There is only one Nobel Prize winner, who has a place in the pages of Wisden; who has a profile on ESPNCricinfo; who has a first-class record.
Famed existentialist, nihilist, absurdist (Beckett has, with varying degrees of accuracy, been labelled with most of the –ists) Samuel Beckett played two first-class games for Dublin’s Trinity College against Northamptonshire in 1925 and ’26. His Wisden obituary reveals Beckett was ‘A left-hand opening batsman, possessing what he himself called a gritty defence’ and a useful left-arm seamer.
Unlike his literary career, Beckett did not set the World alight with his cricketing ability: a batting average of 8.75 with 35 runs from 4 innings and no wickets from 23 overs spread over both matches, aptly displays the wise choice he made in pursuing academia over sport.
Samuel Beckett would go on to write some of the most important works of literature ever created. Fiercely avant garde novels, (Murphy, Molloy, How It Is) plays (Waiting for Godot, Endgame) and other works of fiction, earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969 (he donated the cash prize) and a place in the social consciousness of the World. To many, the Beckettian is synonymous with the miserable and the fatalistic nihilism of a modern, alienating society.
If Morrissey is the ‘Pope of mope’, Beckett must be the ‘Saint Peter of misery’.
But just as cricket manages to balance the grim with the humorous better than any other sport, Beckett was also a poet of the blackly comic and grotesquely funny. The humour of Clov and Hamm’s non-existence in Endgame is not a million miles away from the sublime absurdity of a Jason Gillespie double ton, or of Alex Tudor’s highest Test score (99 not out). Doesn’t the Indian fast bowler’s wait for the second new-ball echo the never-ending wait for Godot?
Samuel Beckett is cricket’s only Nobel Laureate, it couldn’t be anyone else.