…and fly someplace far away where there is no TV, or at least no cricket broadcast, sums up my mood when I read this morning that we are due another concrete wicket at Nagpur. Yet optimism beats — albeit with a faint, fluttering beat that wouldn’t show up on the ECG gizmo, because if there is one thing our ‘experts’ consistently get wrong it is their reading of the wicket. Who knows — this one might be like Brabourne, with something in it for everyone. At least, you can surf that hope till 2.30 pm, when some sacrificial lamb walks to the top of his bowling mark, turns, and runs in to his scheduled execution.
Okay, in case it wasn’t already apparent, I’m feeling a bit bilious today. It’s Friday, there is a paper to produce [my penultimate edition of India Abroad, actually], but none of that is going to stop me from turning on the TV at the appointed hour and watch bowlers bleed all over the concrete [random thoughts during the game on Twitter, as always].
I’m not the only one feeling bilious, by the way. Here’s Mahela Jayawardene:
“I have always been critical of the fact that bowlers now have to bowl in the ‘strike zone’ basically,” Jayawardene said ahead of the second one-dayer in Nagpur. “You can’t bowl down the leg side. Anything outside the off stump is a wide.
“With the Power Plays and all the restrictions it’s important we give bowlers leverage as well. Another option would be to give them another bouncer. Give them two bouncers an over. Restrictions are probably easing up and have given them a bit more in third Power Play. But we need to balance it out a bit more.”
Elsewhere, I found this wtf passage in Peter Roebuck’s reflections on the ongoing West Indies-Australia Test. An extended clip, with the key bit highlighted:
Meanwhile, Benn, no lilting lily himself, had been chirping away in his incessant manner. A fine line exists between teasing and taunting. From a distance, it is impossible to say on which side his remarks fall. Truth to tell, he is a spinner in a fast bowler’s body, a conflict that has caused trouble before now. Tony Lock and Bill O’Reilly were not the most polite players ever to put on creams.
All things considered, Perth was an incident waiting to happen. No sooner had play resumed after lunch than the pot boiled over. At first Haddin was a bystander, a role that does not suit him. Benn and Mitchell Johnson rubbed shoulders as they crossed paths without dwelling upon rights of way. Haddin did not need to get involved but his mate’s cause is his own and, anyhow, he was already irritated.
Annoyed by Benn’s refusal to give ground, he pointed his bat at him and drew a sharp riposte from an equally agitated opponent. By the look of things, both were spoiling for a fight. A strong intervention from the umpire was required and a calming of tempers at both ends. To no avail, Chris Gayle tried to settle things down.
Now came the flashpoint that is destined to be replayed a million times, for all the world as if it was more important than the cricket. At the end of the over, Benn glared at Haddin and threw the ball to his keeper. Haddin strode towards the bowler whereupon the trouble began. By now both parties were speaking with forked tongues. Benn angrily pointed towards Haddin and his arm collided or otherwise came into contact with Johnson, hitherto a mostly innocent bystander. Affronted, the Queenslander pushed his opponent away, an intervention commonplace in footy but unacceptable on a cricket field.
In many decades of watching cricket, it’s hard to remember any other instances of physical contact between players. Bumps occasionally occur as batsmen take a single and the bowler seeks the ball. Dennis Lillee kicking Javed Miandad on the same ground was about as far as it has gone, conduct that draw an enraged response from the feisty Pakistani. Otherwise manhandling is almost unknown.
Peter is almost right. It was a thin line between permissible banter and downright obnoxious behavior — but that line has long since been obliterated, largely because sections of the cricket world led by Australia decked up bad behavior in psycho-babble — when someone suggests he and his mates spent the previous evening doing the nasty with my wife, it’s abuse — not “mental disintegration” — and the authorities consistently winked at it.
Why, for instance, did the field umpires at the height of yesterday’s brawl not order the involved players off the field, to cool their heels in the dressing room till better sense prevailed? Why have the players involved not been banned for a Test or three?
Many of us have been repeatedly warning that one day, someone will take that one step too far. It almost happened yesterday; it will get worse before it gets better.