Burnout October 25, 2009

Burned out on burnout


'Fred?' 'Yes Harmy.' 'I feel a whinge about too much cricket coming on' © Cricinfo Ltd

Regular readers of this blog will find that from time to time I put forward proposals to benefit the game as a whole. Already this week I have launched a petition to persuade Mr T to join the elite panel of umpires (“Don’t give me no howzat, sucker, that was going down leg-side, fool!”) and emailed the BBC to suggest that Test Match Special replace their current theme tune with the one from MASH. So while the relevant bodies mull over those beauties, here’s another corker from the Hughes think tank.

It is high time that we brought back the good old-fashioned gagging order. Under this system, no player will be allowed to talk to anyone, not even their partners, until the end of their playing career. Now I realise that this means fewer interviews, fewer autobiographies and fewer celebrity ghost-written tabloid columns. But these aren’t the only benefits.

We might also get to hear less about "burnout". Burnout is such a dramatic word. It conjures up the image of a spent firework lying smouldering on the grass or a high-performance racing car pulled over to the side of the road with smoke pouring from its engine. Upon investigation, I discovered that my dictionary defines burnout as "to become ineffective through overwork".

Still, it is hard to see how this word could be employed when talking about cricketers. For a start, you would need to define "ineffective". In many cases, it would be fiendishly difficult to tell the difference between a cricketer who was naturally ineffective and one who had ineffectiveness thrust upon him due to the demands of the Future Tours Programme.

Of course, "burnout" is really cricket jargon. It is trade speak, just as much as "arm-ball" or "googly" or "What the f*** was that, Harmison?" As such, cricket being such a high-tech pursuit, far beyond the grasp of the non-cricket-playing mortal, it is difficult to translate "burnout" directly into standard English. I suppose the nearest equivalent would be, "a little bit tired".

Now for most people, being "a little bit tired" is an indication of having completed a reasonably hard day’s work. For the modern cricketer, though, it is a kind of torture to rank alongside having one’s champagne delivered without an ice bucket and finding that the hotel bed sheets are not made from Egyptian cotton. By the sound of it, the most important piece of equipment in the English dressing room at the moment is the team fainting couch onto which incoming players are forever swooning before being revive with a sniff of Dr Strauss’s Patented Smelling Salts for Distressed Ladies.

In times past, such behaviour would have resulted in a severe dressing down from a boardroom full of snugly suited bewhiskered pipe-smokers, a beating from the senior pros and an extra shift or two down the coalmine before breakfast. We can’t bring back the good old days but we can adhere to an important Victorian motto, sadly neglected of late: professional cricketers should be seen and not heard.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England