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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'?
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.
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.
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.
Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writerFeeds: Andy Zaltzman
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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.