Some scholars have tried to finger the medieval Icelandic pastime of Knattleikr (literally: ball game) as a possible origin for cricket. Egil’s Saga gives a vivid depiction of one match, in which our hero responds badly to some Viking-style sledging. “Then Egil got angry and lifted up the bat and struck Grim, whereupon Grim seized him and threw him down with a heavy fall, and handled him roughly, and said he would thrash him if he did not behave… Then Egil bounded upon Grim, and drove the axe into his head, so that it at once pierced his brain”. Makes that James Anderson-Ravindra Jadeja spat seem like a very mild difference of opinion.
Throughout our half-hour interview on a balcony overlooking the now deserted Lord’s square, it’s impossible to ignore the boyish delight that Nadella takes in his surroundings. This is his first ever visit to the grandest venue in the game, and he drinks in every detail – not least his fellow Hyderabadi Mohammad Azharuddin’s place on the away dressing room’s honours board. As for the chance not only to set foot on the hallowed turf but to bowl a few balls as well, he greets this with near incredulity. It seems that, even for the boss of an US$85 billion corporation, there are still some experiences that money cannot buy.
Three seconds can stay with you forever. In 1973 in the West Indies, a giant fan crosses the boundary fence and asks the great Australian cricketer Greg Chappell to autograph a Barbadian $10 note. Chappell obliges and asks if the young man plays cricket, to which the West Indian replies: “I will play against you one day.” He does. His name is Joel Garner, a fast bowler, and eventually he becomes a legend himself, but the story isn’t done. Twenty-five years later, in 1998, a journalist in Mumbai asks Garner about this currency note and the West Indian laughs and produces it. He’s had it laminated and carries it everywhere.
This is not Archi’s dream, this is Archi’s reality. It is beyond his dreams; it is his first real home. There are no bombs on this field, only cricket and love. Here the only running he does is between the wickets. Here the only danger is when he is bowling, and here when something goes boom, it isn’t a bomb but a thump off his blade. Now when he fights, he is a warrior with a bat, the Shahid Afridi of Kansas.
“Curtly speak to no man!” Did he actually utter these immortal words at me? I think so, though equally they may have been paraphrased by David Williams, West Indies’ diminutive reserve keeper, who became my improbable sidekick in the impasse that ensued. Curtly never signs autographs in the middle of a match, Williams explained to me while serving up his own – especially not when he is losing, he might have added. But neither was Ambrose walking away from me and my outstretched pen, so – for who knows what reason? Emboldened by Gooch’s 154 at Headingley, perhaps? – I chose not to walk away either.
The summer of ’83, the summer we won the World Cup, the last summer of my father’s life, the summer Mithun Chakraborty and I played for India, the summer that lingers on.
Arguably the two finest wicketkeepers of their generation, yet neither could forge a consistent England Test career in an era dominated by the theory that keepers also needed to be matchwinning batsmen