Monday, October 18, 2010

David Mealing’s French Artists Cricket XI

David Mealing, curator of the New Zealand Cricket Museum, gave me his 'French Artists Cricket XI' to share - a good read. My particular favourites are Édith Piaf and Marcel Duchamp, both excellent as cricketers.


French Artists Cricket XI

Honoré de Balzac – bats with a creative exuberance rarely equalled for an opening batsman. His style is often perceived as clumsy and inelegant by canons of classical French batting, but he plays with a vigour and speed that consistently achieves a good run rate. A marvellous breath of outlook and grasp of the nuances of batting technique, his succession of good scores with a high average have established him as one of the world's finest batsmen.

Marcel Proust – one of the foremost batsmen of his era. Slow in starting his innings, he can occupy the crease for long periods. He has wonderful concentration and dedication and can subsist on a meagre diet of runs for extended periods when pressure is applied by the opposition. Although late in starting his Test career, he has achieved considerable success through his own originality and style and the coaching of Ruskin.

Victor Hugo (Captain) – considered by some critics, to be the greatest French batsman. His genius was precocious and in his early twenties he was already destined to become part of the French national consciousness. His batting destroyed the old neo-classical conventions, and his 'volumes' of high scores and average have been distinguished by technical innovations, exotic colouring and stylistic brio. He breathes confidence in the destiny of his team.

Marcel Duchamp – an innovative, unorthodox top order batsman, his name is treated with almost mystical respect by peers and cricketers of a younger generation. He has the ability to take opposing attacks apart by abandoning caution and by relying on superb hand-eye co-ordination to achieve influential scores to help win matches. The term 'bowlers stripped bare by Duchamp even' has often been used to describe his polemical Dadaist style.

Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette – a surprise selection, Colette is a largely self-taught cricketer from the country, who quickly immersed herself amongst the cricketing fraternity at the Bohemia Cricket Academy in Paris. This experience has led her to successfully apply her amoral peasant batting approach and exceptional powers of shot selection to the psychological complexities of batting in the middle-order, often in times of crisis.

Henri Matisse – an all-rounder whose medium-fast bowling is merely an extension of his batting. An expressive, exuberant player, with a seriousness of purpose that is totally different from others in mood and technique. In his cricket primitive art forms are assimilated without their disturbing violence and his treatment of opposing batting and bowling attacks, and his emancipation of the all-rounders role, never loses sight of their artistic, pictorial value.

Henri Cartier-Bresson – wicket-keeper. He has very good eyesight and visual perception and is extremely competent behind the stumps. His theory of wicket-keeping holds that the keeper must become as inconspicuous as possible in order to catch or stump batsmen unawares in a series of 'decisive moments', In this respect he has achieved outstanding results, often with a deliberate hand movement as an 'extension of the eye'.

Maurice Ravel – an elegant leg-spin bowler who has absorbed a range of classical influences from the best exponents of his craft. Renowned for his sensuous use of imparting pronounced spin on the ball, his best known delivery is the Bolero. His virtuoso ball skills have placed him alongside Debussy as the inventor of 'impressionism', a ball to rival the googly. A useful batsman who combines sensitivity and emotion with glittering strokes.

Édith Piaf – discovered by a nightclub owner who persuaded her to bowl offspinners, she acquired the name of 'The Little Sparrow'. She produced her signature performance in a memorable match against Germany and during this time was selected on a regular basis and became very successful. Revered as one of the greatest spin-bowlers France has produced, this fragile figure has produced some resounding performances on deteriorating pitches.

Hector Berlioz – opening fast-medium bowler. He can impart substantial swing movement with the new ball. His calculated dissonances, long ranging, yet in fact coherent, melodies ensure good line and length. His speed and the huge forces he consistently uses means that he regularly makes an early breakthrough in the opposition's batting order. Often the subject of abuse from rival spectators or acclaim from team supporters.

Émile Zola – opening bowler with the new ball in tandem with Berlioz. He can shock the opposition batsmen with a succession of bouncers and short pitched balls. Often at odds with cricket authorities. He consistently exposes batsmen's weaknesses through his strong social commentaries, love of truth and crusading zeal. A relentless workhorse, he has the ability to bowl effectively for long spells and dismantle opposing batting sides.

Albert Camus (12th man) – opening batsman. Won the Nobel Prize for Cricket in 1957. Regarded as a 'Mediterranean' cricketer, he is regularly in competition for an opening position with Balzac and Proust. Sharing a similar theoretical approach to the coaching staff, he is often in conflict with the coach over the attitude to adopt towards team selection. He is distinguished by his exceptional stylistic gift and by his search for a regular place in the team.

Coaching Staff

Jean Paul Sartre – A successful coach who has tried to produce an existential ethical system and to combine Marxism with cricket strategy. He teaches philosophy intermittently and his didactic and purposive nature gives them force at team coaching clinics. His themes are dramatic – cricketers 'abandonment' by God and the need to exercise freedom in making choices, and the final nature of all action, intentions going for nothing.

Simone de Beauvoir – a long-time association with Sartre as national coach. Co-responsible in founding (1941) the French Cricket Coaching Manual. Her work in the coaching structure deals with existential problems in relations to the individual and the team dynamic. She is an ardent feminist and states her case most fully at training sessions and team meetings. She disseminates philosophical and political ideas to enhance team performance.

Playing Squad

Charles-Valentin Alkan (13th Man) – drinks carrier. Susceptible to concussion, particularly when reaching for the team's training manual, the Talmud.

Jacques Tati – superb fieldsman at long leg. Often placed there because of his protest against the dehumanising influence of One-Day cricket.

Marcel Marceau – wonderful slow left-arm spin bowler who has great difficulty and frustration convincing the umpires of successful LBW appeals.

Camille Claudel – hugely under-rated. Often not included in the squad in preference to Rodin. Unknown in Australia.

Isabelle Adjani – a talented, promising young player. Unknown in Australia.

Jean Luc-Godard enfant terrible of the French new wave of cricketers. Collegial doubts about fitting into the team dynamic. See François Truffaut below.

François Truffaut – good track record – less demanding on spectators. Often in conflict with Godard e.g. his famous quote –
"Once a Shit, Always a Shit."

© David Mealing, 2010

Thanks David.


  1. A comment from London:
    "Albert Camus, like Arthur Milton, is one of the rare test cricketers who also played international soccer.
    -- Anthony Rudolf, London
    PS I enjoyed my visit to the cricket museum in March 2010 during the test against Australia"

  2. Harvey says
    Thanks Mark. I really enjyed this blog.

  3. OUT OF IT - XI (1987) by Michael O'Leary

    1)Jimi Hendrix

    2)Monk Lewis

    3)Te Rauparaha (C)

    4)Oscar Wilde

    5)Jim Morrison

    6)Alfred Jarry

    7)Janice Joplin

    8)Bob Marley (V.C.)

    9)Herman Goering

    10)Lord Byron

    11)James Joyce

    12th man - James K. Baxter

    This is the team from my 1987 novel 'Out of It' which will be republished early in 2011. I would also like to add that 'A Tingling Catch' is now the only winning aspect of New Zealand cricket, for example, I would wager that there is no Bangladesh book of cricket poetry to beat it at the moment, in fact I think it is probably the only country-specific book of its kind in the world. Let's hope it inspires the Black Caps -

    M. O'L

  4. thanks mark and david
    good stuff