Friday, December 30, 2005

Records Galore - but do we care?

It's ostensibly been a quite a year in the cricket world - Ricky Ponting's 1500 runs; Shane Warne's 96 wickets in the year, and 657 in total; Lara's 11204 Test runs; Sachin Tendulkar's 35th Test century; Mike Hussey averaging 85 in Tests and 151 in ODIs England regaining the Ashes, finally, and then being summarily dispatched by Inzamam and Shoaib; Richie Benaud retiring from English television; Saurav Ganguly being unceremoniously dumped, restored to the side, dropped and then picked again; and complete and utter chaos in Zimbabwe.

All of that, and I'm not even sure whether I'll ever look back on 2005 in a nostalgic haze.

For many years I have railed against the rose-tinted glasses syndrome - and yet now I find myself a hesitant member of that brigade. Quite simply, things *were* better! All these records broken, and yet 2005 does not appear to have truly captured my imagination. Which is perhaps sad for me, more than anything else.

The numbers 355, 325, 309, 307 meant something to me. As did 10122 and even later 11174. Not to mention 365*, 29 and the incomparable 6996. I remember being stirred when Lillee surged past Trueman and his Gibbs, incidentally on his way to setting a record of 85 wickets in a calendar year. I was moved when Gavaskar went past Bradman's 29, and then the unthinkable 10,000 Test runs. Somehow, I connected in a way that I don't seem to do any longer.

Don't mistake me - I marvel at the genius of Warne and Murali, not to mention Anil Kumble. But I can't tell you how many wickets they have. I consider myself inordinately lucky to have witnessed the genius of Tendulkar, Lara and others on the field, from the stands and from my favourite reclining armchair. I haven't got a clue how many Test runs each has scored. Wasim, Waqar and Ambrose were bowlers I always strove to emulate - but I don't know how many wickets they ended up with.

What's changed? Is it that I'm a little older and wiser, and derive pleasure from things more nuanced than mere statistics? Is it that there is simply so much cricket these days, that records keep coming and going, and the resultant glory is somewhat diluted? Is it that the mystery is gone, now that I can watch pretty much every game from every corner of the globe? Or is it that as the game has become more professional, the charm and character has left it?

Funnily enough, I think the answer is all of the above, and yet none of the above. All I know is that something is different. And perhaps that's the fundamental that we all have to perpetually accept and embrace. An old article of mine opens with the great de la Rochefoucauld observation that "The only thing constant in life, is change." Time to heed those words, methinks.

P.S. The numbers that are truly imprinted in my mind:
  • 355, 325, 309, 307 - Lillee, Willis, Gibbs, Trueman
  • 11174, 10122 - Border, Gavaskar
  • 365* - Sobers
  • 29, 6996 - Bradman

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