…but I will say it again. Gideon Haigh is the the greatest living cricket writer, and one of the all time greats. Not only does he fiercely champion Test cricket as the paramount form of the game, but he refuses to compromise by pandering to the dominant forces in world cricket and hands out criticism equally, not just to one or two groups. Sadly, I feel that the jingoism prevalent amongst many fans (one only has to read the comments on Cricinfo to see what I mean) means he doesn’t receive his due, because people cannot accept comments critical of their nation or team – even when they are true. There are famous cricket writers who seem to write their articles to appeal to the lowest common denominator, fortunately Gideon Haigh is not one of them. This article is well worth reading. And for those who accuse him of bias against India, the following quote:

Number one today is India, which is a happy event, because they also happen to be the most attractive team to watch. And for all the hypermodernity of Indian cricket, MS Dhoni’s team is full of genuine five-day cricketers, not jumped-up one-day players and Twenty20 non-entities. Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, Zaheer Khan, Dhoni himself, would succeed in any age; when you watch them excel at their craft, time seems almost to stand still. That is an illusion, as you realise when you range back over the generations and grasp the way that the leading teams of their time have been just that: creatures of their time. But it’s an appealing and warming illusion, and a comforting one to nurture at the pub.

It’s not the Indian team, or India itself, that he scorns, it is the BCCI who certainly deserve it. There are lots of people who can’t differentiate between criticism of the BCCI and criticism of India the nation, which I think says more about them than about Mr Haigh.

Speaking of wonderful cricket writing, I came across an article today that I had to mention. I didn’t necessarily agree with it all, but there was one phrase that stood out. I often do that in books, it’s like watching a cricket match and seeing a perfect on drive or a brutal pull shot, you just sit back and admire the skill and artistry that goes into, the joy of a craftsman at work. This was an equivalent moment.

Yesterday we had the ultimate cricket pathos of Sachin Tendulkar, the Little Master still pursuing his 100th international century, polishing a little diamond of an innings among the Indian rubble. He hit boundaries of exquisite quality, he explored the best of what is left of his repertoire and showed us why he has been revered for so long. It was like looking at a masterpiece hung in an otherwise ransacked museum.

That is good writing.

Dhoni deserves some of the criticism coming his way for the team’s performance, he is captain after all. But, he went up in my esteem a great deal after his recall of Ian Bell, as did the the entire Indian team. You can argue about Law versus Spirit all you want, but it was an edifying moment in a sport that needs all the edification it can get. To me cricket is the noblest sport of all, despite the money grubbing and the politics and all the rest, and it is moments like this (or this) that embody why it is more than just a game. Bravo, India!

Sambit Bal’s article on the event is well worth a read, as well as this one.