David Warner
Ryan Pierse / © Getty Images


The story of a cricket generation

David Warner's is the tale of a man wired differently - and also a portrait of an age in the sport

Rahul Bhattacharya

To hijack Erapalli Prasanna's maxim about line and length, I sometimes think sport is optional, sportswriting mandatory. This is logically unsustainable, for without the first there is no second. But some of you may know what I mean. Sport gives us entertainment, emotion, personalities; sportswriting connects those things to the world we live in. It joins the dots between what we see and our diverse societies, our all too common human nature. When we began publishing the Cricket Monthly last year, a central if unspoken impulse was to keep travelling up and down those paths, from the game to the real world, as it were - and three very different kinds of articles in this issue do.

Our cover star is David Warner, who has quickly became a poster boy for two things: Gen (insert newest alphabet) and, less desirably, the Ugly Aussie. Peter Lalor's profile brings to bear years of reporting on Warner. Its observant, atmospheric opening section, with its graffiti, song lyrics and hard-boiled constructions ("this pocket between the jail, the rifle ranges, the beach and the docks... wary and waiting for something better to happen") will possibly leave you with a more instinctive understanding of the planet's most notorious cricketer than anything else so far. The picture in the posters is not so much untrue as incomplete, Lalor finds. His portrait gives flesh and bone to the cutout and chronicles a thrilling rise from obscurity. It was as though Warner "was reverse-engineering cricket: had an IPL contract before he'd played T20 for his country, played T20 for his country before he'd played first-class for his state, belted the ball before he'd block it." The story is of a man wired differently but, in the cricketing sense, also a generation.

Perhaps no issue in cricket is as complicatedly woven into the real world as transformation in South Africa. Everybody in the world has an opinion on affirmative-action policies; and every South African one on quotas in their sports teams. The piece by Tristan Holme and Luke Alfred is not about that. It performs the more precious task of reporting from the ground. It shows us, carefully, with context, the texture of careers caught up in the sweep of an overwhelming history and a continuously unfolding narrative. The distilled experiences of a few players - black Africans, for whom reservation in the domestic game was just increased - are subtly revealing and deeply interesting; the frictions speak not just to South African cricket but fractured societies at large.

Sport gives us entertainment, emotion, personalities; sportswriting connects those things to the world we live in. It joins the dots between what we see and our diverse societies

We are proud to publish this month an extraordinary piece of writing - and an irrefutable case for why sportswriting is mandatory. Some of you may have read Christian Ryan's meditation on five photographs in TCM's inaugural issue; some may have read his terrifying reconstruction of an obscure Jeff Thomson spell. This one takes the best of those marvellous essays, the vividness of phrase, the glittering research, and does something greater still. Its conception is inspired; its themes are profound: ageing, vocation, perfection. Its hero is an all-time great cricketer and the writing is to match.

I would have said that piece alone is worth the price of a subscription - but there is no reason to. For one, there is more: four outstanding openers on their chemistry with their partners; a profile of the baby-faced IPL star from Kerala, Sanju Samson; the one-of-a-kind Marty Crowe on the one-of-a-kind Arjuna Ranatunga; the man you might know as Cricket Couch gully-cricketing across India; the late Richie Benaud in his chesty pomp; and much else besides.

For another, you may have noticed that the "free for a limited period" tag has disappeared off our masthead. We are now free for a possibly unlimited period. The registration wall has come down too - for the current as well as back issues. Everything we have published is now as accessible as anything on ESPNcricinfo. For a sampler of what we have been up to for the past ten months, click here. Do share if you like anything; or Like if it's Shared, or, you know...

A special shout-out to Rabi Thapa, who wrote us a beautiful letter from Kathmandu before the recent tragedy. It feels all the more poignant now.

Rahul Bhattacharya is the author of the cricket tour book Pundits from Pakistan and the novel The Sly Company of People Who Care