Every so often, a newcomer arrives, and more often than not turns out mediocre, miserably mediocre.
Once in a while the boredom breaks suddenly and irretrievably – and out comes a player with extraordinary ability, sometimes in prose form and on rare occasions as poetry.
Poetry, because in a league of extraordinary sportsmen, if there is an odd hint of a Frost, or a Keats or a Shelley, then prose falls flat on its face. And we remain stupefied.
“Was cricket ever this stylish and graceful? Or is it all too unreal?” we ask ourselves rubbing our awe-struck eyes in disbelief.
And if we recall some of these rare sportsmen, chances are that most of us will come up with names like W.G.Grace, Victor Trumper from the Victorian era, Frank Worrell, Frank Woolley, Neil Harvey, Ray Lindwall from the pre/post World War era, Zaheer Abbas, GR Vishwanath, David Gower, Imran Khan, Michael Holding from the pre Modern era, Mohammad Azharuddin, Mark Waugh, Brian Lara, VVS Laxman from the Modern era.
And there are good reasons for that, only a handful of players with such an aura of exclusivity ever existed in the past 100 years and more of cricket history.
“A thing of beauty is joy forever” wrote John Keats a couple of centuries ago. In cricket, it often reminds me of those immortal words in celebration of unadulterated form of sheer style and grace.
Whether it was the silky caressing stroke play of a wristy Azharrudin or the breathtakingly beautiful run-up of a quintessential Imran, it is hard to say which one, to me; in the world of cricket there is nothing more appealing and satisfying than witnessing such rare piece of magic.
Cynically speaking, it is this rare breed that seems to be in the process of extinction. Or are they extinct already? The answer to this is maybe somewhat unpleasant but my response would be an unequivocal yes.
Thanks to the great imagination and creativity of cricket’s modern minds for ruining what is left of this unique breed. In an age which seems to glorify the unnatural and ugly form of cricket (read as T20), it is this special breed that is fading away quietly.
There are ample evidences that attest to it, for it has been close to two decades since the arrival of last such offspring (Laxman) and we are yet to have a new one.
On the other hand, with all the transformations that this sport has gone through, maybe this breed can no longer co-exist, maybe this is inevitable.
As a matter of fact, if we expand our horizon a little bit and look at most other major extinctions (biological species, languages or cultures), often a combination of factors come in to play, but the ever changing environment has been the most crucial one. And if we draw inferences from this, we can come to a definite conclusion that the game of cricket is no exception.
But then, one thing that was ever distinct with a Gower, or a Lara, or a Waugh or an Azhar was their style and grace that remained uncompromised through all transformations.
Personally, having witnessed some of them at the twilight of their careers and some for the most part, this much can be said, take away these players; cricket would have turned out to be a huge letdown.
From a fanatic’s view point this may sound a bit overstated, but you only have to scratch the surface to look through the mystics that lie hidden and the marvels that are revealed.