The size of the cricket field and its 360 degree sweep of action give the spectator a variety perspectives and with that arise different appreciations of play. At a club or county match, where the ground can be circled, you can experience at your own pace how the game changes with the angle of view.
At an international match, these biases emerge when friends meet during the intervals and discuss the play. Those seated square on will comment on the pace of the bowling, the carry of the ball or the footwork of the batsman playing spin. Seated straight on and the movement of the ball from seam, swing or turn is revealed.
A single incident carries multiple images. A boundary catch off a top-edged hook is marked from some vantage points by the sudden lift the bowler generated; other spectators will be positioned to track the trajectory of the ball, certain it had shot straight up, or convinced it would carry the boundary; those sitting behind the fielder would have the thrill of seeing the player strain to cover ground and keep balance enough to clasp the ball safely.
This is a week of a month of a year when big things demand our attention. Bigger things than the third Ashes clean-sweep in 136 years. The game that has muddled on for so long may be considering (if given any choice) bold, radical changes underwritten by motives that repel many cricket lovers. Mutton, Haigh, Mehta, Degnan, Bal, Kimber, and many others must be read.
As a cricket blogger, these machinations freeze my ink. I am happy to defer to those I have mentioned. They have political and economic nous and calm minds that unpick what we’ve been told and calculate a prognosis for the game.
One sentence read today, however, from Matt Becker’s piece ‘The Highway is Alive Tonight‘, unblocked me and inspired this post:
The magic in cricket is in the little things.
I have wanted to write about something that delights me about the experience of watching cricket in a large crowd at a major ground, but it always felt so slight that I struggled for a reason to describe it. That the magic is in the little things, releases it.
Watching, say, a Test match: in between overs, the sound of applause, distinct but feint through distance, will drift across the ground. There’s no action for the crowd to respond to and nobody around you is clapping. But some 150 metres away a fielder is jogging or walking away from the square, with hand raised, holding hat or cap, towards a section of the crowd. It’s the bowler whose over has just finished, perhaps having taken a wicket, or completed a spell, but definitely having impressed. And now that bowler is returning to his fielding position close to the boundary, close to a section of the crowd who, independent of allegiance, identify with the bowler and welcome him back.
On the other side of the ground, the noise feels like a reaction to an event already viewed and understood. Or simply an echo delayed by the reach of the ground. At a distance, the harshness of clapping is tempered, not hand smacking hand, but raindrops on a roof, hooves on soft ground; insistent and gentle. Above all it’s the warmth of cricket and its people.
Now is the time to find the balance: getting the big things right, so we can enjoy the beauty of the little things.