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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9 Comments

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

  1. Excellent, TM, especially ‘every batsman deceives himself, but in reality he is always a hangman erecting his own gallows’.

    Not to mention the fact that Viru is now in a club of one.

    My thoughts also turned to Cook and Bopara:

    http://differentshadesofgreen.blogspot.com/2011/08/related-pasts-different-futures.html

  2. diogenes

    an interesting post 3rdMan. On a different, maybe related topic, about those favoured by the Gods of Cricket…I have been delving into cricinfo on the topic of Boycott’s partnerships. The results on one level may be surprising…

    His most fruitful partnership was with Gooch and amassed 2150 runs over 56 innings (average 41 for completed partnerships). The second most fruiful partnership was, perhaps not surprisingly, Edrich for 2082 runs (average 50). Third comes Gower 1202 runs at 52 and fourth comes Barber with 1171 runs at 47.

    The partnerships he was involved in amassed 18039 runs. He, of course, only contributed 8114 of those runs. With D’Oliveira, he put on 611 runs at 102!

    I still have the dataset, in case you have any questions. I was surprised by some of the things it threw out.

    • Now Diogenes,
      These revelations need to be published.
      How fascinating.
      Just the fact that he scored 44% of the runs in the total of his partnerships. Would you know on average per innings how many partners he had?
      Of the 2082 scored with Edrich, how many did each batsman contribute?
      Questions, questions.
      TM

  3. diogenes

    questions, questions….. these will take a little time to answer but I have the bit between my teeth. Of course, it can be difficult to be totally sure how much each batsman contributes to a partnership, because of extras but I am making some assumptions that should not skew the figures too much.

    Some things jump out. For instance, in some of the partnerships he had with Milburn, he outscored him quite heavily, eg 20 out of 32 runs! However, of their 8 partnerships, only 2 passed 50. In their biggest partnership, Milburn scored 83 out of a partnership of 132, which seems more likely.

  4. diogenes

    On average, Boycs had 2.3 partners per innings but I don’t think this is very insightful. Also, my estimate is that he contributed about 51% of the runs to his partnerships with Edrich – it is hard to be sure because I cannot work out the contribution of extras.

    A few thoughts.

    1/ He opened with 16 different people! That tells you something about the selectors, including twice with Titmus and JT Murray! Were there really no better batters available?
    2/ He participated in 47 century stands of which 20 were for the first wicket. However, there were probably a mere 3 occasions where I can be reasonably sure that he contributed a century or more to a partnership.
    3/ Prior to his hissy fit in 1974, his was the first wicket to fall in 57 of the 110 innings. Post the break, he reduced it to 29 out of 83 innings. Pre-break, his major partners included people such as Edrich and Luckhurst who were of similar mind and often outlasted him. Post the break, his partners included dashers such as Gooch, Randall, Rose and Larkins who you would expect to play more loosely. However, it is notable how Boycs slowed down over time. Pre the break, his striking rate was quite often around 50. I think that after the break, he was more determined to keep his wicket safe and he tended to the low 40s and below.
    4/ Pre the break, there were 5 instances of batters retiring hurt. After the break, only the one incident, despite the West Indies attack of the early 80s.
    5/ Guess who was at the other end for his 2 6th wicket stands of over 100 runs?
    Anything else?

  5. diogenes

    I am truly surprised at how many of his poartnerships were zero.

  6. diogenes

    I suspect a lurking hatred of Amiss on account of the way that Amiss outscored him in 1973……….and the Greig factor

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