In preparation for our first match, the Authors had a few nets sessions at the home of cricket.
- The Authors XI: A Season of English Cricket from Hackney to Hambledon.
- The Authors XI: A Season of English Cricket from Hackney to Hambledon by Charlie Campbell.
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As all cricketers know, winter nets do not remotely prepare you for the rigours of cricket in April… But we wanted the team to spend time together before our first match and Nick organised a final nets session at the indoor school in Edgbaston, under the expert eyes of Darren Maddy and Neil Carter. We were a cricketing Dirty Dozen. So, the dance of strangers. Who knew each other already, and who was new? Whose books had you read and whose books should you have read? How much cricket had you played, and how much better were you when you were young and fit, when your eyesight was actually not that bad?
Were wisecracks a sign of nerves and a desire to be accepted or the way to cement a place in the team? Would he lead from the front as a strong, silent type, or mix things up as one of the boys? It was no longer a question of which of us was. Whose exploits would end in glorious triumph a now internationally-famous six by Holland T. As the French revolutionaries shouted to each other to prepare: And as it happens, that is exactly the cry you need on the cricket field.
After the intensity of our nets session, it was time for our season to begin in earnest. We approached this historic fixture with excitement, selecting an experienced side for our trip to Hackney. Cricket is, without doubt, the matchlessly imperial game. At its highest level it has only ever been played between England, her colonies or her former colonies. Even — perhaps, especially — here in Victoria Park. Eventually, we hook up with some familiar faces from the opposition and are directed to our pitch, one of about six on a large expanse of open ground at the east end of the park.
But there are the players! Straggling groups burdened by huge cricket bags, the odd individual, trying to work out possible Authors XI team-mates. As we all assemble, everyone seems excited by the Authors project, and thrilled to be included. Amol is the one non-white person on our team. The opposition has a single white person, like a mirror of us. Then, at last, we are underway. Nick bowls the first over. Our next fixture was the first in back-to-back matches, putting a strain on our creaking bodies. But in each game, we faced players in their seventies, who showed us how the game should and could be played.
In the Chalke Valley, in my little corner of south-west Wiltshire, I am awoken every morning to a cacophony of birdsong. The hedgerows are bursting with green, while the horse chestnuts drip with dark, fecund leaves and startling blossom. The days have dramatically lengthened, the evenings fresh with expectancy and hope. Lawnmowers buzz, cut grass richly scented on the air.
Most importantly, the cricket season is here, the long winter of purgatory over at last. Of course, I have been in the nets during the winter, and the first match has been a month earlier, but the bareness of the trees in April and the chill wind whistling down the valley has meant it is only now that it really feels as though everything is in place, that the landscape has plumped out with the rich rotundity of summer.
And what a week of cricket it promises to be: I can think of little else. Not even as a teenager watching Ian Botham was I as obsessed as I am now. We will fill out more grant forms, hold more pub quizzes, plead and beg, and sell the Rose Bowl twin peaks. We can do it. Next year, when the Authors play, it will be there. Build it and they will come — generations of future cricketers playing at this field of dreams.
The Authors XI
Our next opponents were the Bushmen — a wandering side not unlike ours, with history behind them and a profession in common. Holding a new bat? Mentally replaying a decent knock? In that respect, commentary is more contemporary than the game. Thus they probably thought about the game slightly differently, framed a different vocabulary to describe it to themselves and to others.
There is a gap between the experience of those who grew up listening to Arlott and Benaud and those subject to its modern stylings. Twenty20 cricket, first played in , is its new colossus, and it has exerted its force on the language as well as the field of play. And yet men who have never seen the game in the way that Arlott or Brian Johnston have seen it are expected to describe it as well as analyse it, and with that something has gone. The Authors XI were due to play the Lords and Commons CC at the breathtaking Wormsley ground on what turned out to be one of the best days of this rain-dominated summer.
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But would people come? Cricket had plunged me into politics long before I was aware of it. When I did turn into politics I did not have too much to learn. James, Beyond a Boundary. But no sport can come close to matching cricket for the sheer volume of transfer into political life. The nature of the modern game is such that the volume of transfer is increasing:.
Yet even in previous eras, where the cult of celebrity was less developed, cricket has proved an unusually fine training ground for would-be politicians. More of that in a moment; for now, we can update C. James who was himself updating Rudyard Kipling in asking two separate but related questions: And what do they know of cricket who only politics know?
As in love, so in cricket — youth has never been any guarantee of competence. They flicker instead with the staccato quality of old cine film, the grainy record of an age that seems almost fabulously remote. When James Joyce, in the early years of the twentieth century, wrote A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, he was looking back to the formative years of a life that had begun in ; but some things, it seemed to me, when I first read the novel, had barely changed since then. Above all, like Stephen,.
I had come to associate cricket with vivid childhood horrors: Whether the cadaverous and quite fabulously antique headmaster kept a pandybat in his own armoury, I was never unlucky enough to find out; but the knowledge that he could and would inflict pain if provoked by disobedience hung over us in our classrooms like a haze of chalkdust. The ambition of the school was clear. Arriving there the unheroic offspring of local estate agents, farmers or solicitors, we were to leave it Spartans. Today, we are taking on a bunch of schoolboys — and a 3rd XI at that. But this is Eton.
It is hard not to cringe. Walking into the pavilion, the honours boards stretch back over the entire course of the twentieth century. I love it — but I hate it, too. It is certainly no challenge now, in such a setting, to savour once again the long-forgotten flavour of my loathing for cricket.
The rest of us slunk back to London after this bruising defeat. But for Tom, this was a moment of radiant joy. From a survey by the British Heart Foundation.
I know this because I chose it for him — it was a gift from the team he has run for over twenty years. For many people, including Tom, this bat is the least interesting aspect of his sporting feat. But there are many of us who place huge importance on our cricket kit, fetishising bits of leather and wood in an alarming way. We travel armed with linseed oil, bat tape and other superfluous items that are almost never required, but we feel almost bereft without them. A builder was in my flat the other day.
Surveying the mess, mostly cricketing in nature, he asked me if I was a professional cricketer. I like cricket kit and own quite a lot of it. I think it makes me better at the game. Sometimes, of course, it makes me worse — like the.
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I was promptly caught at mid-off, trying to hit over the top with that miserable piece of wood. For me this meant my plastic suit of armour, accessorised with a sword and axe. Whites, a cricket bat, pads and gloves were the natural next step.
I may not have drawn my Slazenger V12 from a stone, nor been given it by a Lady of the Lake, but my first bat was no less exciting. It is no surprise that one manufacturer actually puts sword stickers on the back of its bats. Like Arthur, I experienced a sense of destiny. Fortune might not have favoured us on the field but the weather gods were with us for the most part, during this wet and miserable summer.
Kamila and Dan were making their debuts for us, and we were joined for this match by Hadley Freeman and her companion, Arthur. We are hoping for a greater female contingent in the Authors next season, with Scarlett Thomas lined up to play. The occasion in the past has been very attractive to the ladies. Douglas Jardine, writing about captaining an Authors match.
I know and love it as a spectator. If you grow up in Pakistan not-knowing-cricket takes a monumental effort of will, a readiness to be on the periphery of the most impassioned conversations, an anti-social streak which will leave you out of the most anticipated gatherings. In the mid-eighties, when I fell in love with the game, the cricket magazine of choice in Pakistan — the Cricketer — had a female editor, Afia Salam.
And one of the most respected cricket journalists in the country, also female, was Fareshteh Gati, who later played a pioneering role in uncovering match fixing in Pakistan cricket. So when there was a chance to be involved with the Authors CC and write for this book I was only. Cricket has perhaps held more writers in its thrall than any other sport: A hundred years on from their last match, a team of modern-day authors has been assembled to continue this fine literary and sporting tradition in a nationwide tour in search of the perfect day's cricket.
The Authors XI is the story of their season. Many of the stories in this collection are therefore individual stories as much as attempts to address a more general subject. That is the thing, after all, that compellingly connects cricket with literature — the multiple points of view on a single game that Harold Pinter also so appreciated.
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The contributions here are generally of good, if sometimes varied, quality. This patchiness is a strength rather than a weakness, as it connects the book to its subject matter by resembling the experience of watching a team of batsmen throughout an innings. There are solid contributions, stylish cameos and writers who can so deftly craft a sentence like a glorious cover drive that a careless shot or two does not diminish their aura too greatly. Snapper by Brian Kimberling, review. Cricket's famous sons give nurture a tonking. It was a day for grit, not flair, a day of penance to the weather gods for better things ahead.
There is, of course, something self-consciously anachronistic about this whole enterprise, but looking back in history for golden ages is a necessary comfort in these austere times. And the cricket pitch offers to many the most profound escapism there is, both in terms of a constructed reality with different rules to daily life, and a return to childhood. The ideal of Edwardian cricket, historical reality notwithstanding, offers to these authors the promise of some form of transcendental experience and the hunt for the perfect game is irresistible to these makers of myths.
For all the grey drizzly days when spikes are barely able to cling to the greasy turf, it is the one beautiful afternoon of bright warm sunshine — bees buzzing on the scented air, people picnicking by the boundary, balls being cracked to the ropes and sudden drama in the final couple of overs — that flickers long in the memory. His debut novel, Indrakhani Pass, is now available on Kindle.