A conversation with Gideon Haigh


The venue for my club, East Malvern CC’s, annual President’s dinner was a Greek restaurant on a balmy Sunday evening in the eponymous suburb of East Malvern in Victoria, Australia.

The decades old club, which boasts Sir Garfield Sobers, yes, THE Sobers, among its many feted alumni, drew most of its stalwarts for this dinner which featured the Cricket Writer, Gideon Haigh as its keynote speaker.

I shy away from using the term keynote, as that connotes lissome lecterns, frowning faces and knotted knits about the neck. This event was none of that, especially considering that Haigh himself turned up in a faded old boat-neck T-shirt.

As he and I were the only vegetarians in the room, we were sat at the same table. Given that he is also a fellow offie, and doesn’t, by his own admission, turn the ball much, he is practically my blood kinsman.

Much in the manner of a harp of housewives gravitating to the subject of mothers-in-law, we shortly fell to picking over the disdain we suffer at the hands of batsmen both good and indifferent. Particularly rankling was how the eyes of those wood choppers light up, mouths split into toothy grins and chests puff up when the skipper hands us the ball with a look of worry on his face as he simultaneously sends everyone out to man the fences. 

But, Contempt breeds unfamiliarity-thus spake…well, I.

Therein lies the offie’s utility to XIs, that ability to tempt the woodsmen into indiscretions they would not contemplate against our evil twins, the leggies.

Overcome with delight at not being fed lamb by the provedore, another Zorba lookalike, I inquired if Gideon was making the pilgrimage to India for the IPL. No, said he with a rueful laugh, I’ve taken such a position against it that I doubt if I’ll ever be welcome there.

Interestingly for such a prolific cricket writer, he has never set foot in India at all. Therefore, if, among the vast readership of this blog are the string pullers, I’m sure the hint will be taken.

Soon enough, after the warm up act provided by a succession of club worthies, Gideon Haigh took the floor.

 He began with a quick varnam* on himself-Journalist for 26 years, cricketing writer for longer. He’s also played 181 games for South Yarra CC.  Raising the bar for cricketing tragics everywhere, he ensured that marriage and the birth of his child didn’t interfere with the cricket season. His catch-cry, resonant with those who continue pursuits well beyond the age decreed by decorum is-‘Young once, immature forever’.

Tailored to the audience, he next sang the club administrator’s ninda-sthuthi (song of lament)-the never bridged chasm between expense and income, segued into those quirks entirely unique to club cricket in Melbourne and launched into the main R-T-P** for the night-Australia’s prospects for the 2010-11 Ashes, resuscitation of the ODI format and the spectre of the BCCI overtaking the ICC.

Ragam.

Ponting’s perceived inadequacies notwithstanding, the overall mood was that Australia would prevail, never mind the emergence of a newly competitive England.

Tanam.

The news of the death of the ODI format is greatly exaggerated. It can certainly be saved by some immediate surgery such as removal of over-limits on bowlers and the preparation of result wickets which would even the scales between bat and ball.

Pallavi.

At the time, there was a deadlock between Australia’s Howard and NZ’s Anderson for the ICC chair (since resolved in favour of John Howard). The discussion largely revolved around the relative merits of each candidate pertinent to their ability to handle the behemoth that was the BCCI. The view was that Howard, the wily politician that he was, was probably the best equipped. Time will tell.

Some tuqda-s*** of note included the four year residence of Gary Sobers in Victoria, and how, despite a popular groundswell of support for his appointment as Victoria’s coach, the fact that he did not have the appropriate piece of paper stymied it.

All in all, a wonderful evening, replete with nostalgia and the heady smell of that bond that unites cricket lovers, wannabes and tragics everywhere. I’m looking forward to next year.

Soundar.

*****************

An explanation of some of the musical terms for the elucidation of those not as familiar with the Carnatic musical form.

*Varnam

The opening piece of a Carnatic Music Concert-usually familiar, fast paced and mood setting.

**R-T-P

Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi, the central, three-piece bulwark of a full-length Carnatic Music Concert.

***tuqda

Short, popular pieces-sometimes based on audience requests, which round off a concert.

Advertisements

4 responses to “A conversation with Gideon Haigh

  1. Excellent Soundar. I have always liked Haigh’s writing, especially some of his pieces on Cricinfo. His seeming obsession with The Ashes apart, he is, in my view, one of the more “balanced” writers from Down Under.

    I did not have a problem with him penning sarcastically that Harbhajan Singh hardly had a “choirboy’s disciplinary record” although I did have a problem with him saying that BCCI used its financial muscle to overturn Harbhajan Singh’s Test ban for a racist comment.

    Most Australian authors have to reminded that the muscle power was used becuase a man was convicted without evidence. Procter bungled the case. Period. And in the absence of evidence, a man cannot be convicted except in a Kangaroo Court!

    More power to the BCCI for acquiring that muscle — through no good planning or management of theirs, no doubt. More power to them for using it most appropriately and tellingly in Sydney.

    Haigh’s critique of Roland Perry’s biography of Bradman was what really got me looking forward to more from him.

    It is great that you shared an off-spinners’ night out with him! BTW, here I was thinking you were a ‘keeper!

  2. Thanks Mohan!

    Them old fingers, they’re beginning to tire of the mis-takes which fail to find the palm of the gloves. Thus the recourse to my second job, bowling offies.

    However if there’s a game where the bowling attack might consist of just spinners, I’d be first in line for the keeping job! That I think is the true test of a ‘keeper.

  3. Nice post. Gideon’s cricketing erudition is truly remarkable. The man owns over 3000 books on cricket!

  4. Pingback: The ICC launches into another controversy « i3j3Cricket :: A blog for fans of Indian cricket…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s