I no sooner had settled myself into a comfortable plastic chair beside the pitch (the field, if it were baseball) when I witnessed one of the most beautiful dance passages I had ever seen. “Holy shit!” I muttered, or something to that effect, experiencing an acute attack of Stendhal syndrome – hardly an everyday occurrence, to say the least.
I had watched the bowler (the pitcher, if it were baseball) run down the field angling forward to almost a forty-five degree angle then, still running, pull himself up and into a vertical leap, his legs churning in the air for two revolutions, to solidly meet the ground, fully extending his arms and legs, forwards, backwards, then swinging his trailing arm forward, above his head, in a vigorous arc. Then, still leaning forward, finishing in a ritardando to a graceful trot. It was extraordinarily beautiful.
As it turns out, it was extraordinary. That bowler soon was followed by others. They had the same moves, but they did not have the grace, the self-consciousness, the commitment to form of the first. They were still a pleasure to watch, but that first bowler – a young, intense, compact man whose name I do not know – was an artist. He may not have been a good bowler – I didn’t know enough about the game and its complex scoring rules to have been able to tell – but he was a glorious dancer.
I’ve trolled YouTube trying to find his like. Aesthetics, evidently, is not an important element of cricket. There are not even very many videos of the complete run, leap, bowl, and finish, seen from the side, as a spectator would watch a dancer on the stage. Here are three, the best I could do. Two are in slow motion. You will be able to see the basic form which, I learned from Wikipedia, is a bowling style called fast bowling, and – I trust – to see its potential to be more than just an admirable skill, to be something transcendent.
Neither of the bowlers pictured below (the second video is a repeat of the first, in slow motion) comes close, in his leap, just before the throw, to the rapid and vigorous, yet studied and formal, running-in-air of the man I first saw, which had something of the same sensibility conveyed by a brisé volé by Nureyev. (I had to look that up.)