Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Everything I know about singing I learnt from cricket.

Or..... everything I know about cricket I learnt from singing.

Isn't this exciting? A post involving cricket AND Life, Love and Art. How post-modern of me. I shall have to try to make it a recurring theme.

OK. So. Cricket and singing. Might seem a bridge too far. But bear with me, 'cos all of this is true.

There are various elements of the game and the artform that are inextricably linked, as far as I'm concerned. All those fat blokes singing the same thing over and over? Cricket. Same with the sheilas with horns. All those funny little men in white with the cucumber sandwiches on the village green on British summer afternoons? Singing. And ergo with the hard, Australian men trying to kill each other in 40-degree heat. They might not know it, but it's ALL THE SAME THING. I don't think it was an accident. Pavarotti wasn't a Juventus fan - he supported Middlesex and the Bangalore Royal Challengers.

Here's why.

Cricket is a stage.

I'm not a singer that often takes a tremendous amount of inspiration from singers themselves. My knowledge of the great tenors (let alone the sopranos, mezzos and bass-baritones) is pretty lamentable, if I'm being kind. I get more of my inspiration from the the abstract. Sport. Business. Stand-up comedy (yes, really - but more on that later). And cricket is perfect to draw from, because it is often so focussed on the individual. When you've seen the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Viv Richards and Shane Warne play the game you've seen theatre of the highest calibre. They don't just walk onto the ground, they OWN it. Having long since convinced themselves and others of their genius, they exude self-belief, pride, ability. They take the focus, they take the momentum, they carry all before them and they take charge. Just like a great character actor, or singer. It is so often this quality that makes a stage performer great - and sometimes all the ability in the world just isn't enough without it.

They both require discipline, technique and mental strength.

From the cricketing side of the argument, I have four words and a date. Steve Waugh, West Indies, 1995. When you are carrying the hopes of a nation and a 6 foot 7-inch Antiguan is LITERALLY TRYING TO KILL YOU you've got to have all these things. And it's got to be instinctive. There's no time to think when Curtly Ambrose is bowling at 95 miles an hour at your throat. It's exactly the same with singing - there is no time to think when you walk onto a stage and strip yourself bare in front of several thousand people, either. There is no turning back - you're either up for it, or you're not. An old singing teacher once said to me that singing is a blood sport. He's dead right.

They both mess with your head.

Oh boy, this one's my favourite. How many fabulously talented cricketers are there that didn't ever make the most of their potential? Ramprakash. Hick. Hooper. How many times has that talented player worried himself out before he's even faced a ball? Got the yips and started bowling wides when yesterday he had it on a string? Doubt, and fear of failure are insiduous things. They creep up on you when you least expect it. I'm not good enough/I don't deserve to be here/Do I really want it after all? has gone through everyone's head at some point. It's what you do when you're there that makes the difference - and that doesn't often have much to do with ability.

You've got to have a ruthless, combative streak to succeed.

This is the easiest one of the lot. Any sport is like this - you're consistently required to perform in the face of any number of opposition whose very presence by definition is to make you fail, and sometimes in front of audiences of billions who want the same. Singing requires you to sacrifice everything. Leave your family. Friends. Move to the other side of the world. End relationships if they're not compatible with it. Maybe even give up on the idea of having children, if you're female. It's just something that you HAVE to do. Why do I sing? I have no choice but to. It's that simple. I can't not. Nothing else that matters matters as much as that, and no sacrifice is too great.

You're never bigger than the game.

Another personal favourite. All the Shane Warnes and Viv Richards and Don Bradmans in the world are never bigger than the game. None of the Roberto Alagnas, Angela Georghius or Luciano Pavarottis are, either. At every concievable level, you are part of something bigger than you. If you don't respect that, and those around you, ultimately it comes back to bite you. Be a force for the good, not the bad. Create, don't destroy. I try to keep these at the fore-front of my mind at all times. Will I be proven right? Who knows. But I'm convinced that I will be.

You've got to really want it.

Duh. This barely needs explaining. No-one made it to La Scala or a Lord's Test by just being good. Unless they were queuing up outside for tickets.

And - well, that's it, basically. I may think of more, there's bound to be a few out there. The trouble is that I don't know that many singers that are cricketers - and even fewer cricketers that are singers, so I can't really ask anyone else! I guess you'll just have to take my word for the fact that I'm right, and I really am the world's leading opinion on Love, Life, Art and Cricket.

And after all, what did you expect? Humility??? Pah - you're reading the wrong blog!

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