Reviewing the works of Neville Cardus feels a bit like giving the job of singing the Donna Summer tribute to Rebecca Black. It is near impossible to do the great man justice.
Cardus requires little introduction; widely regarded as the greatest cricket writer off all time; arguably the greatest sports writer of all time. No collection of cricket books is complete without some dusty Cardus sitting there somewhere.
He does not write; he describes events and situations in phrases that can be read over and over again.
Leave Lord’s one day and tomorrow discover Bramall Lane and you enter another world. Frankly, the cricket field at Sheffield is a blasted heath, but, as Shakespeare knew, it is on blasted heaths that matters of grim moment come to pass
In the scene at Bramall Lane we had a typical representation of Lancashire and Yorkshire cricket; the stern spirit of it was given significant form by the crowd’s mountainous bulk, the hard antagonism of the play, the ugliness of the setting of chimneys and huddled tenements, all of them telling of the competitive life that is led in this part of England. Almost the only note in the cricket that went on to a ceaseless roar from the multitude was the note of conflict, harsh indeed
There are far too few Shakespeare references in sports writing.
And the vocabulary used. Words like swarthy, unsmutched, The Duke of Wellington is quoted. Language from an era when people had more time, delivered in the most modern of formats.
These are not really to be read, they’re to be pored over; page up, page down; cross checking for references. On Arthur Shrewsbury.
TWENTY-FIVE years ago to this very week Arthur Shrewsbury put an end to his life because he imagined he would never again have the health to play cricket. I saw him only once, and then I was a schoolboy. Probably I played truant—not to look at Shrewsbury, but to watch and pray while Lancashire met Notts at Old Trafford. I remember well the day—a dull morning with clouds gathering. I remember well that I stood for a while outside the sixpenny entrance, looking at the sign which warned me that in the event of bad weather no money would be returned. But the rain did not fall and I saw Shrewsbury. Nevermore did he bat at Old Trafford.
On West Indian cricket
The general public in England has rather got a wrong impression of Sobers, Kanhai, Butcher, Hunte and company. Several West Indian cricketers in recent years have earned good money playing professionally in the leagues of Lancashire and other unromantic places, where no vain swash-bucklings are encouraged. Consequently the first sunshine raptures of Caribbean cricket have been—dare I say?—sobered. Hunte, Carew, Butcher, even Sobers himself, could easily graduate to any Lancashire XI of the Harry Makepeace epoch, when the order of the day was ‘No fours afore lunch; and not too many afore tea.’ West Indian cricket, in short, has evolved from a game to an art, observing, mainly, the discipline that is the basis of any art. A scherzo doesn’t unbalance the most classical symphony and Kanhai’s gyrations don’t disturb the ensemble of West Indies cricket as it is today, assembled for Test match purposes.
And so much more.
Do yourself a favour this winter and get hold of the e-books ‘Cardus on Cricket’ and ‘A Fourth Innings with Cardus’. Excerpts from a lifetime of writing for the Manchester Guardian to use its correct name at the time.
They will not gather dust.
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