October 14, 2009

Champions Trophy

The Official Confectionery Stall Cricketing Morality Challenge

Andy Zaltzman


In which direction does your cricketing moral compass point? © Getty Images
Enlarge
 

Welcome to the Official Confectionery Stall Cricketing Morality Challenge, following on from Andrew Strauss actions in the Champions Trophy – first recalling Angelo Mathews like a benevolent shepherd allowing a naughty fox one more chance to prove he can cohabit with your flock, then spurning Graeme Smith’s supplication for a runner like Henry VIII definitively telling Anne Boleyn that it was over for good because he didn’t go for women without heads, if I may use two largely inaccurate similes. I now give you the opportunity to find out the direction in which your cricketing moral compass points. Will it be north, towards the good of cricket and humankind, or south, towards 'win at all costs and damn the consequences'?

SCENARIO 1

It is the final over of a unfeasibly crucial limited-overs match. Your team needs four runs to win with just one measly wicket remaining. The opposition’s star fast bowler, who has taken five for 15 from nine overs of helmet-clattering fury, is walking back to his mark. All the other main bowlers have completed their allocation. No one else on the fielding team knows how to bowl. As the bowler turns at the end of his run-up and prepares to run in, you notice that a man-eating bear has escaped from the crowd and is charging up behind him. You realise that your chances of victory would be greatly enhanced by the fast bowler being eaten by the bear. Do you alert him to the impending danger?

(A) Yes, immediately. You know in your cricketing heart of hearts that victory is not all that counts. It must be victory subsequently unsullied by people constantly saying that you only won because the opposition’s best bowler was eaten by a bear at the start of the final over.

(B) Yes. But only after the man-eating bear has got close enough to scare the bowler out of his mind, reducing him to a quivering, whimpering shell of a man, thus affecting the quality of his decisive over.

(C) No. It is the umpires’ responsibility to monitor on-pitch predators. Luck is part of cricket. Being eaten by a bear or not being eaten by a bear are simply elements of luck within the broader tapestry of cricketing fortune. Anyway, the number of players eaten by bears will probably balance out in the long run.

SCENARIO 2

An opposition batsman is blasting your bowlers to all twelve corners of the ground. Your twelfth man runs on in between overs with a selection of new hair gels for the wicketkeeper, a handful of hungry termites, and an instruction from the coach to sprinkle the termites in the batsman’s crease so that when he next settles to face a delivery, the ravenous insects will gobble his bat. Do you:

(A) Grab the termites off the 12th man, start shovelling them into your mouth, while shouting to your coach in the pavilion that you will not stoop so low in an effort to win a cricket match, and send the 12th man back to the pavilion to fetch some salt and tomato ketchup to make the termites tastier.

(B) Take the termites but refuse to go through with the coach’s cheeky scheme. Instead, spread the termites on a good length in front of the batsman, and hope that he has an irrational fear of termites. If he seems unconcerned by the termites, simply sit back and wait for one of the following to happen: (1) some local snakes smell the termites, slither to the crease, and eat the termites, then hope that the batsman has a rational fear of snakes; (2) the termites build one of their trademark mounds just outside off stump on a good length, rendering batting much more difficult (it is a fact that even Bradman never scored a hundred on a pitch containing a functioning termite mound); or (3) the umpires abandon the match due to a termite and/or snake infestation.

(C) Put the plan into action. The coach is boss – he calls the shots. You take the termites from the twelfth man, then stand by the stumps (which your wicketkeeper is surreptiously smearing with the hair gel, a notorious termite repellent) pretending to move your fielders around whilst furtively dropping the termites all over the crease. Then jog slowly towards the bowler and tell him to take the longest and slowest imaginable run-up, before crouching in the slips and deliberately distracting the batsman just as the bowler finally arrives, causing your adversary to pull away at the last second. This will give the termites maximum bat-eating time. Then, when the batsman notices that his bat has been eaten by termites, refuse him permission to replace it, on the grounds that the ICC Match Regulations do not stipulate that a batsman should be allowed to replace a bat that has become part of the food chain, for fear of destabilising local ecosystems.

SCENARIO 3

Your team needs two runs to win at the end of a pulsating match. Nine wickets are down. You are one of the last wicket pair trying to squeeze out a spectacular victory. You get an obvious thick edge to the wicketkeeper, who tosses the ball high in the air in celebration. The umpire however, had been distracted by a passing airship that he thought looked a bit like Inzamam-ul-Haq, did not see the delivery and gives you not out. What do you do?

(A) Either walk, or, preferably, persuade the umpire to give you out, or wait for the next ball and smash the stumps to pieces with your bat. Then return to your frosty dressing room and say: “Cricket was the winner,” before taking refuge in a cupboard.

(B) Refuse the runs, but stay at the crease. When the opposition players berate you for not walking, remind them that it’s only a game, and that there is no documented proof that famous names in history ever walked when playing cricket, so why should you? In the spirit of fair play, you decide that neither side deserves to win, so you bat out the remaining four hours of play without scoring another run to secure a draw.

(C) With the ball still in the air and the wicketkeeper and fielders celebrating like a giraffe who has just eaten a lion, you sprint through for two runs, screaming: “Yes, yes, yes, in your faces, losers, Almighty Zeus himself decreed that we should win this game.”

How did you answer?

Mostly ‘A’s: You are a hero, a cricketing saint, and, as such, have no future in the professional game.

Mostly ‘B’s: You are too philosophically indecisive for top level cricket. Retire.

Mostly ‘C’s: Congratulations. You have displayed the hard-edged practicality of all great captains. You have an ability to take tough decisions, even when those tough decisions are wrong. You’ll go far in cricket, life, and, potentially, politics.

RELATED LINKS

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

RSS Feeds: Andy Zaltzman

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by waterbuffalo on (November 22, 2009, 5:27 GMT)

After watching the high scoring drawn first test between India and SL, I am stating to realize that if Test Cricket is not dead, it is certainly in Intensive Care. Captains play not to lose, and don't mind wasting ten days of their time and hours in the hope of having a go on the 4th day of the last test. Schoolchildren let in for free occupy the seats, declarations are delayed forever or until personal milestones are reached. I hope Eng and SA can show the rest of the world what Tests look like and can be.

I hope you will be writing something about it, after all, England does not usually get white washed by the S. Africans. I am depressed, please write something soon to cheer me up.

Posted by roger on (November 1, 2009, 17:12 GMT)

simply lovely ...

Posted by phil on (October 27, 2009, 6:01 GMT)

Surely a man's level of morality doesn't need to be constant. Mine changes depending on the situation of games, how many drinks I have had, whether I am hungry, who we are playing, or even if the comfy chair is available. That's what makes us interesting. Adam Gilchrist's attraction is not merely that he occassionally 'walked', it is also that he belted the ball with no respect for his wicket and sledged like a wharfie. The difficulty is obtaining a well trained man eating bear, with enough tactical nous to only eat the bowler when necessary. What a waste if he were to eat Ashley Giles.

Posted by Yazad on (October 23, 2009, 12:32 GMT)

What would Owais Shah say?Yes...No...Sorry?

Posted by Sudipta Basu on (October 23, 2009, 9:34 GMT)

A laugh riot. Andy you are the best ... :)

Posted by Abul Hasan Jafri on (October 22, 2009, 7:14 GMT)

He has surpassed himself. I could not stop laughing.

Posted by Nadeeka on (October 19, 2009, 2:29 GMT)

Aboslutly brilliant. Hillarious piece. Where do you come up with these things

Posted by Krusty on (October 18, 2009, 0:09 GMT)

If an airship looked like Inzamam-ul-Haq, then I would imagine that after a few curries, he'd fart and the scene would be a repeat of the Hindenburg disaster

Posted by Ethan on (October 16, 2009, 15:37 GMT)

"Awesome" period

Posted by Praveen on (October 16, 2009, 12:04 GMT)

Dear Andy Zaltzman

Your work is hilarious and I wonder whether either you, cricinfo editors or really any random person, may post a 'best of' collection of your work including Douglas Jardine running up the pitch in a sombrero shouting 'its chimichanga time!'

Look forward to it!

Comments have now been closed for this article

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.

All articles by this writer