November 14, 2008

Come on, umpires. Walk faster please

Andy Zaltzman
Prophets of gloom: Umpires Rudi Koertzen and Aleem Dar discuss the fading light, England v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Lord's, May 15, 2006
 © Getty Images
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The Ricky Ponting over-rate controversy has been one of the more baffling episodes of recent times, but is something of a breakthrough for those who see slow play as one of the most inexcusable and avoidable blights on the game, a tedious tactic indulged for too long by the authorities.

Cricket has found some spectacular means of worsening its own product in recent times – the current craze for building stadiums which are inaccessible to those unable to paraglide, for example, or pitches as dead as WG Grace, or the rebranding of Bad Light to Mild Murk. Slow over-rates are proud members of this hall of shame, and it is curious that the fitter and more athletic players have become, the less able they have been to average one delivery every 40 seconds.

In my next blog, I will suggest some means of ensuring that over rates are crisp enough to prevent Gubby Allen spinning too dizzyingly in his grave. In the meantime, is it too much to ask for umpires to start setting a brisker example?

No slower human movement has ever been officially recorded than that of two umpires sludging towards each other to confer over the light, like a pair of amorous teenage tortoises unsure of whether to make the first move, or two unhappy commuters trying to miss the same train.

This is sometimes equalled by the funereal dawdle to co-examine the roundness of an allegedly-misshapen ball, as if this responsibility is a holy, god-given ritual as old as time itself, and the ball is a precious relic whose molecules must not be woken.

Such sloth might have been understandable in the olden days of cricket, when umpires were only allowed to stand when they had attained a sufficient age to guarantee that their eyesight had failed. Now, however, the game is officiated by primed, thrusting superathletes (or at least by fit and mostly youngish men who probably have gym memberships). And yet, at stages of matches when they might be expected to scurry urgently in the hope of providing an expectant crowd with maximum value for their considerable money, they seem to move as if they are adjusting tentatively to a brand new spinal cord. Chivvy along, gentlemen.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer

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Posted by Souvik on (November 20, 2008, 21:01 GMT)

Very funny & more than a trifle scathing. It makes me sad that humour has gone out a bit from Cricket commentary. The expert opinions & commentary aren't all that engaging to listen to - I am all for a little bit of idiosyncracy & fun. May be you'll write something on that too. I thought Ian Smith was pretty funny but he doesn't do commentary all that often.

I really enjoyed reading through all your pieces. Hoping to read plenty more in the future.

Posted by sunnyvala on (November 18, 2008, 14:21 GMT)

Hilarious...Even 10 yr old kids playing in our neighbourhood would play faster n try to finish the game when they sense rain coming their way..its high time international umps/players realize that countless people are waiting for that damn game to finish, so they can turn off the TV,catch some sleep n rush to their jobs next morning.

Posted by Aby on (November 16, 2008, 18:15 GMT)

'No slower human movement has ever been officially recorded than that of two umpires sludging towards each other to confer over the light' - Hilarious Andy.Cricket to me is a celebration of life. There is nothing like watching Sachin Tendulkar bat on a Sunday afternoon. Cricket needs people like you to write, so that people like me can read and enjoy the game. Cheers!! Keep writing !!!

Posted by Harit on (November 16, 2008, 12:25 GMT)

Really good stuff, Andy! I must say you write exceedingly well! Hope to see more of you on this site!

Posted by Mahesh on (November 16, 2008, 11:12 GMT)

Great piece this. We have seen comments, criticisms and others in straight articles. People need something like this to actually push the point through. Nothing better than humor to make a realistic point. Great piece, Andy. Look forward to read more from you.

Posted by Ash on (November 16, 2008, 4:14 GMT)

Hah funny. Welcome to Cricinfo!

Posted by Jonathan Taylor on (November 15, 2008, 23:25 GMT)

Why do they even need to walk to each other? They can use their two-way radios to discuss whether they should confer about the light (instead of walking over to each other to confer about whether to confer about the light), and chuck the ball to each other if they want to check its shape. And then confer about the shape on their two-ways.

Posted by Kunal on (November 15, 2008, 18:53 GMT)

right on there with the 'discussion of bad light' comment. Yeah, that particular walks looks as if they intentionally go slow!

keep em coming, a great humor piece of this grt site

Posted by Minhaj on (November 15, 2008, 15:57 GMT)

Umpires take too much time in making an LBW decision. So what is the problem if lbw decisions are also given by the third umpires if there are any benefit of doubts?

Posted by Ravikiran on (November 15, 2008, 15:50 GMT)

Cricket is a sport that takes itself far too seriously. A blog like this is what Ravi Shastri's doctor ordered. Lets bring some frivolity into this game please. Thank you Andy.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andy Zaltzman
Andy Zaltzman was born in obscurity in 1974. He has been a sporadically-acclaimed stand-up comedian since 1999, and has appeared regularly on BBC Radio 4. He is currently one half of TimesOnline's hit satirical podcast The Bugle, alongside John Oliver. Zaltzman's love of cricket outshone his aptitude for the game by a humiliating margin. He once scored 6 in 75 minutes in an Under-15 match, and failed to hit a six between the ages of 9 and 23. He would have been ideally suited to Tests, had not a congenital defect left him unable to play the game to anything above genuine village standard. He writes the Confectionery Stall blog on Cricinfo.

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