A woozy and eldritch time of year, this. We look back, we look forwards, the barriers between past, present and future weaken, shimmer and grow thin. To greet the New Year I shall be fetching my obsidian mirror
down from the attic to observe a past seer gazing into the future (in the aftermath of an Ashes defeat), in the hope that he might help to shed some light on our present discontents.
But, first, to establish where we are, or were, a Starter for Ten. Who is the author of this piece, who is the great cricketer whose name has been redacted and when was it written?
“… the evil doctrine that results alone matter has spread …
So great a cricketer as [redacted] has written contemptuously of those who think that any sentiment or instinct of generosity should enter into the business of Test-match cricket and argued that anyone who held the illusion that they did, had little inkling of the reality and of its strain. Of course he was right in pointing out that the spectator sitting with his scorecard and glass of beer may be within a few physical yards of the man on the boundary, but he is psychologically a thousand miles from the fielder who, is in nerves, mind and body, keyed up to something that is less a game than an ordeal, an ordeal by the fires of temperament and competition. The fact that modern Test-matches have no room for the airs and graces of the game may be granted without argument – the real question is whether Test matches, as they are played now, are, except in the financial sense, for the good of the game.”
a) P.F. Warner about Warwick Armstrong in 1921
b) R.C. Robertson-Glasgow about Donald Bradman in 1937
c) Dudley Carew about Bill O’Reilly in 1950
d) E.W. Swanton about Richie Benaud in 1959
e) John Arlott about Ian Chappell in 1975
f) Matthew Engel about Alan Border in 1991
g) Scyld Berry about Steve Waugh in 2001
… What, will the line stretch out to the crack of doom?
The correct answers are that, stylistic evidence aside, it could have been any of them and c) Dudley Carew.
So, at least we know where we were, but, for the moment, the mirror grows cloudy again …