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Posts Tagged ‘Cricket Litetature’

I got Emma John’s cricket memoir ‘Following On : A Memoir of Teenage Obsession and Terrible Cricket‘ a few years back. I finally got around to reading it.

Emma John and her sister visit their parents during a holiday. During the post lunch family chat, her dad goes to the basement and brings a big package. It contains cricket posters that Emma made when she was a teenager in the ’90s. It makes her nostalgic about the ’90s and about the English cricket team of that time. That team was regarded as a bunch of losers, because they lost a lot of matches. Emma wonders why she was obsessed with that team and followed their matches passionately. She decides to investigate. She also talks to some of the players from that era. The result is this book.

Following On‘ is a beautiful love letter to cricket, to a cricket team, to being a cricket fan. It is also a beautiful book about being a teenager, about growing up, about coming-of-age. I loved Emma John’s descriptions of the players and the matches. I also loved the interviews at the present time that she did with some of the players and the contrasts she discovered between how she imagined they would be and how they actually are. I was happy that many of the players I admired were featured – Michael Atherton, Alec Stewart, Nasser Hussain, Jack Russell, Andy Caddick. I was happy that the maverick Phil Tufnell was featured. Even Alan Mullally was there. It was nice to know that John Crawley is now a teacher in school and Jack Russell is now a painter. It made me think of Chris Tavaré, who after his cricketing days were over, went back to teaching biology in high school. There is something charming about that – cricketers going on to do completely unrelated things, after their cricketing career is over. I remember Evan Chatfield became a taxi driver and Colin Croft became a pilot and Mike Brearley became a therapist and Kirmani became a banker. I would have loved to meet Chris Tavaré, the biology teacher, and attend his class 😊

The book also talks about how Emma’s mom introduced her to cricket, and how they watched cricket matches together and shared the highs and the lows, and how they continue doing it to this day, going to Lord’s or the Oval and watching a match and making a picnic out of it. I loved this part of the book.

Emma’s favourite cricketer from that time was Michael Atherton and the first thought that crossed my mind was whether she has covered the two most important things that happened during Atherton’s captaincy – his legendary 185 (not out) against Donald and company, and the time he declared the England innings when Graeme Hick was batting on 98. Emma covers them in detail and it was wonderful to read that.

I think Emma John’s book is cricket’s answer to Nick Hornby’sFever Pitch‘. It is beautifully written and it wonderfully evokes that particular era. I loved it. This book is also unique because there are not many contemporary books written by women writers on cricket (I know of only Sharda Ugra and Tanya Aldred who write on cricket) and so Emma John is breaking new ground here.

I’ll leave you with two of my favourite passages from the book.

“I’ve always preferred watching my teams bowl to watching them bat. When your team are batting, your instinct is to maintain the status quo, and you don’t really want to see anything dramatic happen. At least, I don’t. I certainly didn’t in the 1990s, when England’s middle order carried a hairline fracture that could snap at any second, and I would watch an entire batting session through my fingers, praying desperately for nothing exciting or noteworthy to take place. When your team are in the field, however, you’re willing the action on. Perhaps even more so when things are going badly. Sure, your bowling attack may be getting thrashed around the park right now, but it only takes a single ball to get a batsman out. Nothing can rob you of that tiny moment of hope when the ball leaves the bowler’s hand. Every delivery is a miniature grenade of possibility.”

“It is fatal for a sportsman to start doubting himself, or his ability to win. By contrast, sports fans have to come to terms with the fact that we are, by and large, losers. Unless we win the lottery of life…we know that at any time the spectre of defeat is likely to cross our paths and ruin our day, our week, our year. We hazard ourselves, again and again, and we aren’t even doing it for the exercise. We’re not gaining physical benefits, or a social life, or status in the eyes of our peers. We’re doing it solely for the hope of a hit of victory, and a vicarious one at that. It’s a strange choice we make, to stake our emotions so wholeheartedly upon such meaningless outcomes. Sport is, by its nature, utterly trivial; a team’s success or failure doesn’t matter anywhere outside of its own universe. I suspect that this is why, paradoxically, we overinvest ourselves. We go all in, like a goldrush victim spying a fleck of something glittery in the ground. When our team win, we’re an instant millionaire; when they lose, we’re bankrupts. That’s the only way I can explain why fans like me keep supporting teams that keep letting us down. We’ve given so much of ourselves to this fictitious universe that we can’t withdraw from it until it has paid us back in good feelings. We become trapped in that gambler’s mentality. No matter what trophies our team win, or how far down the league we fall, we can never get out. As long as there’s another fixture, as long as there’s a revenge match, our sporting narrative goes on.”

Have you read Emma John’sFollowing On‘? What do you think about it?

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