Sunday, 14 February 2010

Brightly fades the Don

That’s the title of the book written by Jack Fingleton, for me the greatest cricket writer who ever lived. Its about the famous post war series, which was Don Bradman’s last series ever, when he led the 1948 Aussies, arguably the greatest test team of all.

So a visit to the home of Don Bradman, is a form of pilgrimage to a cricket lover. I was in Adelaide last week and did something which I rarely do in business travel – took an evening off to go to the Adelaide Oval to see Australia play West Indies in a one dayer.

The Adelaide Oval is one of prettiest cricket grounds in the world. Not the barbed wire coliseums that you see in India. Not even the huge gargantuan monument that is the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground for the cricket uninitiated). A small pretty ground where you can roll on the grass near the sight screen and watch a lazy day’s cricket.

It was a day night match and I could only go after the end of one innings. But then summer evenings are long in Adelaide and it was more like an afternoon’s viewing. The match itself was a hugely one sided affair. The West Indies are no longer the cricket force of yore and Australia specializes in pulverizing anyone who’s not as good as them. But then I didn’t go for the game alone. I went to drink in the atmosphere and to listen to the ghost of Don Bradman.

Cricket is a much changed game these days. Even the one dayers are on their way out – Twenty20 is the “in thing”. In the Don’s days, men wore white. Full sleeves rolled up. The players are now garishly dressed – in red and green with huge numbers on their back and the batsman looking more like the American football hunks. The Don would have tut tutted. The fall of a wicket gave rise to weird contortions in the name of celebrations – do men behave like that in real life ?? The Don would rather have approved a cheery “well done mate”.

Batsmen these days are often wild sloggers – maybe that’s why they are more often called batters. Ugly heaves like a six over third man are met with rapturous applause. One foot is in the air and the other is pointing towards square leg. But then Ponting made a fifty in this game. He still makes those silken cover drives. The impeccable forward defence. The late cut. The straight drive all along the ground …..

As the Aussies pulverized the Windies. I looked around. Rolling on the grass were the usual Aussie types. A river of beer was flowing. Hoots at the scantily clad Sheilas. Wild yells whenever an Aussie hit a sixer. The sun was going down and it was twilight time. The grass never looked greener. The air was still. Not a cloud in the sky. You could hear the satisfying sound of leather striking willow. As if on cue, church bells tolled in the distance. Ponting just delicately glanced for four. All was well with the world. I fancy I saw the Don smile.

PS – Today is Chinese New Year – the dawn of the year of the Tiger. To all my Chinese friends – xin nian kuai le.


Sandhya Sriram said...

for me you are more chinese these days(especially after Zhang Dan taught you chinese so well) and so wishing you "Xin Nian Kuai Le"

Wow!!, bowled over Ramesh. a silken straight drive directly into the hearts of your reader on a warm sunday afternoon waxingly relaxing and amazingingly refreshing. (pl dont mind the grammar here)

Cricket as a game is catching up with the fast pace as every thing else in the world.

If i need to talk my grandmom, i just need to pick up the phone and speak. i dont need to send those long inland letters in tamil with 100 spelling mistakes. but any day, those recollections are a memorable treasure when we think back about them. (like my letters which my grandfather preserved for many many years until he passed away and many of his stuff found their ways to disappear)

Wow what a post Ramesh. i am running short of a phrase in English to coin for these amazing collections of beautiful pieces which you roll off your cuff with so much ease.

RamMmm said...

Wishing you a wonderful new year as well as I transit Hong Kong and type this in. Softly worded like the gentleman's game that cricket once was. I have lost quite an amount of interest in cricket these days, not to blame Twenty20 or any other form of it, just that it passed on.

And the title reminded me of one of the titles of Russian novels that had a lyrical quality to it ("And Quiet Flows the Don" by Mikhail Sholokhov. I have not read it though)

le embrouille blogueur said...

Beautifully executed straight drive into our memories and everything that is cricket related.I had to read this over and over again - and did not want the post to end. I have grown up living and loving cricket and somewhere on the way, I lost everything I used to love about it. I detest the glamour (of stardom etc) that it carries now and hence do not watch any of the new world series.You have said it all. From what was and what is to what we miss.Bravo !!

le embrouille blogueur said...

And a very Happy New Year to you and all your friends in China !!

An Indian in China said...

Kung Hei fat choi. Xin nuan kuai le. Superb post .It must be amazing to be at the Adelaide Oval and see the formidable Aussies play at their home turf . The post is so descriptive that it feels like we are watching the match from the behind the boards. Mr Bogle will very soon be history :-)
A real googly from a real sportsman. You rock Sir. You really do.

gils said...

heyyy :) happy new year to the blog tiger :D and to the real ones..which sorely need a real gud new year..jus 1411 of them left!! so here is a happy new year to all the tigers..may their clan grow (disclaimer: i am talking abt the all those tigers which come under the purvey of the indian wildlife authority (or watever)and nothing to do with our southern neighbour)

Ravi Rajagopalan said...

Gung Xi Fa Cai
Kung Hei Fat Choi

Srivats said...

This is so different post for many reasons, 1. U have put a picture!
2. U are writing about sitting on the grass watching sunset, church bells and Don's smile, Oh my god ! what happen to u ? :))))

On a complete different note, I loved it! :)

kiwibloke said...

A very blasphemous and contrarian view again! Without taking any credit from the great Don, during his career, the main bowlers he faced during a large part of his career were the English trio of Larwood, Voce and Verity, whom he mastered, bodyline or otherwise. While he did have a reasonably successful outing with the South Africans (no comparison to the modern day bowlers, white lightning et al, or even the dream team of Proctor/Pollock before being ostracized), he probably never faced there the likes of the the quartert of Croft/ Garner/ Roberts /Holding and later Marshall) or the incredible swing of Wasim/Waqar, the guile of a Hadlee or Imran and not to forget our own home grown Kapil. Are we right in saying that the Don was the greatest? Do'nt know can't say.

kiwibloke said...

PS: I forgot to add the two gentle giants,who virtually were the last citadels of the once invicible windies - Courtney Alexander Walsh, Curtly Elconn Lynwall Ambrose. Indeed two gentlemen fast bowlers who focussed on their trade rather than histrionics (Shreeshant probably needs to learn a thing or two on onfield behaviour) Ofcourse the metronome called Glenn Donald McGrath has been not included as we are talking humans and not machines delivering precision guided projectiles.

Exkalibur666 said...

Every thing said and done.. there is only one DON.. but then Kiwibloke does lay down some very compulsive arguments.. My view is that Croft/ Garner/ Roberts /Holding / Ambrose / Donald / Waqar and co just may have taken some sheen off the DON's aura but still he would have been a great player.

Deepa said...

"Xin Nian Kuai Le" to you too Mr. Lao Ming Zhi.

There was a time when my mother wouldn't give me food if there was cricket going on, on TV. 'Coz I would take the plate with me and once I jumped out of my seat forgetting that there was a plate on my lap. Some how the sport doesn't bring up those emotions anymore 'coz there is no 'sport' left in it (thats what I feel). The players, the game, are in the news for everything else but Cricket.

There was never a need of cheer leaders to pull a crowd to watch any of the players Kiwibloke mentioned.

In that sense, truly, 'Brightly fades the Don (his times and even long after him)'.

Adesh Sidhu said...

What a wonderful way to describe the whole setting.I never imagined you as a cricket fan...

J said...

Happy Chinese New Year! It must so festive in China right now much like Diwali in India. I am not into cricket the way the other commenters seem to be, but who is this Sheila who was vying for your attention along with Ponting's cover drives:)

Ravi Rajagopalan said...

Inspired by you, I blogged like mad today about cricket.

I remember our cricketing days together Ramesh. I believe I learnt more on those fields than anywhere else.

CMK said...

Lucky you. Watching cricket at an Aussie cricket ground - even if it were the pyjama variety.

A different contarian view - Fingleton being the greatest cricket writer that ever lived - that could be a toss up between Neville Cardus or the aussie Ray Robinson. Jack Fingleton surely will be one of the top contenders for the top writers on cricket who had played cricket at the top level.

Ashwini Shenoy said...

Awesome ... it felt like watching a poetic movie!! :-)

Ramesh said...

@Sandhay - Oh well, being able to say Happy New Year in Chinese after trying to learn the language for a while, is a basic minimum !!

@RaMmmm - Were you transiting Hong Kong ?? I live not too far from there.Haven't read Sholokov's book either, but the similarity in the title is eye catching.

@blogueuer - Yes there's an old world charm about the cricket of yore. It was almost a way of life - witness the exptression, "its not cricket".

@Vinod - Lucky to have caught a game when I was there. Usually does not happen

@gils - I am a "Tiger" too so much warmed by your comments on tigers !!

@Dada - xie xie ni

Ramesh said...

@Sri - Just enjoying being out of China and the joy of being able to do small things like uploading a photo, which the Net nanny bans at home!! And yes, even hard nosed businessmen have a soft heart sometimes !!

@kiwi - Trust a kiwi to trake isue with an Aussie !! Of course comparing players of different eras is a dodgy exercises, but the sheer numbers are so overwhelming that the Don has to be right up there.

@Deepa - Imagining you as a cheer leader is a very pleasant thought !!

@Adesh - Die hard sports fan , I am.

@J - Unfortunately where I live, firecrackers are banned (the nanny again), so the festival is eerily silent. Real Pity. The Sheila ?? well well; some nice ones were there at the Oval.

@Dada - Can't wait to read your masterpiece. Going there.

@CMK - Yes Cardus and Robinson were great writers, and on par with Fingleton, but I just have a fancy for Fingleton. Wish there were writers like that now.

@ashwini - Hooray, the thoughtful train is back. All is well with the world.

RamMmm said...

Yes Ramesh, I typed my comment above sitting in gate 26 of Terminal 1, waiting for my connector to Bengaluru at HKIA. :) And that was an interesting exchange from kiwibloke. That combination of bowlers was the most lethal that I could think of, splattering the opposition in their wake :)

deeyes said...

this is a good piece Ramesh

Deepa said...

:) that yorker was right in the block-hole!

Vishal said...

Wish you a very happy new year, Ramesh!!!

This new year (though in China for the moment) has re-affirmed one of the facts that cricket makes us go crazy. Very well supported by the activities and diverse opinions on this particular thread.

So here are two cents of a person, who lived cricket all his life since primary school, if i recall correctly...

Indeed, Adelaide Oval is very pretty cricket ground. I salute your spirit in visiting this ground on a live match (although a one sided affair) and more so because of the cause that drew you towards this. Yes, Don Bradman is a legend. He might not have played against the most brutal and intimidating bowling attacks of all time, but no credit would be enough for him going by numbers, as you rightly point out.

On a different note, like everything else, this game has also evolved over the time. From two forms, there exists three forms now. There may be more evolutions yet to come. But, the beauty of test cricket has not died. Just at the time when Border and Sunny retired, two all time greats entered the arena and rest all is history. Rememeber Lara who made those mammoth hundreds (300+s) or look at our own little champ who is inching towards half century of centuries. Writing all this on a day when Very Very Special Laxman continued his romance with Very Very Special Edens, I feel re-assured that test cricket is here to stay and Don's smile is here to last long!

PS - Outstanding narration by you, what a romantic way to say so much on cricket, AMAZZZINGGG! :-)

Ramesh said...

@Deepa - :)

@Vishal - Very well said. There's a certain romance over Test cricket that won't ever go away as you said.

Anonymous said...

Adelaide ..... a beautiful place at any time and yes the Adelaide Oval is a very special place


Ramesh said...

@Trevor - Hey thanks for coming to my blog and leaving a comment. Truly you live in one of the nicest places in the world. Lucky you !!

hansjoerg said...


great you did that while you've been down in ADL last week. Knowing what a sports and cricket fan you are, I am so glad you took the time to go and that you got tickets.

Ramesh said...

@Hansjoerg - Yes it was a great to do so and I took a good German in Arndt along with me and subjected him to a cricket lesson !!

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