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I have nothing against word processors. Nor do I bear any ill will towards retired cricketers. However, the conjunction of the two is usually, in my experience, something to be avoided. Scientists may believe that an infinite number of former batsmen bashing away at an infinite number of laptops may eventually produce the collected works of Cardus, but I count myself amongst the sceptics.
And can you blame me? Only last week, the prosecution was handed yet more evidence for the bulging file of crimes against common sense committed by decommissioned flannelites. Still bleary-eyed with festive cheer, I turned on my computer one sunny afternoon and was jolted from my complacency by the following headline:
“SUNIL GAVASKAR ALLEGES NEXUS OVER STUART BROAD NON-ACTION”
It sounded dramatic. It invited the concerned, dressing gown-wearing citizen to read on. I read on.
“Stuart's father Chris is one of the ICC's match referees, and so the umpires are reluctant to make a complaint against the youngster.”
Crikey! Heavy stuff. Now when you read a sentence like that, it’s easy to get distracted by all the verbs and nouns and things, but look a little closer and you see that the hardest working part of that sentence is the word “and”. That brave conjunction is carrying a heavy load on its little shoulders.
See, what you've done there, Sunil, old chap, is to seat one undeniable fact next to one slightly smelly allegation, hoping they'll hit it off. Any normal journalist might be expected to come up with some teensy piece of evidence to back up that accusation. I mean Woodward and Bernstein would have had an easy time of it if they’d just been able to scribble: “Nixon. Dodgy. Watergate. Stands to reason, don’t it?”
But there’s more.
“Remember the umpires and match referees are used to hanging out together in the evenings since they are in a foreign country and so forge a good relationship and obviously the umpires are not looking to spoil that by citing the young Broad for a violation of the code of conduct."
Mmm. So sensitive wallflower Steve Davis deliberately goes easy on Broad junior because he and Broad senior have struck up something beautiful and Steve doesn’t want to jinx it. After all, Chris Broad is quite a catch. Who hasn’t bent the rules a little for the sake of romance?
Or is there something else going on here? Is Chris Broad running a protection racket? Has he incriminating photographs of Billy Bowden’s crooked finger? Come on, Sunil, tell us more, don’t leave us hanging in suspense, spill the beans. You’re an insider; you know where the bodies are buried. Surely, a respected former cricketer wouldn’t be throwing this kind of mud around without good reason. So let’s hear it. Sunil? Sunil, where are you?
But Sunil has moved on.
"He knows he can get away with it and indeed he has. Stuart has been quoted as saying he didn't think he had done anything wrong in questioning the umpire’s decision to refer the appeal to the third umpire… and therein has confirmed again that he thinks he is a special case and not on par with the rest of the cricketing world."
Come again? Cricketer says he hasn’t done anything wrong. Got that bit. Bleating that you haven’t done anything wrong is hardly rare. It is particularly common in people who have just done something wrong. But once again, Gavaskar S attempts to jam square peg A into round hole B, steps back and declares the thing a perfect fit. Is protesting your innocence now an indication not just that you think you are innocent, but that you think you are innocent because you are a special case? Apparently so.
In short then, Sunil’s catalogue of conspiracy includes just the three facts. 1. Stuart Broad is a cricketer. 2. Stuart Broad’s father is a match referee. 3. Stuart Broad didn’t think he did anything wrong in Centurion. Let’s be honest, Sunny, this one was a bit thin.
I’ve got a conspiracy theory of my own. It’s not flashy and it isn’t going to sell many papers but it goes like this. Former Indian cricketer, contracted to produce yet another article, is faced with those twin horrors: a blank page and a looming deadline. There are two ways out. One of the finest batsmen the game has ever seen can give us something interesting, uplifting and insightful. Or he can peddle idle, rabble-rousing gossip, ripe with unpleasant smears and entirely devoid of evidence.
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Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73