It has always been one of the pleasures of cricket that it is a sport with a written literary history. It is a game with a cerebral, emotional and aesthetic hinterland; it has depth and soul. It eschews hype, partly because it unwinds slowly. Its greatest and most resonant deeds take time. This is important because it gives the game a context, a frame into which everything can fit.
It's not as simple as the distinction between an explosive, short-duration sport and a lengthier, more complex one. Boxing and football fall into the former category and yet one has a noble literary lineage and the other has The Sun. The relentless hyping of football has been to its detriment; the game lacks a language with which to describe itself properly. Within its narrow paradigms, the players and commentators flounder. None seem capable of uttering a useful thought. They communicate in bursts of hysterical cliches which narrow their worldview. In a place with no nuance, everything happens at fever pitch.
Cricket's most reductive form, T20, attracts hype, but it's ringfenced by the rest of the game, from the meanderings of county cricket to the ferocity and indelible greatness of Tests.
It's probably appropriate that Australia's much-hyped 'modern' captain, Michael Clarke, hit the slippery slope when he described Shane Watson's slogathon as 'probably the best innings I've ever seen'. Not seen a lot of cricket then, Michael?
Watson's skill can't be denied, and yet, thuddingly, it lacks any context, coming in a meaningless ODI against a weak attack, a few days after a limited overs tournament of genuine grandeur was settled by an innings of substance from MS Dhoni. Cricinfo had it exactly right when they aligned Watson's knock with Jason Gillespie's double-hundred against the same opposition. Watson's deed is only diminished by Clarke's offhand hype.
Clarke, as he well knows, has probably seen scores of better innings. This one was an inevitable product of the new age and it will be repeated soon enough, something that truly great innings can never be.
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