'To get where he did,' Hornby wrote, 'Gus clearly had more talent than nearly everyone of his generation and it still wasn't quite enough. Gus must have known he was good, just like every pop band who has ever played the Marquee know that they are destined for Madison Square Garden, and just as any writer who has sent off a completed manuscript to Faber and Faber knows that he is two years away from the Booker. You trust that feeling with your life, you feel the strength and determination it gives you coursing through your veins like heroin... and it doesn't mean anything at all'.
Hornby was writing about the point at which talent maxes out and goes no further, the place at which it meets its match.
Everyone who played for England in Jamaica has ridden that curve further than nearly all of their generation. They've made it into that famous, insulating 'bubble' where they can imagine that their position is almost unique, explainable only to the others who play with them.
It takes an extra kind of toughness to separate yourself from the others in the bubble, to become a Warne or a Tendulkar or a Waugh or a Boycott or a Richards or a Botham or a Border or a Lara.
A tiny, tiny few of them simply do have more talent; even playing against the best in the world cannot take them to the end of it. But more just seem to have a streak of individualism that sets them apart. From the list above, you could put Boycott and Border and Waugh in that category.
You can bet there are some dirty little secrets in the back of their minds, secrets that pulled them through. One that is universal, I think, is to be able to draw strength and freedom from the failures of others.
It's an unappealing habit, to be up the other end from a teammate who's just been bowled and to know, that in some strange way, it makes you feel better, but every batsman knows it.
It's also the mentality that can enable you to stop a collapse like England's. It's the opposite of the herd reaction. It's one of cricket's great paradoxes that it flourishes as a team game because of the complex needs of the individual.
As England reconfigure their team, they'll be looking to the great individualists to lead the way, as they always have.