Daily Archives: August 13, 2011

Cook, Bopara and Sehwag: Ritual Combat, Mental Scaring and Lasting Damage at Test 3 Day 3

Was it the British politician, Enoch Powell, who said that every political career ends in tragedy?

Yesterday Alistair Cook set the record for the highest score made at Edgbaston, beating the score reached in a very wonderful and technically innovating innings by Peter May in 1957. 

Yet, when Cook went to bed last might he nursed a mental wound.  When he wakes this morning the open cut will have begun to mend but a scar is developing which will be with him for the rest of his life. 

Every innings ends nihilistically, contaminated by regret.  Every innings leaves a scar.

Cook’s will be a deep and lasting reminder, the legacy of remorse as permanent as a tattoo.  He fell short of the triple hundred by 6 agonizing runs.

His was the innings of a scaffolder, carefully setting out the base and erecting the first row of vertical supports on Wednesday evening. A row of horizontals were carefully placed next morning, always in partnership, always alone.

Every batsman deceives himself, but in reality he is  always a hangman erecting his own gallows.

Ravi Bopara might have been in on the second day of the match when Morgan was twice dropped, first by Sreesanth at backward point and then by Dravid.  But instead he had to wait through a night and then through much of the third day.  Add to these fretting hours the couple of years he has had to wait for reselection and an idea may form of the nerves and expectations that he carried to the wicket when his chance eventually came.

As he took guard he will have known that there was no chance, at 596/4, for glory only psychological disfigurement.  It is a cruel, cruel game, this cricket. 

He had watched as balls spun from Mishra and Raina across the bats of the two left handers and so he not unwisely played for turn.  The ball rotated rapidly towards him, bounced, but for some inexplicable reason failed to grip, kept on at him and struck his pad in front of the wicket – the victim of unpredictable natural variation.

It is most likely that Trott will return for the next Test, it is likely that Bopara has played his last Test.  He will carry the scar for the rest of his life.

There have been something like 15 King Pairs in Test cricket history.  (That is, a first ball dismissal in both innings by the same batsman.)  The membership list is dominated by bowlers and there may have been a run out or two in the forms of dismissal.  Batsmen of the quality of Sehwag do not willingly apply.

Many watching yesterday will have nursed a feeling throughout the day that Cook would fall short of 300 and that Bopara would meet ill-fortune.  Just as many would have predicted a King Pair for Virender Sehwag .

It was one of those days.

Sehwag did not disoblige the god of cricket the sacrifice. Having waited over sixty hours to avoid this fate, thirteen of them in the field, he attempted to drive at a ball from Anderson more than a fraction too short and curving exponentially away from him like a life-raft sweeping away from a man drowning in that unbridgeable river of life.

Sehwag is a member of the exclusive 300 hundred club that had, minutes before, excluded Cook, now he was a member of the equally exclusive King Pair Club.  In fact as a member of both he is in a club of his own –  which distinction he will be reminded of (and remind himself of ) every day for the rest of his life thanks to the angry red scar blemishing his mind.

Later, Swann and Pietersen turned the ball sharply, they will have dreamt of scars inflicted like duelists of old.  The combat may be ritualistic in cricket but the wounds, though mental, are real and last longer than the physical.

India 224 and 35/1, England 710/7 dec

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