Rain on a tin roof


When giving the 2011 MCC’ Spirit of Cricket’ lecture, Kumar Sangakkara, the Sri Lankan cricketer, used the phrase ‘rain on a tin roof’ to describe the terrorist attack on the touring Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009.That phrase, and that speech, led to this poem. 


Tropical rain declares war.

Great fat globules detonate in the mud,

send plumes of earth splattering

onto white-washed walls.

Drains and gullies, 

defeated by the deluge

disgorge rivers of rainwater 

on beleagured streets.

And in shelters and shanties

noise reverberates, 

the staccato gunfire

of rain on a tin roof.


Kalashnikovs cough a rapid fire rattle.

Metal casings zip 

off the shell of the coach.

Staccato gunfire, 

like rain on a tin roof.


Terrorists emerge from the morning traffic.

Live rounds shatter glass,

shards of shrapnel

slice through skin,

and inside the coach

the noise reverberates,

rain on a tin roof.


Rats in a trap,

cricketers dive

on to dust-covered floors,

on top of each other.

All around 

a cascade of sound,

staccato gunfire, 

rain on a tin roof.


The RPG skims 

the top of the coach, 

the grenade underneath 

fails to explode.

Inches from faces, bullets

fly into seats ,

thud into flesh, 

thunder into bone.

Metal on metal,

tropical storms,

rain on a tin roof,

like rain on a tin roof.


The Cover Drive


It’s a fundamental law of the universe that,

no matter how good you are, 

whomsoever you may be,

a right hander can’t cover drive 

the way a left hander can.

You might drive with elan, 

strike a classical pose, 

high left elbow in a checked follow through,

or go down on one knee with a flourish of the bat,

but you’ll never match 

the beauty of a lefthanded drive.

Sachin is efficient, Viv imperious, 

Aravinda and Vengsarkar classically correct,

and yet

a lefthanders drive makes them look commonplace.

Gower was fluid, liquid limbs trickling into the stroke.

Sobers was elegant, Pollock sublime.

At the SCG, Waugh placed three men for one shot.

Lara’s drives made leaden-footed statues of them all, 

as tracer bullets bound for the boundary flew past.

Don’t get me wrong, left handers can do it ugly.

 Border punched his drives with a short arm jab, 

and Clive clubbed them with a three lb bat,

but they only did that to make right-handers 

feel better about themselves.

Of today’s practitioners of the art, 

one man stands in a class apart.

Sangakkara flows into the drive. 

From a perfect head-still stance, he unfurls, 

right foot moves forward, right elbow high, 

bat comes down in a textbook arc. 

Batsman and bat fuse into one,

for one purpose. For one instant,

 as willow meets leather,

there is perfection. 

There’s purity in the stroke,

snow-on-a-mountain-top purity,

 turquoise-meltwater-stream purity.

So, to see real beauty, 

seared in the brain, never to be forgotten, heart-stopping beauty,

go and watch a lefthander drive.