Walter Hammond's biography (1947) is full of wonderful insights, not least if all his musings as to why we play and watch cricket in the first place;
Do you know what they always talk about when cricketers meet? There is a bit of preliminary skirmishing - gossip about friends, prospects of forthcoming matches....and then, inevitably, somebody compares a modern with an ancient, and we're off! Does the modern equal Trumper? Has Spofforth's top-of-the bowling reputation been challenged at last?
You may think (reading these cricket books!) that there is unanimity of opinion. Not a bit of it! Do you know that Archie MacLaren, one of greatest batsman who ever lived, said after watching another of the world's greatest batsman score a century at Lord's? He said: "I wouldn't give you sixpence for a bat like that!"
The man he was watching was Don Bradman.
What he meant, of course, was that Don did not bat according to the classics of the Golden Age. Very true! Yet the batsman's job, in the game of cricket, is not to hold his bat this way or that way, not to demonstrate grace or delicacy - but to score runs. How easy that is to forget! And Don Bradman scored runs all through his career. I wonder what was the best innings I ever saw him play?..........
So I guess I was wondering where the true ethos of cricket lies? Is it in the 'grace' and 'delicacy' of batsman like Victor Trumper, as Archie MacLaren exclaims, or is it in the pragmatic accumulation of runs as personified by Bradman?I have always believed that the finest cricket has its roots in human happiness. Trumper, Macartney, Spofforth, Jupp, Grace - yes, and Larwood and Bradman, too! - were expressing joy from within themselves when they gave such delight to others. These feats are not achieved by tired and worried men; and, whether we like it or not, most men in England to-day are tired and worried a good deal of the time. Where there is no faith there is no virtue, and there is no sparkle in cricket, either.
As a cricket enthusiasts and spectators do we have the right to expect our players to play with the ethos of Garry Sobers and David Gower? Or should we be happy with the mere utility of batsman like Jacques Kallis and Allan Border because, in the end, victory is of far greater importance than 'sparkling' play?