Sunday, 8 June 2008

What a cricket report tells us about the meaning of life

I love cricket, for cricket is a complex metaphor about life. I often read the cricket reports in the paper or online. A cricket report consists of two things. First is the scoreboard - the facts of who scored what. Second is the report, the narrative account of what happened.

Unfortunately, both paper and online versions of cricket reports now separate the scoreboard from the narrative report. This is a grave error, which tells us much about meaning. For meaning is fundamentally about comprehension.

A cricket scoreboard tells the story of the day in numbers. It gives us an understanding of what happened in terms of a context: it tells us which side batted first. Who got a century, who got a duck. It tells us which bowler bowled the most overs, and which got the most wickets. In other words, it frames the narrative for the reader. But it is only half the story.

The (written) narrative of the match tells a story. It tells you why the captain put the opposition into bat on winning the toss. It tells you that the reason bowler A only bowled 5 overs is because he limped off injured. It explains that although batsman A scored only 38, he laid the foundation for batsman D who punished a tired attack in the evening sssion when the conditions were easier to score an aggressive century. It might tell you the tale of a dropped catch early in the day, without which the story of the day may have been different. It might tell you about the look of shame on the face of the first slip when he made that error, or that one bowler refused to yield and bowled into the wind for 20 overs taking no wickets, but limiting the scoring to only 3 runs per over.

The scorecard sets the context, and the narrative provides the understanding and the story. Together, and only together, do they provide a meaningful report. To separate them, as both the Guardian and Times do, is to misunderstand cricket, and more gravely, to misunderstand how things are understood.

New Zealand 2nd Innings - All out
How c Cook b Sidebottom 19
Redmond c Ambrose b Broad 2
McCullum b Anderson 71
Taylor lbw b Broad 14
Flynn c Ambrose b Sidebottom 49
Hopkins c Ambrose b Sidebottom 12
Oram not out 50
Vettori c Psen b Sidebottom 1
Mills c Strauss b Sidebottom 2
O'Brien c Cwood b Sidebottom 4
Martin c Collingwood b Anderson 0
Extras 1w 3b 4lb 8
Total all out 232 (72.3 ovs)

Bowler
Sidebottom 24.0 7 67 6
Anderson 14.3 3 55 2
Broad 21.0 4 77 2
Panesar 11.0 4 21 0
Collingwood 2.0 1 5 0

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