Braided Essay

January 16, 2008

Here is the “first draft” of my first draft. My three braids are my cricket game at Middlebury this past fall, the history of cricket in various countries, and Jiminy Cricket. There are some sections that I have not yet done that I have marked, so please excuse that. I’m still trying to find a suitable ending, and still not confident that the three braids work well together throughout the piece. These are some of the things I plan to discuss in my conference tomorrow.

Crickets

I’m running toward the wicket with index and middle finger over the upright seam of the red ball. The Green Mountains stand in the corner of my eye. Ahead of me I see an approaching wicket, pitch and batsmen from Dartmouth. He’s South African, or maybe English. His accent is ambiguous, but nonetheless definitely not a product of growing up in America. My guess is that it’s England.

**

England is the birthplace of Cricket. To put it in American terms, it’s basketball’s Springfield and baseball’s Cooperstown. The origins of cricket date back to the fourteenth century, but the game’s popularity grew in the 19th century. In the Georgian Era, the cricket was played in the spirit of recreation and pure enjoyment. The Victorian Era, which began when Queen Victoria took the throne in 1837, made cricket an integral part of British society. By 1840, the rules of cricket were finalized, to which professionals abide to even today. Finalization of rules in the Victorian era meant that authorities of the game weeded out the impurities the Georgian version of the game, which was no longer simply a fun activity for just anyone to enjoy. Cricket was now a sport that embodied the ethos of Victorian society—it’s paradigm of etiquette, beliefs and principles. The sport now represented all that was perfect with Victorian society. Therefore, no Victorian wanted this symbol fail. County leagues grew in the country despite their economic thanks to this sentiment. Ever since George IV, the monarchs of England endorsed the game. In 1850, Queen Victoria herself helped establish the Home Park Cricket Club. Although her involvement in the actual day to day affairs with the club, or the sport in general were minimal, her initial approval was enough to trigger the interest of the country’s aristocrats. Those in power wanted cricket to succeed, especially in the form of organized leagues. It was an accepted fact that for dual clubs (teams or cities that had two teams), football paid for cricket’s debts. For example, in 1900, Sheffield United’s football team gained a £1,755 profit while the cricket club suffered a net loss of £521.

England and Cricket became far more connected than simply the country’s elite’s endorsement. A famous headmaster of the time, Dr. George Ridding promoted the importance of cricket in the public educational system when he said “give me a boy who is a cricketer and I can make something of him.” Cricket’s influence in British public schools grew in the 19th century as people felt that exposure to the sport would groom well-behaved, proper British men.

Religious factors of England at the time also influenced cricket’s growth. In the 19th century, Christian leaders introduced the idea of “muscular Christianity”- that brute strength and power were desirable qualities, and that only a strong body could support a strong mind. Cricket, the sport of the wealthy, became the means to the end of muscular Christianity. Religious folk saw the Christian cricketer as the second coming of the gallant Knight.

**

Before the Blue fairy, he was washed up. His faded-blue top hat was full of holes. A patch covered one, but the top itself was partially disconnected. He sported the sweater outside-collared shirt inside look. But his sweater was a bugger-green, or perhaps it hadn’t been washed in forever. His scarf had tattered edges, I couldn’t imagine how it could keep him warm. His pants, oh dear. Perhaps tights that extended half way down his shins or formal khakis that were ripped from years of neglect. Poor guy, his gloves were ripped at the knuckles. I can hardly believe that he was going for the bad-boy, biker look. And his socks didn’t cover his toes.

After the Blue fairy, he was cleaned up. His hat is mended into a hole-less bright blue with an orange band. Sporting slick, black sports coat, complimented with bleach-white gloves, his look is much improved. Under the coat he wears an orange shirt—a bold decision that perhaps only a creature of his humor and wisdom could pull off. His pants are now brown and reach to his ankles, met no longer by torn socks, but rather by dazzling and blue sneakers. And of course, he is now equipped with his red umbrella-parachute.

**

I leap from left leg and curl-hop onto my right. I push off my right leg onto my left as my right arm is completing its windmill action. As my left leg hits the ground my right hand releases the ball from overhead. It bounces fifteen feet in front of South African-no, English batsman on the carpet that we use as a pitch at the Middlebury Cricket Club. He misjudges the ball, I’m sure I have him. See some how manages to make contact and it miraculously goes between two of my fielders. Two runs. Runs in cricket are not a big deal; they are like yards given up in football. Sure he just got two runs, but I have the upper hand as he was confused on the last ball. He is up at the strike again, and it’s another opportunity to claim his wicket. I run the same four left foot approach as the last delivery. Left leg leap, right leg curl hop, release at the end of my right arm’s windmill action. It’s a good ball. Again he’s confused, but this time he can’t make solid contact. The ball edges his back and goes straight back to my wicket keeper. With his gloves, he makes the simple catch, just as he had practiced many times his homeland of the Jamaica.

**

West Indies history
Stoddart & Sandiford’s “The Imperial Game”

**

A jolly fellow. He sang one of Disney’s most famous songs. Even I sing it to myself whenever I’m in the dumps, because after all, it makes no difference who you are when you wish upon a star. He’s tiny, but is wisdom is vast. Wouldn’t it feel good to have such a tangible conscious?  Something concrete that can guide us directly and not fuel the ambiguities life’s decisions. Pinocchio should have listened to him more. If he did, he wouldn’t have gone to the puppet show or to Pleasure Island. Saving his father from the whale’s belly wouldn’t be nearly as difficult. Perhaps he might have even prevented the situation altogether. If he had showed all the qualities that he needed to in order to become a boy, his father may not have needed to go to the ocean. He may have wanted to spend some time playing with his son; teaching him the trade of wood-cutting or a enjoyable game. Only if he listened to Jiminy Cricket. Hundreds, if not thousands of teenagers listened to Jiminy. Advertisers used Jiminiy to help teenagers learn the dangers of drugs and rash driving.  Only if Pinnochio listened…

**

A few hours have passed and they scored four runs. Just kidding. But seriously, cricket is a slow moving game. The sun once high over-head is now beginning to fade in the distance. It’s my turn to bowl again, this time to a heavy set batsmen who has just come to the crease. I have to bowl my six balls from the “football-end” of our pitch—the opposite from the tennis court end of my last over. I’m tired now, hunger is beginning to creep. That’s what cricket tests—your endurance, focus, stamina and will to win. At this juncture the game is close. As I begin my run up, I think of the coaching cues my captain gave me before the game. Keep the ball tight. Good line, good length. Four left strides, leap, curl hop and release later, the ball is out of my hand. It hits the pitch and darts ever so slightly to the left, once again edging the bat. This time it flies to second slip and safely lands in an Indian pair of hands.

**

India cricket history
Stoddart & Sandiford’s “The Imperial Game”

**

Dartmouth has brought graduate school players who have played cricket their entire lives. They win a close game. The world gathers in a circle after the game. I’m the only player to have grown up in America, and they ask me how I learnt to play the game.

Mysore, India. 1996.
–    grandmother urging me to play with boys in the park, I consistently refuse. Finally she takes me to the park, assures me that everything will be ok.
–    I eventually listen to her, learned the game, learn the language and have a great time.
–    Grandmother metaphor for jiminy cricket. Should have listened, but know she’s gone. Message along the lines of recognizing your Jiminy cricket when it’s right in front of you.

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