India February 13, 2010

Down with free speech. Free pitches instead

Paul Collingwood and Chris Gayle present watertight cases for curtailing players' right to open their mouths; and a prediction for the Kumble-Tayfield trophy

The pitch for the Kolkata Test? Why not? © Getty Images

Some weeks ago, I suggested that gagging orders for professional cricketers might contribute to the advancement of humankind. Not everyone thought it was a good idea, but it was gratifying to read last week that two more of the species have confirmed my faith in the benefits of an immediate restriction of their right to free or indeed un-free speech. In a moment, Paul Collingwood. But first, I give you Mystic Chris Gayle.

Last week he announced that West Indies would beat Australia 4-1 in a one-day series. Now, we all like a little bit of pre-game trash talk, Chris, and we all like fairy stories, but I’m not sure the two really mix. I mean, there’s got to be at least a hint of reality in there or the kids will lose interest. If you’d announced that you’d been kidnapped by aliens or developed the ability to travel through time by twitching your nose, then maybe you’d have had a little more credibility, but 4-1? In Australia?

It gets worse. In between packing suitcases, practising his forward defensives and having five lie-downs (or burnout-reducers) a day, it’s Paul "Chuckles" Collingwood, doing his bit to bring back the good old days, when pale-skinned types travelled the world, sticking their flag where it ought not to be and having a good old giggle at how jolly backward Johnny Foreigner really was.

“It won’t be easy to find a golf course in Bangladesh. If there is one, they’ll probably have wooden clubs.”

Wooden clubs, Paul? Why’s that? Oh I see, because Bangladesh is a relatively poor country. I get it. It’s a GDP gag. Good one, Colly! Got any good Haiti jokes? No? Probably not, best to quit while you’re ahead, eh. And thanks for giving us another reason to hope for a thumping England defeat, besides your part-time captain and the forestalling of Volume 2 of the Alastair Cook Story.

And now for a prediction of my own. The second Test of the Kumble-Tayfield Trophy (thanks to Hilton for that suggestion) will be played out on a pitch that is dryer than the Gobi desert, for which India will field ten spinners, with Dhoni available to turn his arm over, should the game go into a third day. India will win, South Africa will lose and much tut-tutting will ensue from certain quarters.

But I don’t see the problem. How warped is a game in which a "result pitch" is something shady and slightly disreputable, likely to bring a groundsman a sternly worded letter from the ICC Pitch Sterilisation Committee? The concept of the "fair pitch" is one of the dullest ideas in modern cricket. Why must every 22 yards be like every other 22 yards? Let curators give full rein to their imagination and let’s see the return of the minefield, the cabbage patch and the sticky dog.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England