They said you kept a wily secret
up your rolled-down sleeve, the Englishmen
who fell before you like a crop of canes.
Three steps and a subtle turn of wrist
wrought apertures spread-eagling their stumps.
They looked behind bewildered, open-mouthed.
Here in these islands we screamed joyous shouts
as every wicket fell. We’d taught our masters
how to play the game. The name of Ramadhin
made pride flush in our veins. Then we sent you with
your guile to beat Australia. Our little marvel
off to twist the mighty giants by their tails.
At four o’clock one morning, Christmas Day,
you had Doug Ring out. We’d won. The umpire
said no. Oceans away here, like you, we wept.
What you sent down for over after over
was not a ball with stitches in red leather.
It was an orb investing us with power.
So in our hearts we placed your statue up.
How strange that time has caked its bronze with rust,
and children playing now trample your dust!
–– Cecil Gray
From The Woolgatherer (Peepal Tree Press, England, 1994). Reprinted by permission