© Getty Images
Nobel laureate, Gabriel Garcia Marquez died on April 17, 2014 © Getty Images

The great Columbian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez was born March 6, 1927. Arunabha Sengupta pays tribute to this shining star of the literary world by remembering how his words found their way into the cricket world.

As a young law student, Gabriel Garcia Marquez seriously neglected his studies, made his loathing for the law abundantly clear and spent his time organising impromptu football games in the vast corridors of the University of Cartagena. At school, he was not one of the sporty types, preferring to sit reading in the shade during breaks, but gradually got used to light soccer games with his friends.

Later, like Albert Camus, Gunter Grass, Naguib Mahfouz, Eduardo Galeano and Mario Vargas Llosa, he wrote about the game. In 2006, Jorge Omar Perez of Mundo Deportivo listed him in his Los Nobel del futbol — 20 writers who, according to the author, merited a Nobel Prize just for their football writing. Others in the list were the likes of Umberto Eco, Miguel Hernandez, Vladimir Nabokov, Kenzuburo Oe, Grass, Camus, Galeano, Llosa and others.

Garcia Marquez also wrote about chess with obvious fondness in the first chapter of Love in the time of Cholera. However, being Columbian he obviously did not endeavour to pen much about cricket.

Yet, life imitates art crafted by the true artist. And words of Marquez were far reaching enough to flow out from the veins of Latin America and splash into the headlines of the cricket world.

When Bob Woolmer, coach of the Pakistan cricket team, died in mysterious circumstances in the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel Kingston in 2007, journalists Cole Moreton and Arifa Akbar of the Independent were reminded the prophetic words uttered by Ian Botham. In 2001, the legendary all-rounder had warned the cricket world that if fixers and bookies were not controlled, someone would have to pay the price for it with his life.

The headline of the piece penned by the journalist duo read, “Chronicles of a Death Foretold: ‘Match Fixing Has to Be Sorted or Someone Will be Assassinated’: Ian Botham, 2001.” No title was more apt than the name of the Garcia Marquez authored non-linear novella reconstructing the murder of Santiago Nasar.

In The Cambridge Companion to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, edited by Philip Swanson, a section dealt with the headline used by Moreton and Akbar. It was described as: “[an] eloquent testimony to the way Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s fiction, rather like the shining metal cones in Jorge Luis Borges’s ‘Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertus’  has mysteriously infiltrated the empirical world.” It was as if through some wand-work of magic realism, Garcia Marquez’s words had disturbingly come out of the pages and become morbid reality.

In the great author’s own words, “Life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it.” And because of the way he recounted life, we can merge two of his famed quotes and say: “therefore the sensation we felt when got to know of his death was that it was his life that really mattered, and it filled us with not sadness but nostalgia.”

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)