No Man is an Island* and nor is any single national team. They all require opponents, a supply of individual talent and people who want to watch the talent play those opponents.
The ten Tests in a row between England and Australia have shown the danger of diminishing diversity.
The rise, fall and partial rise again, over the last eighty years, of the supply of top class talent in the nations of the West Indies demonstrates the necessity of a large base of young people for the prospect of exceptional talent coming to the fore. Numbers matter.
Without a commitment to building and safeguarding an international cricketing community – the Continent of Cricket – Third Man for one, would never have known the joy of watching Syed Zaheer Abbas Kirmani, Pinnaduwage Aravinda de Silva, Shakib Al Hasan or even, Kapildev Ramlal Nikhanj and Frank Mortimer Maglinne Worrell.
How many potentially wonderful players are out there today, aged four or five and kicking a football made from old socks through the crowded allies of the world’s shanty towns or shooting a basketball towards an improvised hoop?
A charm of cricket and a source of joy has always stemmed from the way social and cultural divisions are blunted as the players cross a symbolic boundary onto the field of play. The banter, the presence of strangers and the freshness of the day impact immediately on relationships between those about to share the field.
Another delight stems from the recognition that there is a chance, however small, that this very day some coach walking through a maidan may glimpse in outline the presence of another Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, or that some teacher looking out on the playground may see in the corner of an unfocused eye a young person approach a hastily chalked crease with the rhythm of a future Wesley Winfield Hall.
But if no one takes a bat to the maidan or inscribes a set of stumps on the playground wall, cricket will never know who might have been and how they might have graced the game.
On a visit to the Great House to play for the Squire’s side, John Donne, (left arm fast at the start of his career and left arm tantalizingly slow later) made it clear: “Any man’s loss to cricket diminishes me, because I am a clod of the promontory, a citizen of the community of cricket.”
Members of the ICC, it’s not a case of tinnitus you hear ringing in your ears, it is Master Donne bellowing his antique warning at you:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.