Cricket is happening. Lots of cricket even. And not just any cricket but Test cricket. The best cricket.
Being in the USA, I haven’t gotten to watch a ton of overs. Here and there I check in, but mostly I just hop on my phone in the morning as I’m waking up to see what happened the night before. And that’s fine. I love cricket, but I have resigned myself to the fact that the days of watching every ball might be behind me. For the winter months here when the game is on the other side of the world, it’s enough to know it’s happening, that I can check in when I want to. And then this summer god willing there will be cricket in England again and I can waste away the days at my kitchen table with the matches on as I did last summer.
It’s cold here in Minnesota. Damn cold. This morning when I woke up and checked the cricket scores it was fourteen below zero Fahrenheit (-25C). And the cold will be here a while. For another week or so at least. It’ll be a slog on top of a slog as we enter Year 2 of the pandemic. But the nice thing about winter in Minnesota is while it might be cold, it’s also sunny. Today the sky is clear and the earth is crowned with a basket of the deepest, darkest blue. So it might not feel warm, but at least it looks warm.
Still, though, everything feels frozen. Iced in. The whole world made motionless. Both by the deep freeze as well as by the pandemic. Like we are all stuck in the snowy frozen mud, unable to move forward. Unable to hope for what might come next, for no one knows what what’s next might look like. We sit at our tables in our homes and we work until it is dark and then we go to bed and then we do it all over again. Every day the same, an ocean of white and blue and dark and cold. There might be an horizon out there somewhere, but it’s tough to see right now.
But life is going on. Just as it has been, just as it will continue to do. People are getting married, people are dying. Kids are growing up, parents are growing old. As are other more trivial events and matters. The super bowl was last night. Movies are being made. Books being written. And they are playing cricket, down there at the bottom of the world, in the sun and the heat. Every morning I wake up and I pull up the scores and even while I slept in this desolate winter landscape, life, somewhere, was happening. People closed their eyes and felt the sun and heard the sounds of cricket echo in the distance.
This morning I woke up and read this: “Those two shots have caused backward square leg to move to midwicket” in the Cricinfo commentary, round about the 4th over of India’s innings. I have written about the poetry of cricket’s language before, and that sentence fragment is awash with beauty. But, more than that, it was a reminder that real people were playing a real game. I closed my eyes and saw the backward point jogging over to midwicket as Rohit Sharma leaned on his bat at the other end. The language gave us a time and a place and it was like an injection of forward momentum into my mind. Right now we are frozen, but the world is still turning, and captains are rearranging fielders, and batsmen are waiting for their turn.
Time is always moving forward. Life is always happening. In our heads and in our lives and even in our actions we can feel stuck, like a record with too deep a groove. We are locked in winter and cannot even imagine not being this way, dreaming of summer. And that’s the right word for it. Dreaming. We can’t imagine it for real, we can only fantasize, create a seasonal phantom based on what we remember summer being like. But life is still happening, even if we can’t picture the future to come, cannot even fathom green and warm. The days tick off the calendar, we age, we break down, we lose, we wonder where it all went, for it felt like it wasn’t going anywhere, that we were just sitting here by a cold, still creek.
A few days ago I pulled up the Google Street view of my old neighborhood. I tracked around the block, where I used to walk all my old dogs. When I turned a corner Google told me that the image was not from June 2019 like the others, but rather July 2011. Nearly ten years ago. The morning the images were taken I had probably woken at 6am and walked the dog on these very roads. The roads were still sprinkled with our presence, light as it was on the hard earth. 10 years. Time marched on and took me with it. And I didn’t even know it was happening.
A few weeks before that I found an email that I sent on May 2, 2018. “I am going to wash the sheets and towels,” I wrote. And so there it is. I now know the last time I washed the bedding before I left. And so while time has moved on, and I have moved on with it, now I feel like I am able to fill in holes that before felt bottomless. Two days later I found the last email I wrote before it all fell apart. I stared at it for a long time. It was like looking into a void of time, a reminder of all that has changed, and can’t be put back. I might feel stuck, but the days are ticking by, I am getting better, and time is taking me with it as it marches forward.
My relationship with cricket has changed. Just like everything else in my life has changed. The cricket over the last few weeks has reminded me of that. And then the game each morning also reminds me that the world is still turning, that captains are moving fielders, that batsmen are scratching out singles, that the warm sun is arcing over a sky, and that soon all this white will be replaced with all that green.
“No Anderson yet,” wrote the Cricinfo commentator. “Here’s Jack Leach. Good idea, because the ball’s turning and bouncing the most when the ball is hard and new. Left-arm around to Gill, with two slips and a short leg. A deep point too.” The sun crept over the horizon through the window to my left, the glass iced over, the world beyond white and still. But that’s not where the world ended, there’s more out there, a world with movement and warmth, where time ticks over with deliveries and runs and overs. And we see time has moved in the night, and we see that things really have changed, that we have changed, that the whole world has changed.
You get out of bed and you do it all again. Refreshed with the idea that the cricket will always be there to help you see the march of time as hopeful rather than relentless. Ten years will go by in a blink of an eye, but you won’t be the same when that blink is over. And it will take millions of cricket deliveries to get you there. Even in the night, even in the cold, the seconds — and the cricket — march on. And take you with them.