From W.G. Grace to S. Tendulkar

I’m in the middle of a quick read of C.L.R. James’ fantastic Beyond the Boundary, a part-memoir, part-post-colonial analysis and history of cricket. Even though I’ve owned the book for more than four years now, I confess this evening was the first instance I sat down to give it a good go — and I’m so impressed I promise to go back to it for more. For starters, take this excerpt about W.G. Grace on the eve of scoring 100 centuries in 1895, at the age of 47:

“Burly as [his] figure was, [Grace] was sustained and lifted higher than ever before by what has been and always will be the most potent of all forces in our universe — the spontaneous, unqualified, disinterested enthusiasm and goodwill of a whole community….Never since the days of the Olympic champions of Greece has the sporting world known such enthusiasm and never since. This is accepted and it is true and it is important — I am the last to question that. What I take leave to ask even at such a moment is this: On what other occasion, sporting or non-sporting, was there ever such enthusiasm, such an unforced sense of community, of the universal merged in an individual? At the end of a war? A victorious election? With its fears, its hatreds, its violent passions? I have heard of no other that approached this celebration of W.G.’s hundredth century.”

The universal merged in an individual. Wonderful, no? I imagine it’s difficult in our globalized and large world for people to feel the same way about sportsmen. Tendulkar’s superstar status makes him seem both near and distant; 21st-century celebrity can do that. But I hear echoes of Grace circa 1895 when little stadiums in England — if I can call Lord’s that — stand up for a stranger from a distant land with almost affectionate applause. The din is different from the one you hear in Indian stadiums — it’s not ecstasy or fervor, but a mark of recognition, praise, and intimacy. Tendulkar, so great, so brilliant, and yet somehow of us. We’ve known him since he was 16, don’t you know.

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7 thoughts on “From W.G. Grace to S. Tendulkar

  1. Som says:

    I”m yet to open the book since it arrived last week along with a few others. Trying to forget what people say about it being the best piece of cricket literature that seamlessly transcends the game’s boundary.

    • duckingbeamers says:

      Well, the trick is to browse through it. There’s a lot of stuff in there that I didn’t find particularly interesting, but his descriptions of cricket and cricket-play are what really makes it a great read.

  2. Cricblogger says:

    South African Fast Bowler, Wayne Parnell has converted to Islam. Read details @ http://cricblogger.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/wayne-parnell-converts-to-islam/

  3. Cricblogger says:

    You may also read about tendulkar records and centuries and why India looses when Sachin scores a ton @ http://cricblogger.wordpress.com

  4. It’s been a while since I read it, but I still remember a great passage in the beginning of the book about a batsman who everyone could get out in practice, but could never get out in real games. It really made me think about the difference between skill and tactics under pressure. Here is the passage on Google Books. http://books.google.com/books?id=hqonvbosbG4C&pg=PA37&lpg=PA37&dq=beyond+the+boundary+napoleon&source=bl&ots=TbOkxzcQaC&sig=MWS34BiC27mpk8JOoI_HfG8Siq4&hl=en&ei=AucyTpaqAaHW0QGEtpXgCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CCYQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

  5. Navin Anand says:

    Well said. Standing up with thousands in Lords applauding for a long time to welcome Sachin all the way to the batting crease was one of the warmest acts I have experienced in sport.

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