Page:Jubilee Book of Cricket (Second edition, 1897).djvu/469

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447
CRICKET AND THE VICTORIAN ERA.

to realise their possibilities for good than are hastily-trained soldiers. As to who make the better citizens, it may be safely concluded that the better men do, unless they are required for a European war—a contingency to which Englishmen are happily not in much danger of being subject.

Well, then, athletics have come to be a very large part of English life—definite forms of athletics. For proof of this statistics suffice. Not that I mean to deal in figures. The huge numbers recorded as having visited cricket, football, and other matches, the variety and circulation of sporting journals and the general prevalence of athletic literature of all sorts, show that games are with us in some bulk. And games are good, for they produce good results and make almost without exception for what is good.

The next point I should like to make is, that cricket is the best of all games, and is so regarded by the majority of Englishmen all over the world—best intrinsically as a game, and also because of its effects upon those who play it or watch it being played.

What says Richard Daft, one of the most skilful and thoughtful of cricketers?—

No game except cricket combines a great amount of science with the advantage of bodily exercise. In fact, the mental and physical qualities required for one who would excel as a cricketer are about equally in demand. When one is at the wickets batting the brain is never at rest—eye and hand must work together. The bowler is your enemy for the time being, to say nothing of the wicket-keeper and fielders; your enemy is doing all he can to overcome you, and you must bring all your mental and physical qualities into play to prevent him.

The games of lawn-tennis, football, baseball, lacrosse, and others, are all of the same class as cricket, but none of them allow of such exact science as our national game.

A single mistake on the part of a batsman may cause his downfall, whereas at every other game more mistakes can often be made without the like disastrous consequences to the player who makes them. Then, of course, we have an advantage over football in having a most enjoyable time of the year for our game. The surroundings of a cricket-match are naturally of a pleasanter character. I am very far from running down our chief winter pastime. Football is, in my opinion, by far and away the finest game ever known, with the one exception of cricket.

Cricket has also this great advantage over many games—by having eleven men on each side. This must always make a game more interesting than where there are only one or two on a side. When we have eleven-a-side contests we know that a match is never lost till it is won, and a seeming defeat is often turned into a victory by the tail-end at the eleventh hour