In 2013 I was commissioned to work with photographer Lucy Carolan on Runs on the Board, a Cultural Olympiad legacy project based around the Grey Fox trophy, an over 50s Cricket tournament held in Yorkshire.
As I had no real prior knowledge of cricket, my approach was to interpret the language of the game through my own filter of myth, folklore and magic realism, relating each story back to the laws of cricket. (If you want to read about Runs on the Board from the perspective of a passionate cricketer I’d recommend reading the quotes from Nick Ahad, the writer for the second 2013 creative team, here in this article).
As with many things the stories are no longer online, so I’m sharing them here over a series of posts. I hope you enjoy them.
Planting Time In Season
Law 10-Wisden 1963
“Unless permitted by special regulations, the Pitch shall not be rolled during a match except before the start of each innings and of each day’s play”
“Our groundsman puts a lot of time into the ground.”
Collecting moments during the week the Groundsman saves them up for when he walks over the outfield, and the worn turf between the creases. He keeps them warm in his shirt pocket. There is no pattern to the moments he chooses, though each is selected with care. An instinct that comes through many years on the roller. Making his way from the pavilion he carries five minutes from a bank queue and half an hour waiting in for a delivery. In the weeks when he has not collected enough seconds to plant the ground he rings around the players. They donate time spent on hold or waiting to get the barman’s attention. With an orchadist’s touch he lifts each moment out, moves a blade of grass to one side and slides it into the soil.
After he has mowed the grass and rolled the pitch the groundsman stands on the boundary satisfied, watching the sprinklers water the outfield, the moments planted shimmering in the spray.
Vestigial Chicken Feet
Law 4-Wisden 1963
“All runs shall be recorded by Scorers appointed for the purpose”
The grandchildren of Baba Yaga’s hut crouch on the edge of cricket grounds throughout the country. Out of sight their vestigial chicken feet cling to the soil. Some bred with local buildings, sheds and outhouses. Now their skin is brick and lime planking rather than barked lengths of knotted fir trees. Baba Yaga’s twice turning hut was scented with kvass. Its descendant’s timber is soaked with the steam of steeped tea. All have flickering eyes that record every batting stroke and catch played out in front of them, and they never forget.
Baba Yaga’s hut is almost as well known as Baba Yaga herself. Standing on two chicken legs the hut would turn to face the woods when Baba Yaga was flying the world in her mortar and pestle, pivoting back around upon its mistress’ return.
Law 25-Wisden 1963
“The ball shall be held to be “dead”-on being in the opinion of the Umpire finally settled in the hands of the Wicket-keeper or the Bowler or pitching over the boundary”
With a gardener’s steady hand he planted the willow shallow in the short grass. Roots take well here. Branches sprouted in all directions, each bearing a single red fruit, skin like bruised pomegranate. He chose one curving bough and watched it arch to the left. Those rejected crumbled to dust on the breeze until the one remaining fruit settled in the grass. Seed to windfall in a glance.