There is a quality in human affairs, so rare, so fleeting and so intense that to invoke its name in any context risks derision. To invoke its name in the context of sport must seem especially perverse, pretentious, preposterous and pathetic. I have always flirted with those four mockable Ps and nothing can stop me now. Even a reasonable night’s sleep hasn’t diminished the euphoria that sees me now unleashing a peal of eulogistic superlatives and hyperbolic encomia that can only bring me taunts, yawns and snorts.
What is this quality, so rarified, so prized? It is Glory. Glory is a golden word to be used, like saffron, in sparing pinches. Religion has always loved it, and tried to deny it to the sublunary sphere. Gloria, gloria; Gloria in excelsis Deo. Glory be to the Father. Solomon in all his glory. Our glorious dead. It has often been observed of war that while it is rightly hated and feared for bringing out the worst in humankind, it cannot be denied that it can sometimes bring out the best too. It is one of the few human arenas that can produce true glory.
Sport, of course, developed as a rehearsal for war and today often serves as a kind of proxy. Cricket, so yawn-inducing to those who do not understand it, so enthralling and all-embracingly perfect for those who do, can bring out glory like no other sport. Yesterday afternoon at the Brit Oval, Glory streamed to the wicket and turned a match and a series around in little over an hour. The twenty-three year old Stuart Broad is certainly the best-looking cricketer we have ever produced. Melting looks, golden hair, eyes of the bluest blue, he is six foot six of heart-stopping youthful splendour. He has not had the best series as a bowler. Perhaps under orders from above he bowled a spell of short-pitched rubbish at Lord’s that almost caused him to be booed by the St John’s Wood faithful. There were calls for him to be dropped. But yesterday he was glorious. There really is no other word.
I hope it will be a long career. He has the makings of a truly great all-rounder. I hope his looks, the inevitable commercial contracts and the attention don’t turn his head or distract him from his cricket. But he will never have another afternoon like the second day of the 5th Test of the 2009 Ashes Series. His third “Michelle” (Five-for = Pfeiffer, geddit?) and coming at the most crucial time imaginable. Real glory. Of course, England being England, we could still lose the test and fail to win the Ashes, but that shouldn’t detract from a golden afternoon for cricket’s golden boy. In the words of “O worship the King”.
“O tell of his might, O sing of his grace,
Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space.”
That great hymn ends with a paean to all the great cricketers in history, a pantheon Stuart Broad will join…
“Pavilioned in splendour and girded with praise”.