Cricket Led Astray

Is cricket being led astray?

“I fear it is, Third Man, I fear it is,” said the Squire, his head between his hands.

The travellers have returned and kicked the sand from their sandals.  An air of depression pervades as the luxuries of the Emirates, physical and mental, wash through the blood stream.

The only consolation is provided by the camellias that are beginning to bloom along the south terrace of the Great House.

Set against their glossy leaves, the vivid reds foretell of spring with the regularity of a pavilion clock.

“A promising year,” the Squire is told by Williams, whose family have cared for the camellias over the generations.

But the Squire is in no mood to hear him.  He has taken to spending long hours on the exercise bike staring at the blooms and listening to a cracked recording of Marina Poplavskaya singing Violetta’s recitative How Strange! from Verdi’s La Traviata or The Woman Led Astray.

“What more can I hope for?…
What should I do?
Enjoy myself,
Perish in the whirlpool of desire.
Enjoy myself!”

The Squire has a theory that, in the finale to Act I, Verdi is commenting on the state of cricket.

“1853, TM.  Even you must remember the situation.  At the time of the first performance, William Clarke was traipsing across the country one day with his All England XI, playing to massive crowds and racking in the dollars, the next he was captaining Nottinghamshire or pulling pints in the Inn.”

The good old game still played to the limit on the village Green.  There you are Green: Verdi.  I tell you it is all there; the complex tensions between the new pleasures of professionals set free from their betters and employers and the old virtues.”

“The Marylebone Club in a state of abject paralysis – that’s Alfredo – cricket as the heartbeat of the universe, mysterious and exalted, pain and delight of the heart.”

“It is the professional Clarke within Violetta when she sings:

I must always be free
To hurry from pleasure to pleasure,
I want my life to pass
Along the path of delight.
At daybreak or at the end of the day,
Always happy, where ever I am,
My thoughts will ever fly
Towards new delights.”

“Listen TM, listen!”  From the phonograph the plaintive voice of Miss Poplavskaya singing:

“When I was a girl, a pure
And diffident longing
Showed me the dear image
Of him, for whom I waited.
When in the sky I beheld
The brilliance of his beauty,
And this divine fallacy
Sustained me.”

“Madness, Third Man, Madness!

“Pleasure! Pleasure!
I must always be free…”

“But Your Grace, she chooses Alfredo.”

“She is already dead, Third Man.  Acts II and III are fillers.  She cannot make time. The disease is too far gone.”

“And today?”

“As the clock face tells us, what goes round, comes round.”

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Cricket Led Astray

  1. John Halliwell

    Welcome home, TM. Clearly a great trip. At first sight of photo 1, I thought it was of England’s Rugby World Cup squad’s first training session after arrival in NZ. But all quickly became clear. I hope the Squire doesn’t do himself a mischief on the exercise bike: Marina, Verdi and camellias make for a heady mix. Looking at the scorecard for the 1853 match, the Lords’ ridge must have been an absolute brute.

  2. There is much relief in the Great House that for one guest at least ‘all quickly became clear’.
    Ground development has always been a difficult subject for the Club, John. Whether or not to employ one of those new fangled mowers caused much debate and agnst. (But at least, then, they didn’t lose a former Prime Minister.)
    It is likely that, in the early part of the 1853 season, the horse and the sheep left imprints that could not be rolled out.
    TM

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