Commentary February 6, 2010

Neuroscience insights from the G

Twenty20 has got faster, the MCG has got bigger, and commentators have become scientifically challenged

If Warner had cleared the G's gargantuan stands, he would have missed the fielder © Getty Images
Gosh that was a good game, as Mark Nicholas would say. Perhaps I’m getting older, but Twenty20 seems to be a lot faster than it used to be. On Friday, fielders swooped, bowlers marched back to their run-ups and new batsmen fairly leapt up out of their white plastic chairs. The game whizzed by so quickly that I almost longed for a strategy break, just so I could gather my thoughts. Almost.

The G (I understand there are other Gs, but this apparently is The G) remains utterly enormous. When the camera drew back to capture the stadium’s full height, I felt my vertigo coming on. There are other gargantuan grounds in the world, of course, but I have not seen a better Twenty20 venue. It’s a spaceship, a cavernous superstructure designed to concentrate sound, colour and light.

It also includes a small room fitted with microphones, via which several men take it in turns to tell us what we are looking at and what we have just seen. On Friday, I was introduced to a man by the name of James Brayshaw. Besides being a cricket expert, it turns out that he is fully up to speed on recent breakthroughs in the field of neuroscience. Earlier this week, scientists communicated with a man by monitoring his brainwaves. Brayshaw was keen to apply this new knowledge.

“David Warner, let’s have a look at his mindset.”

That got my attention. This should be good, I thought. Never mind Snicko, Hawkeye and Hotspot, those clever chaps in the Channel Nine laboratory have come up with a device to enable us to see the inner workings of a batsman’s brain. Unfortunately, Professor Brayshaw didn’t elaborate and so I can only assume that the mindset monitor is at an early stage of development, like the UDRS system.

Anyway, the neuroscience was just a bonus. These custodians of the commentary booth have a noble calling. They have played the game at the highest level and are duty bound to share with us their analysis, to enrich our cricket experience with their insight. Take this piece of wisdom from the man known as Slats, summing up Warner’s dismissal, caught, as is his wont, whilst trying to land the ball on the moon: “If it was higher, it would have gone over the fielder’s head,” our man revealed.

You can’t argue with that. Let’s hope Slats manages to pass his advice onto the tiny opener. Remember, David, if you’re reading this, next time don’t hit it straight to the guy, hit it over his head. Then he can’t catch it, see.

Of course, you don’t need me to tell you that Pakistan could have won. Again. They are like an experimental theatre group, re-enacting all of Shakespeare’s tragedies through the medium of bat and ball. You know it is going to end horribly, particularly if things appear to be going well. You know too, that, like the best tragedies, the outcome is an inevitable result of the flaws of the protagonists. 28 to win off 30 balls. Surely they can’t lose it from here? Oh, they can. Wow, as Mark Nicholas might say.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England