Comebacks and all that


Bob Simpson—the patron saint of comebacks. Source: Daily Mirror

Hello, there. It’s been a bit. And a lot has happened.

A year ago, I somehow tricked the great minds at Wisden into publishing an essay I wrote. Even more ridiculous, I convinced myself into flying across the Atlantic and attending the release event of the 2016 edition of the Almanack. The ridiculous became the surreal when, at said event, I managed to sweet talk an MCC member into taking me up to the vaunted Pavilion—a domain few Americans have tread.

It was one of the most remarkable nights I’ve experienced.

For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by those who know cricket, those who love cricket, those who are steeped in the game’s history. Not only did I sit next to Matthew Engel—but I somehow managed to hold a conversation with him! Even now, it seems otherworldly.

I drank wine next to the Ashes. I wore a tuxedo in the Long Room. I received a copy of Wisden with my very own name listed as a contributor. It was sheer magic.

Then I didn’t write about cricket for a year.

Why? Well, honestly—after a night like that—sitting on a couch in the U.S.; watching dodgy streams; and slinging vowels, consonants, and em dashes into WordPress feels a bit underwhelming. When you’ve lived a dream, it’s hard to step back into reality; there’s a part of you that wants the ephemeral to remain uncorrupted forever.

So I didn’t write. Until now.

Writing is hard in the best of times. It’s fucking impossible every other moment. That’s not to say that my life has been beset by troubles or difficulties the past year—I’ve actually been very lucky—but finding the time to write for pleasure hasn’t been easy. However, with an attitude like that, maybe that’s why I’ve only been once published in Wisden as opposed to managing to become a monthly contributor to Vanity Fair. But that’s neither here nor there. For me, writing is hard (always, always hard)—which is a bit strange because, when the stars align, I can be fairly good at it.

Perhaps it would be simpler to say I’m just lazy—but that’s a bit vulgar. And in cricket (or cricket writing), we can’t have that. There always has to be nuance. And excuses.

In the Wikipedia entry of Bob Simpson (cricketer)—not to be confused with  Bob Simpson (meteorologist), Bob Simpson (Louisiana Politician), and Bob Simpson (Mormon)—there’s a wonderful line:

In his prime Simpson was known for his technical correctness. At slightly below average height, his noted ability to bat for long periods was attributed to his high fitness and concentration levels. He had a wide array of shots, in particular off the back foot.

Technical correctness. Long periods. High concentration levels. 

As Bob Simpson was to the willow and leather, I wish I was to the keyboard. But I’m not. In fact, in terms of writing, I’m a bit closer to Chris Gayle after three to four gin and tonics than I can be compared to any renowned Test batsman. I can smash the occasional six, enjoy the cheering of several dozen voices in the stands, and go home a happy man. There’s a part of me that doubts I’ll ever be the architect of the journalistic world’s century: the long-form masterpiece. But maybe that’s OK? At least that’s what I tell myself. I often wonder if cricket’s short-form maestros tell themselves it’s OK that they’ll never net a Test ton. I think they probably do.

Although, to be fair, it’s probably easier to compromise when you make a lot of money.

One of the more deflating occurrences on the internet is the blog, the YouTube channel, or the Twitter account that, once curated with care, slowly, inexplicably withers away. Sometimes, after months of silence, they’ll return and pathetically proclaim, “I’ve been gone a long time—but I’m back for good!” As if anyone noticed their absence in the first place. Usually, nothing follows. Only silence. Maybe they found better things to do. Maybe they stopped caring. There are many, many good reasons to turn one’s gaze beyond the internet. But I’ve always found these e-ghost towns and false dawns profoundly sad. It’s deflating to see someone’s hobby die uneulogized. That’s what happened here. For the past year, this blog has been a mausoleum.

Is this a return? Maybe. I would like it to be! But comebacks are only fun if you persevere, withstand, and succeed. Everyone remembers Bob Simpson’s return. No one remembers Fred Trueman’s. I would like to continue to write about cricket—both here and elsewhere—for a long, long time.

I just have to work on my fitness and concentration levels.




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