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An idiot's guide to cricket writing

Journalists sit in the press box during a rain break PA Photos

"Who is Ferozshah Kotla?"

"What happened to pehla?"

"Why so many Pollocks?"

"If you have a cricket stadium that has a Pavilion End, but then move the pavilion to another location after renovation, what happens to the Pavilion End?"

"We will be happy to arrange for an exclusive one-on-one interview for you with Alastair Cook if you are prepared to mix this festive vitamin supplement into his beverage when he is not looking. Are you interested? Please?"

These are just some of the many email queries we have received here at this column from eager cricket fans all over the world. To each of which we have responded with attention to detail and/or criminal prosecution. In today's column we would like to tackle yet another intriguing and thought-provoking email from a reader.

"Dear Mr Vadukut,
Recently I had the opportunity to read some wonderful articles on cricket by your esteemed colleagues such as Jarrod Kimber, Osman Samiuddin and Siddetcetera Vaidyasomething.

What is their secret? I have been trying to write articles about cricket for many years. But I have never been able to replicate their emotional use of prose, evocative use of clause and exquisite use of simile and metaphor.

Can you please help me? Please find attached my writing samples.

Sincerely,
Giddiup Neigh (name changed)"

Dear Giddiup,

Many thanks for your email.

I have spent the last few days looking at your writing samples, and after a suitable period of recuperation, I have distilled your problems down to a few bullet-pointed notes. I hope this analysis will help you.

What you are writing: "The seventh one-day international between England and Sri Lanka started at 11am Colombo time on Thursday."
What you are doing wrong: Where do I begin? So many problems. First of all, you do not need to specify that an ODI involves Sri Lanka. This is taken for granted unless otherwise specified. Secondly you are taking too long to get to the point of your piece. In the post-modern era nobody has time for time and place and sexual orientation and horoscope. You need to jump right into the action, with brutal, almost microscopic granularity.
What you should have written: "The thin disc of metal flew through the air, light glinting off its surface, a mere infant in the arms of old man gravity's inevitable embrace, as the Sri Lankans' tender vocal chords thrummed and formed the word: 'Heads!' It tumbled and tumbled - the disc - like the seasons, the clouds, the planet itself - and then fell down to earth. Tails. England would bowl first and lose later."

What you are writing: "The bowler delivered a ball, which pitched on length, clipped the outside edge and flew to the slips."
What you are doing wrong: The idea of great cricket writing is not to tell the reader what is happening on the pitch. This is a very basic error that novice cricket writers commit. If people want to know what happened during the match they will go to YouTube, no? Instead the idea is to tell the reader what is happening in the cricket writer's mind as he is watching the match unfold in front of him. You must stretch time, caress each nano-second, squeezing every possible word out of your per-word remuneration contract.
What you should have written: "There was a hint of inevitability in what happened next. The ball looped through the air, swooping like a leather eagle off a cliff of finger flesh into an ocean of knackered turf. Only, this time the prey wasn't that Chilean sea bass you just caught and let go because your father has a conscience, but cold, hard, bat-edge. Just as tasty. Just as alive. It leapt, it clipped. But would it carry? This is when your mind begins to play games, draw imaginary parabolas, competing conjectures of curvature. But it stuck. A wicket for the ages! Habemus Papam! Excelsior."

What you are writing: "With this defeat India seem poised to lose the series. This caps a period of prolonged disappointment for captain MS Dhoni."
What you are doing wrong: Humans are not like Virender Sehwag. They have emotions, they have feelings and they have broken dreams. And through the cricket writer they want to tackle these emotions vicariously. A good cricket writer will wallow in both victory and defeat, relishing the emotions that both generate. Stay, linger, evoke, provoke, shamelessly manipulate the reader's emotions.
What you should have written: "Defeat. Defeat after defeat. Defeat after defeat after defeat. England have any many questions to answer. But so far they have only provided a single, croaky-throated, bloody-mouthed response: "We don't know the answers." MS Dhoni is a beaten man. But is he a broken one? It takes a leader to lead. We all know this. But it also takes a leader to stop leading. Right now Indian Test cricket is sitting by the boundary ropes, crestfallen, chin buried into that chest, hopeless. Dhoni must walk up to that limp spirit and whisper something into that bleeding left ear or bruised right one. What he says will determine the future of Indian cricket."

I hope you will take these lessons and implement them in your writing as soon possible. I wish you best of luck in your pursuit of esteem.