Langston shows power of words

PETER LANGSTON is an historian, poet and columnist for his blogsite thecricket

Two years ago, the Tamworth resident and regular visitor to the Clarence Valley had an article published in The Daily Examiner, which prompted calls to restore the memorial at the end of Prince St, dedicated to the 13 Cub Scouts who drowned in the Clarence River in 1943.

This week Langston was in Grafton to read a poem at the now refurbished site, as part of the 70th anniversary commemoration.

Fellow cricket tragic and The Daily Examiner sports editor BILL NORTH, took the opportunity to pick the brains of the skilful writer.

BN: I understand, in 2011, you brought to attention the fact this area of Memorial Park needed restoration.

PL: A couple of local people were having a few things to say. I examined the situation carefully and wrote an article outlining what I saw as the deficiencies, and what I also wanted to see happen. The plaques were so faded you couldn't read the names. I'm pleased a local committee formed soon thereafter. I don't think I was the driving force - I simply gave it a bit more of a voice.

BN: Tell us about, and what gave you the idea to start writing it in the first place.

PL: I've always loved cricket. I've been writing about it since describing backyard Test matches, much to the chagrin of my mates. In the '70s and '80s I had a cricket show on radio in Armidale and then saw the natural progression to the new media. I usually write more fulsome things about the issues, than daily descriptions. Just recently, for instance, one on Jonathon Trott and the reason why so many cricketers seem to fall to depression.

BN: Has depression become more prevalent in cricket because of added pressures in the sport?

PL: I think it's always been there. There's books written about cricketers who have committed suicide. Jimmy Burke comes to mind. One of the problems with cricket is it allows players a long period to cogitate about their performances. If you fail with the bat, you have a long time to sit in the stands and watch the rest of the guys succeed. Plus it's a game now where there is great pressure from the media and to perform across a whole range of forms.

BN: You read some poetry at the Gabba recently.

PL: A whole set, actually. A business group invited me to come up and read at their Christmas party. So I did about an hour-long set about all sorts of topics, some about cricket. One wall was entirely a window, so I could see the Gabba under lights while I was reading. It meant I didn't worry too much about the audience.

BN: You also watched the first Test at the Gabba. What are your thoughts on the series so far?

PL: It was coming. I could see it in England. I thought Australia were pretty unlucky to lose by 3-nil. They were a much better side in England than in India, for instance. To me the influence is very clear - Darren Lehmann has made the difference. He's allowed Clarke to do what he was doing early in his captaincy and be an inventive captain who tries things. Lehmann has removed the concept of being an individual and put us back to being a team again. I'm really impressed; we've gone back to having something all Australian teams have had at their best - a little bit of mongrel. They play fair but are in your face, and when you're playing the English that's always a good position.

BN: Mitchell Johnson seems to have reinvented himself.

PL: Yes, and I don't think that Zapata moustache is the only thing Dennis Lillee's had an influence on. The fact team management said to him right from when he was selected for the first Test, that his job was to bowl fast and short, not worrying about whether he's bending the ball back to the bat or if his follow through is right. The key of course is his attitude. Johnson's problem before was always the fact he was easily distracted. In Brisbane, after bowling a ball straight past Root's chin, the Englishman had a few words to say and Johnson, standing mid-pitch, just smiled and winked. It was the best sledge I've seen for years.

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