Cow Corner

Cricket a poorer place for loss of Maynard

We expected that when Tom Maynard's name hit the headlines, it would be because he had earned himself a call-up to the England squad.

Instead, the news that filtered through on Monday was that the Surrey batsman had died at the age of 23.

23 - a desperately low number, which takes some time to absorb.

In cricket, with that number of runs to your name, you are starting to settle into an innings. But as in life your best moments, you hope, are ahead of you. Should your innings in the game end on 23, you are left to rue what you might have achieved. If you fail, well, there's always next time.

Maynard himself must have thought much the same as he stumbled to seven from 17 balls on Sunday in a Twenty20 match for Surrey against Kent.

It was his first outing of the season in the format — last summer he had been crucial for the county's campaign, with 392 runs at 43.55. This year he was Surrey's top run-scorer in first-class cricket. His curve was an upward one.

It was a curve which at some stage would surely have seen Maynard win caps — and thereafter perhaps matches — for England.

He was steeped in cricket in a way which few other professionals could match. His father, Matthew, played for England and scored just shy of 25,000 runs for Glamorgan. Tom, as Matthew's team-mate Steve James recalls in The Daily Telegraph this morning, was a regular in the Glamorgan dressing rooms even as a boy. He loved the game, and going on to play it at a high level seemed inevitable.

None of this is to say Maynard was a saint — only last week Surrey disciplined him for being out late after a championship game against Sussex.

The unfortunate circumstances of his last hours are still emerging, and it is quite possible we will never know exactly how and why he ended up on the tracks.

But that is a matter for the police, not for idle speculation. In many ways, the minutiae of Maynard's last moments do not matter.

His is a story of youth and talent lost tragically and needlessly, and of the void it will leave in cricket.

Beyond his family and friends, Surrey will feel that void most acutely, having suffered the untimely losses of both Graham Kersey and Ben Hollioake in car crashes in the last 15 years.

But Maynard's death mattered to every cricket fan who heard about it, and to a great number of people beyond that. Sportsmen appear on our televisions as the healthiest and vibrant of us all. Whether you know them, their achievements and their story, or not, they are not supposed to die prematurely.

The sense of 'what might have been' — or perhaps, rather 'what should have been' — then, is hard to shake.

As fate would have it, England's limited-overs series against the West Indies continued at Maynard's home ground of The Oval on Tuesday, leaving the sport with little room to digest the tragedy.

Team-mate Jade Dernbach sat out the game on compassionate grounds, while the match began with a minute's silence.

Understandably, the cricket today feels cathartic in some ways, overshadowed in others.

The show went on, but the crushing reality of Maynard's loss will take far longer to come to terms with.