Brian Viner: Shostakovich certainly knew the score when it came to the finer things in life

Men with poetry in their hearts can appreciate football just as much as cricket

Even 48 hours later, I am still savouring every mouth-watering syllable. "The sands of time," said Bob Willis, gazing unnervingly into the television camera on the third morning of the third Test in Lahore, "are drifting through England's fingers."

It was a memorable remark because Willis is not known for the lavish turn of phrase. He might have the voice of a chartered accountant and the eyes of an assassin, but he does not have the soul of a poet. At least, we didn't think so. But could Shelley, Byron or Keats have improved on the image of the sands of time drifting through England's fingers? I doubt it.

Of course, not only was it exquisitely poetic, it also had the merit of being, if the ghosts of Shelley, Byron and Keats will forgive me for a crassly modern expression, bang on. By the time you read this the sands of time will almost certainly have drifted over the hills and far away, leaving Michael Vaughan and his team to mull over the fact that cricket, as less imaginative men than Willis like to say, is a funny old game.

With Australia having battered the West Indies and England having been squished by Pakistan since that glorious September day when the Ashes were secured, it is almost as though the old order has been restored. Almost. It will take more than Multan and Lahore to wipe out the memory of Edgbaston and Trent Bridge.

Anyway, let me leave it to others to digest the significance of defeat in Pakistan. Instead, inspired by Willis's drifting sands of time, I would like to consider the artistic sensibilities of the cricket fan. Maybe it's all to do with the celebrated dictum of C L R James: what do they know of cricket who only cricket know? There was no contradiction, for instance, in The Guardian's Neville Cardus pursuing twin careers as a music critic and a cricket writer. The one informed the other.

"At Lord's one afternoon in 1938," Cardus once recalled, "I wrote 1,500 words after seeing Wally Hammond make a wonderful double-century. When I went to Covent Garden that night, I felt a certain lowering of aesthetic temperature. Nothing I had heard from those Italian tenors, bawling away in some Italian opera, could compare with the uplift that I got from Hammond's marvellous innings.

"I have had aesthetic experiences from the cricket field which I mix and mingle, without any dissonance or discord, with all the pleasures I've had from music, from the theatre, from literature. If I were put in a corner by the Almighty and he asked me, 'Did you get a bigger aesthetic thrill when listening to a well-known violinist than you got when seeing Frank Woolley bat?' I would say, 'Not necessarily. I'd have to go to a violinist of the stature of Yehudi Menuhin in order to find a musical experience that surpassed the thrill of watching Frank Woolley'."

In fairness to football, later in the same interview Cardus said that Bobby Charlton and Stanley Matthews too plucked the harp-strings of his soul. Not that he used quite those words; that's just me trying to get in on the act.

Moreover, it would be negligent of me not to tell the little-known story of Shostakovich's long-lost diary. Dmitri Shostakovich, as you will doubtless agree, was perhaps the greatest composer of the 20th century. Next year will be the centenary of his birth, and I was going to save this tale until then, but it seems irresistibly relevant here.

Apparently, Shostakovich kept a detailed diary which only surfaced last year, in somebody's attic. Professors of music history were agog when they heard. What light might the great man's diary throw on his famous Violin Concerto, or on Stalin's reported hatred for his opera A Lady Macbeth of the Mtensk District, which had to be withdrawn because of its supposed decadence?

No light at all, as it transpired. With due reverence, the diary was opened to a distinguished group of classical music experts, who fell like hungry wolves on Shostakovich's meticulous handwriting, only to find that the first entry they looked at, from 1958, was something like: "Yashin seemed a little off colour today, and was slow to leave his line, but at the same time how wonderful to see the artistry of Garrincha and this young fellow Pele." Appalled, they flipped back to 1953 to find, and I paraphrase: "Hidegkuti is clearly at his most effective as a deep-lying centre-forward!" And on, with growing horror, to 1966: "Nobby Stiles has many of the qualities I admire most."

There was scarcely a single mention of music. It was all about football.

So there we are. Men with poetry and music in their hearts can appreciate football just as much as cricket. And even the great cricketing aesthetes can let themselves down from time to time.

Yesterday morning I turned on the Sky Sports to hear Willis criticising Vaughan for over-bowling Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff: "These are jewels in England's bowling crown and they don't want to be flogging a dead horse," he said.

Who I Like This Week...

John McEnroe, in London for the Senior Masters at the Royal Albert Hall, who at the age of 46 announced that he intends to rejoin the main ATP tour next year. The maestro will play doubles with Sweden's Jonas Bjorkmann in a tournament in San Jose in February and who would bet against him winning the thing? It is 15 years since his old partner Peter Fleming said, "The best doubles pair in the world is John McEnroe and anyone else", but few sportsmen have ever raged so fiercely against the dying of the light. McEnroe also endeared himself to British tennis enthusiasts by predicting that Andy Murray is certain to become a top 10 player, and will probably be in the world's top 20 by Wimbledon next year. He knows how to push the right buttons when he comes over here.

And Who I Don't

John McEnroe, who not only rages fiercely against the dying of the light, but also against umpires and referees. He turned back the clock to the bad old days in his match against Mikael Pernfors in London on Thursday, ranting and even threatening to withdraw from the competition over a disputed line-call. McEnroe knows that some people will turn up to watch him these days expecting a show of stroppy petulance, and indeed hoping for one, but he isn't a vaudeville act and shouldn't indulge them. Of course, there is always the possibility that he was serious - he did win the match. But that makes his behaviour even more unseemly.

b.viner@independent.co.uk

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game