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The crash-bang cricketers of the Indian Premier League, for example, use bats like tree trunks and aim largely at brute-force feats of six-hitting. The roots of Lara’s style were laid in an entirely different era. He used a remarkably light bat, and in general he avoided hitting the ball in the air: his first world record innings included forty-five fours but not a single six. There was unquestionably something joyful about his run scoring, but it relied more on placement and clarity of shot than it did on power.

Apart from anything else, what seems to pass unrecognised in the criticisms I have described is that Beyond a Boundary is a book in which James is himself interrogating exactly this issue. Moreover, he is interrogating himself and his own responses to this issue. It helps to remember, in this respect, that the key themes of Beyond a Boundary (the insistence on reading cricket as an art-form; the emphasis on the role of the audience; the relation of sporting styles to a wider zeitgeist) had all been worked out by James at least three decades before the book was finally published.

Cleaned up and reimagined as a pastoral idyll, cricket became the perfect expression of the Victorian elite’s view of the world: anti-commercial, celebratory of bodily prowess, rule bound and hierarchical. Consequently, the game became a key vehicle for instilling the physical and mental disciplines that were transmitted by the reformed public schools to which that elite sent their sons. For the same reason, it came to feature in the curricula of the educational systems established domestically for the working classes (Bateman 2003: 41–4) and in the schools established to train the elites of the colonial world (Mangan 1998; Birley 1999: chapter 9; Sandiford and Stoddart 1995).

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