|LISTENING TO CRICKET by Ben Roberts|
Why do I like cricket so much? Does it come from the feel of the bat or the ball in my hand when I played the game a boy and later as a solicitor in the annual Perverts v Lechers match on the green at Lurgashall? Is it because of all those times as a child, I would pore over the cricket results in the paper and marvel at the names of Cowdrey, Grout, Sobers, Barrington, O'Neill, Pollock, Trueman and Hanif? I still find myself transported back to my childhood when I look at today's results in the daily paper. Is it because of the times I was taken to Lord's or the Oval either by my cousin Ian or by Father Michael, the curate at St Michael's Church in Golders Green, where I sang in the choir? Ian adored cricket and I remember coveting his collection of Wisdens at his house at Goring-by-Sea in Sussex where I stayed once with my late sister, Janet. Many years later, Ian invited me and my twin sister, Sally, to come over to the house to take away what books and records we liked as he was moving to Thailand but the Wisdens had already gone.
I enjoyed the days at cricket with Father Michael because he also took with him an older member of the choir, Sylvia, who he (and I) rather fancied. In those days, we sat on the grass behind the boundary rope and I saw my heroes from the results in the paper such as Ted Dexter, Brian Close, Brian Statham etc. Or do I like cricket because the game is so interesting and enthralling? I was once at a dinner party and the men were talking about the then current Test Match and a woman said something like "What on earth is so interesting about cricket?" and I responded by saying that it wasn't just the game itself so much as the characters in it and that, for example, whenever David Gower went out in front of 20,000 people to face Merv Hughes bowling like a titan for Australia, we were to witness a contest between Supreme Skill, Grace and Vulnerability (Gower) and Brawn, Raw Power and Speed (Hughes). It wasn't about who scored what and who won but about individuals with the same fears, dreams, competitiveness and bodies as our own coming together in that one moment when a ball is hurtled at the batsman at 80 or 90 miles an hour from only 22 yards away. Either the stumps are shattered or the batsman leans back and executes a perfect cover drive as if he hasn't a care in the world.
So, this is what this photograph is about. Life. Love. Communication. Childhood. Respect. Success. Failure. Memory. Heroism. Oh yeah, and Cricket. I love this picture because I am not really there. I am being photographed by Ben and I am looking at the camera but my mind is elsewhere. It is on the field with the England team winning the Ashes. His beautiful American girlfriend Francheska, is in the background admiring Jane's paintings whilst Ben shoots me. It is a lovely Summer's day and I am spending it with two people I have never met before. They are in love and are getting married in a few weeks' time. They have travelled over from their home in Madrid to marry in England where Ben was born. I show them some films, we talk about cricket, art, nudity, marriage, TV, films, photography.
We wander down to the sea and Ben photographs me there too, on the brick pier near where I swim some mornings if the sea is not too rough. Every so often, as we stroll along the front, I listen in to the score. Gulls wheel over over our heads barking like bandits in that coarse way of theirs, a few people brave the cold and totter tentatively into the water holding their hands up until they dip down slowly and then rise up rather more quickly. We have a drink and chat some more and then we wander back home where they collect their things and go off in search of Fish and Chips which Ben has promised to buy for Francheska. About ten days later, I receive four photographs from Ben who declares that the one with my eyes closed is his favourite. I think about them for a while and plump for the other one. About a week later, I remember to text Ben my congratulations to them both on their wedding day. I imagine them smiling and kissing as they are told that they are husband and wife. What has life in store for them? Who will they meet on the way? What will they talk of as the sun goes down? Who knows? All I do know is that Ben is a now a friend, that he has married Francheska and that he is a superb photographer who has captured all this in one simple image.
- CLR James