Can literature ever replace sporting prowess?

This summer the Authors Cricket Club will attempt to marry the power of the written word with that goosebump moment that comes from the perfect cover drive

Before I was lucky enough to publish a novel, my crowning achievement had been sporting success. I played cricket for Leicestershire U19s and rugby for the county, winning player of the year in a team containing several members who would ultimately turn professional, including my back row partner – I was an open side flanker – Will Johnson, brother of former England coach and world cup winning captain, Martin. I still have the dogeared invitation to join Leicester Tigers – rugby union would be amateur for one more season, making the offer easier to decline when university education was still paid for by the government.

However, sporting glory was brief. I prolapsed a disc in my neck hitting a tackle bag head on, and then a nasty fight in a Tokyo karaoke box left me without the ligaments for an arch on my left foot. Laid up in bed with the gloomy realisation that I wasn't going to open the bowling for England, or ever play for the Lions, I picked up a book.

Language came to the rescue. Poetry and fiction gave me the energy and buzz that sport had once provided. In the tingling verse of Ted Hughes and John Burnside, the visceral intensity of a Cormac McCarthy novel, were the goosebump moments of that perfectly weighted pass, the flashing cover drive.

But can literature ever replace sporting prowess?

Aged eighteen, the idea of the word outscoring the try would have seemed fanciful. In the last minute of losing a game against Brighton RFC, I dummied the entire back line, side-stepped the rushing flanker before handing off the chasing winger and diving under the posts. It was a Roy of the Rovers, match-winning fantasy. My comic book heroics come true.

Even when Don Delillo, an avid baseball and gridiron fan, closes in on the end his monumental tome, Underworld, a stand out passage is not a homage to art or writing, but the physical longing for his (not the protagonist's, as I read it) youth, "the days when I was alive on the earth, rippling in the quick of my skin, heedless and real."

Yet when former England hooker and BBC pundit Brian Moore won the 2010 William Hill prize for his autobiography, Beware of the Dog, and Gabby Logan asked him if any rugby victory had ever brought him to tears, a choked up, "No," was his poignant reply. The ferocious rugby player tamed by prose.

Perhaps the best line on the relationship of pitch and page belongs to Eric Cantona, the mercurial French striker and budding philosopher: "I have never and will never find difference between the pass from Pele to Carlos Alberto in the final of the World Cup in 1970, and the poetry of the young Rimbaud."

This summer, the Authors Cricket Club will attempt to marry art and sport. A century on from the original XI, which contained luminaries such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, PG Wodehouse and JM Barrie, the all new side will play a variety of matches across the country.

Bloomsbury plan to publish the team writings about our exploits, and the structure of the book means that each author will produce a chapter and a match report, and will therefore both write about the game and be written about by their peers. The jostling competition within any cricket team – which, unlike rugby, is ultimately a collection of individuals – and particularly this team, should push artist and athlete to produce their best performances with pen and bat.

And certainly writers are as prone to rivalry as sportsmen and women.

But effort is generally better rewarded in sport with fewer variables, where plain luck, the bounce of the ball or a freak gust of wind, cannot be called upon to blame for defeat. The Olympics are the pinnacle of application, desire and focus. Usain Bolt is the fastest man in the world. This is the fact. Are England really the best cricket team?

From rugby to cricket, boxing to football, subjective opinion is often contrary to the result. This is evident in matches where the losing team is roundly thought to have deserved the win. Wales versus France in the rugby world cup semi-final. And then France versus New Zealand in the final, when man of the match, Thierry Dusautoir, pulled out his heart and left it on the turf of Eden Park.

However, it is the All Blacks' name engraved on the Web Ellis trophy. And, as any batsman knows to reply when the swearing bowler he has just edged for four doubts his ability, "Look in the book."

           

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory