ball go fast

One of the freebie books I picked up in Atlantic City is The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers. In the intro it mentions that one of the interviews was conducted at a cricket match. So what did I do next? I leafed through every interview until I found that one, which turned out to be Adam Thirlwell talking to Tom Stoppard. But, here’s what a cricket tragic am I—once I got to the interview I skimmed impatiently through discussions of how Stoppard conceives and writes his plays, of Ionesco and Sappho and 9/11 and blah blah bloody blah, trying to find where they talk about the cricket being played in front of them.

I was beginning to think very poorly of Thirlwell and Stoppard. Very poorly indeed. How could you be at a match and discuss all sorts of arty farty blather, but not the actual cricket? How is that possible? For the love of Keith Miller!

Fortunately after pages of blather they finally get to the point, Stoppard applauds—“Oh that’s a just beautiful shot”—but then, horrifyingly fast, they reveal themselves as non-Cricket tragics. Thirlwell fails to discuss said cover drive and Stoppard says that:

Cricket seemed more or less pointless to me if you weren’t actually a wicket-keeper . . . It’s partly to do with the fact that every ball is frightening, if you’re keeping wicket, because there’s a good chance that you’ll have to deal with it if the batsman doesn’t. And, as you know, when it comes to catches being offered, probably three out of five go to the wicket-keeper, generally. So you feel that there’s a lot of responsibility on you, and one is constantly frightened of publicly shaming oneself—by dropping an easy catch or missing an easy stumping—which of course happened to me all the time, but nevertheless that’s what I liked doing.

While I, too, am fascinated by the wicketkeeper, I’m shocked that anyone could disparage all other fielders. I mean to say! What about the slips cordon? Silly mid on? Long leg? I’m not sure I feel quite the same way about Tom Stoppard now . . .


  1. Cat on #

    Hey Justine,

    do you realise that if I didn’t know you I would have no interaction with cricket at all in my life. None. I don’t even notice if its on TV or not. Even if the TV is on, I don’t notice… if there’s cricket. Cos its kinda background noise. Cricket is boring. I don’t like scrabble much either. Just thought I’d share that with you…


  2. Roger on #

    Rather good description of the wicket-keeper’s art. I should say I’m now fonder of Mr Stoppard.

  3. Justine on #

    Cat: Hmm, let’s see? Did I know that you don’t like or care about cricket? Actually, yes, but only because I’m an incredibly observant writer, not because you’ve, you know, told me so a zillion times . . .

    But I still believe that one fine day when you’re on the road to, say, Sydney, or Damascus, you will see the light. You will discover the one true religion that is cricket. And that’s why we’re still friends, Cat, because I have faith.

    Roger: you never agree with me, do you? Bastard! However, if only for Arcadia I will always think well of Mr Stoppard.

  4. Roger on #

    It is true that I never agree with you. You are correct.

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