Fasten your seatbelts…

…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.

9 thoughts on “Fasten your seatbelts…

  1. What is hilarious in the Roebuck piece is his accepting that Haddin was ready for a fight ! Since when did it become OK for one player to be angry and willing for a fight since one of his team mates got hit by a bouncer – which is basically the gist of Roebuck’s arguement !

    If that was the case, how on earth did all the West Indies test in the late 70’s and 80’s not turn into a free for all brawls !!!

    Equally amusing to read was Gayle’s comment on talking to the match refree after the game – Broad, Aus players involved in Aus.. Doesn’t he know it’s akin to hitting against a brickwall 🙂

  2. This is what actually I wanted to say with your other piece that day about Indians not being able to sew up things good and tight when in a commanding position. I surely do not like the attitude of the aussies even if they are winners. They have also become winners so consistently because of some of the methods that they use on the field. the famous ” mental disintegration” being one of them. I am not discounting the value of their work ethics but their final attitude nullifies any inspiration that one can draw out of such good work ethics. I partake of the joy of the SL team winning for example but an aussie win makes me want to switch the TV off. They are so in your face and frankly irritating, I dont think I would want that our Indian team evolves into one like them. Blame it on the typical Indian psyche, I’d rather view a tolerant team than an arrogant one.

    As for the fines…I hope its a mistake. All the players are as much party to the incident and deserve the same kind of punishment.

    Lastly, like Ajay Jadeja said on NDTV, the Rajkot match was a competition only in the last two overs. Otherwise it was leather belting all round. I do believe that its the worst thing to happen to the game. Poor Bowlers!

  3. Hi Prem, a couple of points:
    1) Everyone has been saying that the Brabourne pitch was perfect. Just a week later, it is now bowler’s graveyard as seen in Mumbai-Gujarat Ranji runathon. Your thoughts?
    2) You are spot on that Aussies have no moral right to discuss and complain on the on-field behaviour and I feel that Aussies have yet again been let off lightly…

    • One of two things happened. Either they used one of the other wickets, which was not prepared on similar lines, or in the interim between that Test and this run fest, they watered and rolled the pitch as near to death as makes no difference.

  4. Prem: Benn banned for 2 ODIs & Haddin/Johnson get fined. Chris Broad being the match referee, I am wondering why Haddin was let off with just a fine. Sure Benn seemed to grab Johnson’s shirt, but IMHO, Haddin’s bat waving added fuel to the fire.

  5. Prem,

    on a completely lateral (bordering on wtf) angle, what is wrong with a bit of contact, some forked tongues or tempers soaring a tad? As you will agree, red cards are as much fun in soccer as a maradona bend. With long drawn 700+ innings doing its rounds, I can do with some manhandling entertainment on the side. Throw me some of that shit and hell I’ll even watch Bangladesh play Zimbabwe for 5 days.

    May be the ‘spirit of cricket’ is a tad overrated? May be the aussies had it right all along?

    • There is a Youtube clip showing some contact between Ponting & Roach (?) which proceeds to the Benn-Johnson-Haddin incident. And the commentary team says that finally Oz is getting some of their own medicine back. Which is true. I don’t condone the contact, but is refreshing to see the boys show some “feeling” out there!

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