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Some Personal Memories: Poetry & Cricket

Poet Sudeep Sen writes about his personal cricketing memories

books Updated: May 25, 2018 17:26 IST
Sudeep Sen
Sudeep Sen
Hindustan Times
Harold Pinter,AE Houseman,Walcott
Indian captain Virat Kohli celebrates reaching his century during the 3rd Momentum ODI match between South Africa and India at PPC Newlands on February 07, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa.(Getty Images)

Apart from the expected non-fiction titles, there are outstanding books on cricket poetry too — A Breathless Hush: The MCC Anthology of Cricket Verse by Hubert Doggart and David Rayvern Allen, and A Tingling Catch: A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems 1864–2009, edited by Mark Pirie — are two examples. Harold Pinter, Les Murray, Roy Harper and A E Houseman are among the well-known modern poets who have written verse on cricket. Andrew Lang’s cricketing parody of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s ‘Brahma’ is “memorable” too.

My own modest contribution — apart from playing cricket in school and para (neighbourhood) — is an extract from my book, Postmarked India: New & Selected Poems (HarperCollins) which reads: “At Edinburgh’s Carlton Cricket Pavilion, we sat / … [watching] how the sixth seam swung unpredictably and / the ball kept low, as were the runs, over after over. … // if the world were a game / of limited-over cricket, there would almost always / be a result in the end, except of course in the case / of a tie.” (from the poem, ‘Over May Day’).

I have innumerable personal cricketing memories — so many hundreds of waking hours secretly listening to static-ridden short-wave radio-commentary broadcasts as a child — taking my father to the home of world cricket, MCC and the Lord’s Cricket Ground. At the latter, during the lunch break of a county match between Middlesex and Sussex, he stepped out from behind the white picket fence onto the greens, caressed the closely mown grass turf, and exclaimed — here is where ‘the 3Ws: Walcott, Weekes, Worrell’ thrashed the English team.

Read more: Review: Eleven Gods and a Billion Indians by Boria Majumdar

Among my topmost memories has to be watching Vivian Richards’ debut Test Match in Delhi’s Ferozeshah Kotla Grounds and also his last county outing for Surrey. Accompanied by the Scottish poet/historian/amateur cricketer Angus Calder, we went to the famous pub adjoining London’s Oval Test Match ground, where typically cricketers gathered for an after-match pint or two. I met Sir Vivian in person, chatted with him at length, and my first book even has an autograph by him — his aura and calypso swagger are still very vivid in my head.

And vivid too is the face of my passionate, cricket-loving late father — from where my gentlemanly fanaticism took root, as well as its undying cricketing inheritance.