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The Tavare Men


Chris_Tavare_England_cricketChris Tavaré, many summers back, played an innings of such strokeless wonder, that only the high-wired eccentrics among cricket watchers deign to remember his attritional tour de force. It is not hard to fathom why. Under normal circumstances, the average bloke would perhaps have been lulled into a deep sleep by Tavaré's austere batsmanship, the whole memory of the inning blanked out by more verdant dreams involving women, fast cars, or the free-swinging Bothamesque humpty in front of a packed ground.

In Tavaré's case, this was not to be. Instead of dreaming about Botham, people watched the real thing give the Aussies a decent ragging. His duck and swat hooks off Lillee's viper-like bouncers, plucked from just in front of his nose, were the stuff of reckless daring most boys grow up replicating in front of mirrors. Tavaré, who stood at the other end, remains a mere statistic, at best the answer to an overused question in a worthless quiz.

In effect, most of us are like Tavaré – dour, industrious and unspectacular – contrary to our personal beliefs. We would rather the rest doze off in our presence as we drone on about some mundane detail than be upstaged by a young whippersnapper, fully in the funk and with a cruel disregard of our obvious incompetence.

But what does this have to say about Tavaré? About us? Well, it's hard to justify such a placid life. At least Tavaré had the cricket and the adoration of the cricket hopeless, the cricket geeks and anybody who cared, really. There must have been a few. What do we have, us middle-class folk, forever being trampled by those more powerful, more exciting and definitely more affluent than us?

Even Dravid, the best among the Tavaré men, has to cede the spotlight to the more hare-brained Ganguly, whose shirt-waving, chest-hair baring silliness is more pop-culture than the most indefatigable Dravid century.

What is our purpose? To what end were we sent to this world, this 'best of all worlds'? To be driven mad, surely, as Martin would suggest. And yet our presence is much valued. In fact it is only our presence that is valued. Like cogs to the wheel, we keep the machine ticking. Reliable, solid, ready to drop shoulders, offering society's most perfect forward defensive. All this while the dude with the mullet/dreadlocks/a handsome face and the gold bat heaves the proverbial five and a half ounces 30 yards beyond the ropes. Nothing Spartan (as written across Gayle's bat) about that.

This is to my fellow Tavaré men, a remembrance of sorts, to the hard grafters and those criminally undervalued.

This is to 'Ol Shiv, hammering away at the bail as he takes guard, the aspirations of a nondescript Guyanese village placed firmly on his shoulders. This is to Dravid, quiet and nonplussed, going about his business while he shuttles between glovework and an acute rescue job. This is to countless other self-sacrificing men and women – boring, oppressed and always in crisis.

And of course, this is to Chris Tavaré himself, rejected by history, whose preference for mind-numbing caution over impulse elevated Botham to the realms of fantasy.


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