Monday, 18 June 2012

Talent and Tom Maynard

There were many tributes today to Tom Maynard, and some, from his mates and fellow cricketers, were heartbreakingly raw, such is the immediacy of the form in which they now come. As you get older what you feel most is the weight of life unlived. Twenty-three years is half a lifetime away from me now - all of those days he cannot have seem very poignant.

Among the Twitter posts was one from Scyld Berry that said: 'Tom Maynard was so talented that when at Millfield [school] he played for the neighbouring village of Butleigh, batted left-handed and hit a 100. RIP.' 

Stories like that one are really about the difference between us, the distance between not just the amateur and the pro, but between professionals and internationals and between internationals and the genuinely great. Ultimately, they see the world differently. Martin Amis described it brilliantly as 'the natural severity' of the truly talented ball-player. What they do is different; when they strike the ball it makes a different sound, it goes to a different place, at a different speed.

Barry Richards once made a fifty against a club side while turning the bat sideways and using the edge, back in the day when the edge of a bat was slightly thicker than a padded envelope. David English recalled the time that Richards turned out for his charity side, the Bunburys: 'He flew from Queensland specially to play against Norma Major's XI at Alconbury. He had no gear, just a well worn pair of golf shoes. With hastily borrowed equipment and a bat so old cobwebs still adorned the handle, the Master, bespectacled, stood at the crease and proceeded tentatively at first, to perform his strokes from memory. He had not lifted a bat for 12 years but scored 52.'

Just this weekend, Mark Ramprakash tweeted that he'd loaned Viv Richards a bat for a charity game, and Richards had made 40 with it. Jeff Thomson remembered a net with Don Bradman in India: 'On a rest day, Bradman was around in the nets. I was bowling only legspin to him, but he had a couple of young blokes trying to get him out. With no pads, no nothing ... for a 68-year-old, he belted the hell out of them on a turf wicket. And he hadn't batted for 20 years.'

It's the same in other sports. My dad, a very decent representative table tennis player in his day, once played against Johnny Leach, the world champion, who beat him using a matchbox instead of a bat. Andre Agassi used to talk about beating players 'both ways' - playing left and right handed. Ben Hogan was said to have thrown some golf balls down on the fairway and hit one onto the green using every club in the bag from driver to putter.

That's the difference, and most of us can only imagine what it must be like to occupy it, as Tom Maynard did.

5 comments:

greyblazer said...

Some great stories there. Tom Maynard was a very talented batsman and as I said on another blog that it is sad to see someone dying so young, RIP.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written and structured article as always.

Mark said...

The Bradman story reminds me of when he was asked how close to his 99.94 average he'd get if he was playing today.

'Probably around 70'

'Why's that - because bowlers are fitter and the fielding is much improved?'

'Yes -but probably because I'm 74 now...'

John Halliwell said...

I knew little of Tom Maynard prior to news of his death. But as I read that news I felt a sense of shock and real sadness. Why? I think you capture it, OB, in that opening paragraph: ‘As you get older what you feel most is the weight of life unlived. Twenty-three years is half a lifetime away from me now - all of those days he cannot have seem very poignant.’ So true.

Regarding the great sportsmen, I wonder what it was like to wake each morning, look in the mirror, and rejoice in the realisation that the handsome face looking back was that of Charles Burgess Fry who had survived another night and whose multifaceted genius would continue to astound for at least one more day? One can easily imagine Fry batting with a tightly rolled-up copy of The Times: right hand, left hand; when bored, with paper held between teeth; taking a sharp single with a hop, step and a jump; quoting from Homer or Shakespeare as he hit a massive straight six; and doing that legendary backward leap, usually on to a mantelpiece, and landing on top of the stumps without dislodging a bail. A bit of a show-off, but then for sporting genius read C B Fry....

Pay per head services said...

oh I like this a lot because Tom Maynard was one of my favorite batsman and he is still actually, unfortunately he left this earth so young