Maynard's shocking death is a sudden and painful descent into the world of reality
12:59 GMT, 19 June 2012
Cricket is full of scripts. You can usually spot them a mile off: the carefree debut, the two-fingers-up return to form, the sinus-loosening last hurrah. And in their familiarity resides a certain comfort.
It matters not that you may already know, to an unhealthy degree, the prescribed possibilities of this diversionary world. Because you also know that, despite your better judgment, you’ll never get bored of them.
They're always just different enough to keep you interested, and besides – they're a damn sight less troublesome than those we meet in real life.
Tributes: Fans left flowers and messages of sympathy for Maynard outside the Kia Oval
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So it feels shocking when sport departs from its unwritten pledge to distract us a little, and to do it in terms we can all understand, if not necessarily emulate.
Tom Maynard was tall, dark, handsome, and talented. He could hit the ball a long way, and he could hit it often. His script may have been highly promising rather than once-in-a-blue-moon exceptional. But it was his script, his life, and it was well under way.
Hell, he'd deviate from it from time to time. He had already done so the previous weekend. But there was fun to be had – his and ours. Sport shouldn't be so demanding as to ask for much more than that.
Tom's story has ended differently now, on the tracks of a tube station while most of us were sleeping through the dawn chorus of Monday morning. Family and friends mourn a loved one. The rest of us respectfully wonder what might have been.
Not many hours earlier, he had been playing for Surrey against Kent at Beckenham. The day before that, he had appeared on Sky's Cricket AM, full of mischief. He was going places.
And he was striking. My girlfriend,
no great sports fan, asked me not about the slightly shy figures of
Jason Roy on one side of the Cricket AM sofa and Stuart Meaker on the
other, but about the swarthy brunette in the middle. If he hadn’t played
for Surrey, you might be tempted to say he had a strut.
His death is an unmitigated tragedy.
It is no more or less tragic than if the body found at Wimbledon Park
station had belonged to a prince or a pauper. But the escapism of sport –
and the significance society ascribes it – is such that any sudden
descent into brutal reality can be especially painful.
Silence: The England and West Indies players paid a fitting tribute at Maynard's home ground
Sportsmen are not supposed to die young. They may lapse into premature decline once their careers are over; they may be taken too soon from us by injury. But to die young is the preserve of the rock star. It is not part of the sporting deal, with its emphasis on athleticism and gilded youth.
How else to explain the astonishing
response to the on-field collapse of Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba
Thousands perish every day in grim circumstances, yet it was the fate of
a man most of us knew only distantly through the prism of Match of the
Day that dominated the headlines.
there was a very human empathy in the outpouring of concern for Muamba
that day. But how much of it jostled for space with disbelief that a
supposedly inviolate world had suffered an intrusion more commonly
reserved for you or me When a footballer has a weak heart, what hope is
there for the rest of us
survived, thank God, but Tom Maynard was less fortunate. A son, a
team-mate, a hope and a dream. And above all, a human being.
Tragedy: Maynard had a promising future with club and country to look forward to