Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Rex Quondam, Rexque Futurus

I don't like sport. Never did. As a kid I couldn't see the fun in taking your warm clothes off and putting on other very thin ones so you could run about a muddy field in the rain with lots of other people who were trying to hurt you. I never watch football (soccer) and I can't be trusted to watch athletics without making tasteless remarks about abnormal muscle growth.

But cricket is different. I got into watching cricket because of Ian Botham. Botham was something else. He was a musketeer with a willow bat in place of a sword, he was a Victorian adventurer, he was Errol Flynn as Robin Hood. He supplied my need for heroic fantasy, for narratives of courage and the triumph of the human spirit.

And he rarely disappointed. He would go onto the field after finishing off a bottle of brandy in the dressing room and knock off thirty indispensable runs to turn the match. In 1981 he won a Test series against the Australians all but single-handed. He was Legend.

In the twenty odd years since he retired I have continued to watch Test cricket in the hope that history would repeat itself- that the King would return from the isle of apples. As yet this hasn't happened, but there have been many compensations. Test cricket- which is played over five days- provides a complexity of human drama (decisions and revisions that a minute may reverse) beyond the scope of any other sport. Every time two nations meet they add a chapter to a history that stretches back- in some cases- for a hundred years or more. It's like dynastic war without the bloodshed.

And yesterday Nasser Hussein, a decent but not great player and former captain, nearing the end of his career, and with the jackals of the press howling for his demise, won the match with a final stroke that took his personal score past a hundred. It was so good, so right, so unlikely. It was a Botham moment.
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