Poetry In Motion : Frank Tyson (and a few thoughts about the Ashes)

No cricket for me this week (the first spell of fine weather has, inevitably, saved itself for the break in Championship cricket).  I suppose I should take the opportunity to offer some thoughts about the forthcoming Ashes series, but a) I’m too hot to have meaningful thoughts about anything very much and b) I can’t believe that there is anything worth saying about it that hasn’t already been said several times over (not to mention a great many things that would have better left unsaid).

All I would say is that I can’t think of any other instance in major sport of two sides playing each other 25 times in succession, without a significant break, over a period of 6 months, so we are, in a sense, in uncharted territory.  Perhaps the words ‘and it’s Peter Siddle coming in to bowl to Jonathan Trott‘ will, as Summer turns to Autumn and Autumn to Winter and the first shoots of Spring begin to appear, become as familiar an accompaniment to the rhythms of everyday life as the sounding of the church bells on the quarter hour and we will find ourselves shocked and perturbed by their sudden absence as February dawns.

I’d suggest that the best chance of the megaseries developing a narrative of much interest (to all but the barmiest of Barmies) would be for the Australians to find some way to prevent England ‘executing their plans‘ and win, if not the first series, then perhaps the first Test.  No doubt there will be some intriguing sub-plots (the Root/Compton/Bairstow triangle may some life left in it, for instance, Pietersen might fancy going out with a bang) and some fine individual performances, but Australians do have a regrettable tendency to be less tolerant of losers than the English and, unless they are on roughly even terms by that stage of the marathon, I fear the spectre looms of a Boxing Day Test watched predominantly by hooting, tooting Barmies.

But any series may be redeemed (or made) by the emergence of a new, largely unsuspected genius (Warne in ’93, Thomson in ’74, Pietersen in ’05).  Another such was Frank Tyson (28 wickets at 20.82 on the ’54-’55 tour) whose 1961 autobiography ‘A Typhoon called Tyson’ I happened to pick up the other week.  It contains the brilliant series of action photographs taken by W.G. Vanderson of the Daily Mirror, of which this is the finale

Frank Tyson

and concludes with a piece of writing that ought be enough to encourage any young man to consider taking up fast bowling.  (Tyson had read English Literature at Durham University, and was known to have followed up a bouncer with a pithy quotation from Wordsworth):

“If I had my life to live over again, I would not ask for success alone, sweet though it is.  I should only want to be allowed to bowl fast once more.  To those who have bowled quick, really quick, there is no comparable feeling in the world.  The sudden clutch of suppressed anticipation as you mark out your run: the hesitancy that blossoms into arrogant confidence as, from a shuffling slow start, the stride quickens, lengthens, and becomes smoother; two yards from the wicket now and time to give it everything you’ve got; the body swivels, left hand plucking at the clouds, right arm swinging in a deadly, ever-quickening arc as the batsman appears in the sights over the left shoulder; the left leg is raised high, ready for the final plunge and the body is poised and ready; crash! – the skull shakes and the muscles of the body jar screamingly, as the front foot thumps down like a pneumatic-hammer and the ball rockets on its way at the cringing batsman, pursued as if by an avenging angel, the bowler’s flying body.  What power there is in bowling fast!  What a sensation of omnipotence, and how great the gulf between this sublime sensation and ordinary, mundane everyday existence!”

Not sure Peter Siddle would put it quite like that.

2 thoughts on “Poetry In Motion : Frank Tyson (and a few thoughts about the Ashes)

  1. An exceptional piece of writing. Is it typical of the book?

    It seems to me that if it is we we may be talking about one of the great lost works of cricket literature.

    I was aware of Tyson’s graduate background, and have seen odd things written by him over the past couple of decades from his vantage point in Australia, but nothing quite as good as that.

  2. It isn’t all on quite that level, unfortunately, though it is exceptionally well written, articulate and astute with occasional bursts of lyricism. Tyson was unusual as a cricketer in being a non-Oxbridge graduate and seems to have decided that he was going to bowl flat out for a limited period and then retire to make use of his degree, as opposed to the typical professional fast bowler who’d bowl within himself for most of the time to prolong his career.

    He does make a point of stressing that the book is all his own work – ‘It seems the fashion nowadays to have someone else to write one’s cricket autobiography. I admit openly that Shakespeare ‘ghosted’ my opening sentence, but my indebtedness to any ghost ends there, for mine is a personal message which I want to deliver myself.’ – but he also mentions John Arlott in the acknowledgements ‘who has turned the arid plain of my indolence into a productive garden.’ I suppose it’s possible JA had a hand in some of the more florid passages.

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