with my situation in life. When life just goes on ie get up in the morning.., go to work.. eat... work... catch a train... get home and have supper....go to sleep...get up in th morning... --- Thats like cricket - bowler runs in.. bowls a good length... batsman me dreams of hitting it along the ground to cover boundary but just defends it to Mid off... bowler goes back to his runup...and so on. A week is like an over. Then suddenly things change.. I have rush of blood and I take two steps down the pitch and have a swing.. I miss and is stumped. I am gutted in that moment of realisation that its all over till the next match ion next saturday in terms of batting. There are also moments of ecstasy!

  • crying_game on December 12, 2013, 15:49 GMT

    I cannot agree more with D-Ascendant's comment. After all introspection, this simple but weird answer is closest to truth:"we dont choose cricket, cricket chooses us"

  • on December 12, 2013, 6:29 GMT

    great article mr crowe... really,, why we choose cricket? spccially when we couldn't be a cricketer...much valuable question then... even though me not a cricketer but majority of the time of my life i feel like spending in the middle of a cricket field...cricket been such vest of life..

  • Insult_2_Injury on December 12, 2013, 2:44 GMT

    Nice to see someone involved in cricket for such an extended period of their life passing on the virtues of the game and its players. It's refreshingly different to the 'find the negative in everything' which seems to be pervading cricket at the moment. It's great to know that attitude is around young players. Good on you Martin; as refreshing with the keyboard as you were with the bat.

  • on December 11, 2013, 23:05 GMT

    Sublime. Mr Crowe, your batsmanship and your writing as well.

  • cloudmess on December 11, 2013, 22:32 GMT

    Wonderful little article. I loved the youthful descriptions of the batting/bowling/wicket-keeping roles. Like performers from all walks of life, so many batsmen are basically introverts who like attention and appreciation - but from a controlled distance

  • on December 11, 2013, 21:26 GMT

    How could you ask us this question Martin Crowe? Cricket is just in my blood when i was born. Inside my blood there are trillions of small red color cricket balls flowing. Can you tell me any sports where a batsman has as many choices as a batsman has in cricket. No other sports has that much versatility.

  • on December 11, 2013, 18:20 GMT

    Yes Martin, life is cricket. Sadly, for me, I have been separated from my first real love for a decade now and how everyday I makes plan to get back to the game, but this world simply wont let me anywhere near the greatest place on earth, the field, for my love, where I am alive, breathing, and living my life. My life is cricket and it is the master of my universe. So, for people like me, the only true pleasure of being alive is achieved by watching and living the glorious game of cricket. The love is like a free fall where I am constantly falling over a never-ending space trying to hold on to the only sanely thing of my life, that is my first real love, the glorious game of test cricket.

  • on December 11, 2013, 14:19 GMT

    Long may it continue, this glorious game of Test Cricket! .. Amen

  • on December 11, 2013, 10:59 GMT

    Cricket is who we are....the kid is right....when there are two persons against each other you forget about the world n try to be in it as long as possible n make your time out there count....8 guess tht is what being in the zone is all about....perhaps cricket is the only time when we feel complete control over hands eyes n mind....we are children of cricket

  • D-Ascendant on December 11, 2013, 10:24 GMT

    We don't choose cricket, Martin. Be it players like you, or fans like me -- cricket chooses us.

  • Thuram3 on December 11, 2013, 8:44 GMT

    When you play cricket you tend to forget everything outside of the "white line". It's like a different world, you forget that you don't have money, you forget that you have issues at work and you forget that there's a whole world going on out there. Unfortunately the professional boat has long sailed for me but at 24 I still think I can play club and other social cricket for years still. I can't imagine my life without the game, not just viewership but playing as well. It's who I am.

  • FredBoycott on December 11, 2013, 8:37 GMT

    Excellent article. I would just add that as well a choosing cricket and cricket choosing you, you can also be born to play, as all the good folk of Yorkshire know too well. I am not an all rounder but both a specialist opening bat and specialist opening bowler. This was not a choice but a god given talent. Some players choose and some players are chosen to play, I myself, was gifted with the talent and had no option but to put it to good use. So few are lucky enough to be so gifted in this way. In fact I'm the only one I know of. #digin

  • on December 11, 2013, 8:23 GMT

    Wow, Martin Crowe's articles are always so thoughtful. It was wonderful to see such a great psychological analysis of cricket without any cliches.

  • on December 11, 2013, 7:56 GMT

    what a beautiful article to read on a mundane office day!! brings back memories of how we loved our game when playing it during our younger days.

  • Nilesh_T on December 11, 2013, 7:42 GMT

    Martin, your articles are refreshingly so good almost on verge of being sublime. Begs the question where were you all these years ? You go beyond the apparent and dive into the entire psyche of the player, the finer nuances of the game itself and explore the depth beneath the veneer surface. Truly masterclass writing just like your batting was, please keep it up. While all writers of cricinfo articles are by and large exceptional, you alongwith Ed Smith and Harsha Bhogle truly stand out in terms of your coverage and analysis with wordings which touch the heart of a true cricket lover. Take a bow..

  • venkatesh018 on December 11, 2013, 7:33 GMT

    I can only second Martin's final sentence: Long may it continue, this glorious game of Test Cricket!

  • VoltaireC on December 11, 2013, 7:16 GMT

    Oh Martin....you write with great feeling and sensibility not very dissimilar to your batting! I used to follow your scores in 82-83 series in England and felt vindicated when you scored your maiden ton with 19 fours. Your innings at LB stadium in 87 World Cup against Zimbabwe was beautifully measured when the poultry farmer 'Eddo Brandes' was bowling quite menacingly! Your 30s and 40s were also elegant 85-86 WSC series in Aus....I can go on....the final stamp of greatness...your success against Windies of 80's. Keep writing....

  • UGOVINDNZ on December 11, 2013, 6:27 GMT

    Martin Crowe: A student of cricket, determined and uncompromising in nature. He emphasised the true worth of runs to a batsmen, as if it is the only means to fulfill hunger and feel satisfied with oneself. A batsmen who knew that runs are golden attains them through quality stroke play and resilience. A Crowe is usually the best batsmen in the team whom teammates and fans try to emulate.

    Crowe was my first cricket autograph and the first name which had fame or hero attached to it. I am glad that he continues to share his perspective of cricket to the world.

  • on December 11, 2013, 6:22 GMT

    Good read I must say. But what about Shahid Afridi? You sure could have afforded to ask one to him or kept a hypothetical one here anyway. Though there won't be any prizes for guessing. He'd have thousands of hearts of his heart and with all those he'd have told you he took up cricket because he loved seeing the ball disappear into the boundary. Through air mostly.

  • I-Like-Cricket on December 11, 2013, 6:07 GMT

    Great article definitely, but wow! How about those answers from kids? I'm sure he must've spoken to more than 3 but I'm impressed anyway that anyone - let alone anyone under 20 - can have that kind of clarity and reasoning for doing what they do.

  • on December 11, 2013, 5:41 GMT

    great article by Mr crow, I feel sad for people at my work place those who donot know what cricket is all abt? I just feel that they r missing a lot but donot know how to explain them

  • on December 11, 2013, 5:14 GMT

    Fantastic article. One of the best I read in cricinfo. excellent piece from Crowe. Great description of modern day players who will become legend. A legend's words for future legends. Also give us a reason why we love this great sport.

  • on December 11, 2013, 4:52 GMT

    Fantastic read. A great new perspective on the sport and it's eclectic characters. Good job Mr. Crowe!

  • SixFourOut on December 11, 2013, 4:51 GMT

    James Anderson is the most over rated player I have ever seen. He is okay, but jeez, they talk him up.

  • on December 11, 2013, 4:34 GMT

    Martin Crowe: you should write a Hollywood movie script and cast Russell Crowe (your cousin) in it. Your writing skills are as beautiful ad your batting.

  • on December 11, 2013, 3:57 GMT

    A very will written article. I must say Martin Crowe is now contributing to 'Cricket Writing' the same way as he has contributed to 'Cricket Batting'. Please keep doing the good work as we don't have many good cricket writers now available.Most of them are fans who use their articles to promote their own national cricket teams.

  • on December 11, 2013, 3:39 GMT

    A breath of fresh air.... perspective from a different angle... I like all your recent articles, #martincrowe

  • on December 11, 2013, 3:39 GMT

    A breath of fresh air.... perspective from a different angle... I like all your recent articles, #martincrowe

  • on December 11, 2013, 3:57 GMT

    A very will written article. I must say Martin Crowe is now contributing to 'Cricket Writing' the same way as he has contributed to 'Cricket Batting'. Please keep doing the good work as we don't have many good cricket writers now available.Most of them are fans who use their articles to promote their own national cricket teams.

  • on December 11, 2013, 4:34 GMT

    Martin Crowe: you should write a Hollywood movie script and cast Russell Crowe (your cousin) in it. Your writing skills are as beautiful ad your batting.

  • SixFourOut on December 11, 2013, 4:51 GMT

    James Anderson is the most over rated player I have ever seen. He is okay, but jeez, they talk him up.

  • on December 11, 2013, 4:52 GMT

    Fantastic read. A great new perspective on the sport and it's eclectic characters. Good job Mr. Crowe!

  • on December 11, 2013, 5:14 GMT

    Fantastic article. One of the best I read in cricinfo. excellent piece from Crowe. Great description of modern day players who will become legend. A legend's words for future legends. Also give us a reason why we love this great sport.

  • on December 11, 2013, 5:41 GMT

    great article by Mr crow, I feel sad for people at my work place those who donot know what cricket is all abt? I just feel that they r missing a lot but donot know how to explain them

  • I-Like-Cricket on December 11, 2013, 6:07 GMT

    Great article definitely, but wow! How about those answers from kids? I'm sure he must've spoken to more than 3 but I'm impressed anyway that anyone - let alone anyone under 20 - can have that kind of clarity and reasoning for doing what they do.

  • on December 11, 2013, 6:22 GMT

    Good read I must say. But what about Shahid Afridi? You sure could have afforded to ask one to him or kept a hypothetical one here anyway. Though there won't be any prizes for guessing. He'd have thousands of hearts of his heart and with all those he'd have told you he took up cricket because he loved seeing the ball disappear into the boundary. Through air mostly.

  • UGOVINDNZ on December 11, 2013, 6:27 GMT

    Martin Crowe: A student of cricket, determined and uncompromising in nature. He emphasised the true worth of runs to a batsmen, as if it is the only means to fulfill hunger and feel satisfied with oneself. A batsmen who knew that runs are golden attains them through quality stroke play and resilience. A Crowe is usually the best batsmen in the team whom teammates and fans try to emulate.

    Crowe was my first cricket autograph and the first name which had fame or hero attached to it. I am glad that he continues to share his perspective of cricket to the world.