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
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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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • maddy on February 23, 2010, 2:45 GMT

    If you haven't noticed the Kolkata pitch had remained true till the last day without breaking up. More importantly it was one of the most thrilling finishes I had see in a while. May be its time the Englishmen stop blasting Indians for making sporting pitches and figure out how not to lose to Australia 6-1 next time!

  • Sundar on February 17, 2010, 16:48 GMT

    Could'nt stop laughing at the 'Chuckles' story. Love your style Andrew

  • raja on February 17, 2010, 12:26 GMT

    Superb stuff, Andrew. As you know, I have always been a big fan of your writing. Am catching up now on your recent writing here. Cheers...Raja

  • Ska on February 16, 2010, 23:37 GMT

    Your last 3 articles (this included) were the only ones I've liked so far, which means your are really improving fast. Kudos!!.

    I'd really love pitches to represent their own locales. Pitches that are Subcontinental, Green tops, Bouncy, Pacy, Swing and Spin friendly are all welcome. The odd Batsman's paradise is then acceptable once in a while.

  • Unmesh Chinte on February 16, 2010, 1:32 GMT

    I don't think Gayle was talking about the ODI series when he said "we will win 4-1". West Indies and Australia were going to play a soccer match as a warm up before the start of the series. The prediction (4-1) was for the number of goals. I hear Gayle is a good goal-keeper with his long reach. So what's wrong if he was so confident about the soccer match!

  • rob heinen on February 15, 2010, 15:05 GMT

    @Jag. It's the green eyed monster, Jag. I'm afraid there isn't much preparing in english pitches. They're green & damp anyway which you look at it.

  • tennis on February 15, 2010, 13:40 GMT

    Andy boy, what would tennis be if all of it were played only on grass or hard courts. Roger Federer was considered a great player all his life. Not having won the French Open was still held against him being a complete player.Why should all cricket be played on bouncy tracks and make life easier for the aussies or the south africans. They should be tested on "dead" wickets which aid spinners for them to be called world class.India have negated the home advantage by not playing to their strengths. The Davis Cup needs mention here, where the home team decides on what surfaces it'll be played on.

  • Prince6233 on February 15, 2010, 11:14 GMT

    Before silencing the cricketers it would be better to put a gag in the mouth of sport writers in this way it will be a great service to cricket

  • SR Kannan on February 15, 2010, 10:22 GMT

    It was funny to see in India, the entire crowd of the disposed off English captains, all looking cheerfully glum as they witnessed their team getting whipped by the Indians. English cricket has long gone downhill not withstanding the pretense at expertise from its various ex-cricketers. Little wonder that they don't dare to come to India as often as the Aussies and South Africans. I wouldn't be surprised to see the B'deshis clobbering England in England a few years down the line. They sure have the intent and with that fighting spirit, talent automatically shows up.

  • Andrew Hughes on February 14, 2010, 19:39 GMT

    Thanks all for taking the time to comment.

    Some of you commented on the standardisation of pitches and I can only agree with the sentiments expressed. Some of the greatest innings I have witnessed have been on difficult wickets, such as Steve Waugh at Old Trafford and Graham Gooch at Headingly. I'd go further and bring back uncovered pitches, but this is but a dream.

    Another intriguing suggestion from Anurag Bhide. The Sreesanth-Nel Shield made me chuckle, though perhaps the Sreesanth-Nel strait jacket might be better, with the winning captain having to don the jacket at the end of the match.

    Risabh - Dhoni is indeed a seamer and I should have known better than to try to sneak that past a Cricinfo audience.

    Peter - interesting information. I hope we will see Mr Collingwood visiting a Bangladeshi course by way of mitigating his bad PR karma.

    Finally, I'm sorry Sidharth that you didn't enjoy the article, but I hope that you keep reading.

  • maddy on February 23, 2010, 2:45 GMT

    If you haven't noticed the Kolkata pitch had remained true till the last day without breaking up. More importantly it was one of the most thrilling finishes I had see in a while. May be its time the Englishmen stop blasting Indians for making sporting pitches and figure out how not to lose to Australia 6-1 next time!

  • Sundar on February 17, 2010, 16:48 GMT

    Could'nt stop laughing at the 'Chuckles' story. Love your style Andrew

  • raja on February 17, 2010, 12:26 GMT

    Superb stuff, Andrew. As you know, I have always been a big fan of your writing. Am catching up now on your recent writing here. Cheers...Raja

  • Ska on February 16, 2010, 23:37 GMT

    Your last 3 articles (this included) were the only ones I've liked so far, which means your are really improving fast. Kudos!!.

    I'd really love pitches to represent their own locales. Pitches that are Subcontinental, Green tops, Bouncy, Pacy, Swing and Spin friendly are all welcome. The odd Batsman's paradise is then acceptable once in a while.

  • Unmesh Chinte on February 16, 2010, 1:32 GMT

    I don't think Gayle was talking about the ODI series when he said "we will win 4-1". West Indies and Australia were going to play a soccer match as a warm up before the start of the series. The prediction (4-1) was for the number of goals. I hear Gayle is a good goal-keeper with his long reach. So what's wrong if he was so confident about the soccer match!

  • rob heinen on February 15, 2010, 15:05 GMT

    @Jag. It's the green eyed monster, Jag. I'm afraid there isn't much preparing in english pitches. They're green & damp anyway which you look at it.

  • tennis on February 15, 2010, 13:40 GMT

    Andy boy, what would tennis be if all of it were played only on grass or hard courts. Roger Federer was considered a great player all his life. Not having won the French Open was still held against him being a complete player.Why should all cricket be played on bouncy tracks and make life easier for the aussies or the south africans. They should be tested on "dead" wickets which aid spinners for them to be called world class.India have negated the home advantage by not playing to their strengths. The Davis Cup needs mention here, where the home team decides on what surfaces it'll be played on.

  • Prince6233 on February 15, 2010, 11:14 GMT

    Before silencing the cricketers it would be better to put a gag in the mouth of sport writers in this way it will be a great service to cricket

  • SR Kannan on February 15, 2010, 10:22 GMT

    It was funny to see in India, the entire crowd of the disposed off English captains, all looking cheerfully glum as they witnessed their team getting whipped by the Indians. English cricket has long gone downhill not withstanding the pretense at expertise from its various ex-cricketers. Little wonder that they don't dare to come to India as often as the Aussies and South Africans. I wouldn't be surprised to see the B'deshis clobbering England in England a few years down the line. They sure have the intent and with that fighting spirit, talent automatically shows up.

  • Andrew Hughes on February 14, 2010, 19:39 GMT

    Thanks all for taking the time to comment.

    Some of you commented on the standardisation of pitches and I can only agree with the sentiments expressed. Some of the greatest innings I have witnessed have been on difficult wickets, such as Steve Waugh at Old Trafford and Graham Gooch at Headingly. I'd go further and bring back uncovered pitches, but this is but a dream.

    Another intriguing suggestion from Anurag Bhide. The Sreesanth-Nel Shield made me chuckle, though perhaps the Sreesanth-Nel strait jacket might be better, with the winning captain having to don the jacket at the end of the match.

    Risabh - Dhoni is indeed a seamer and I should have known better than to try to sneak that past a Cricinfo audience.

    Peter - interesting information. I hope we will see Mr Collingwood visiting a Bangladeshi course by way of mitigating his bad PR karma.

    Finally, I'm sorry Sidharth that you didn't enjoy the article, but I hope that you keep reading.

  • Sami on February 14, 2010, 18:29 GMT

    I am a Bangladeshi and I have to admit that Collingwood is spot on with his remarks about Bangladesh. It's a really boring country with very little facilities for entertainment.

  • Peter on February 14, 2010, 17:30 GMT

    Great article Andrew!

    Collingwood's comments, aside from being boorish, are somewhat ironic given that in many regards, he is the wooden club in the English bag.

    Gayle's comment was mis-understood as he was clearly referring to winning the toss, and on that front he's given Ponting a solid 4-0 pounding.The Australian captain is now under severe pressure to salvage something from the last match.

    @k.newman: I guess everytime a buffoon opens his mouth, there really is some oaf willing to agree.

  • Sidharth on February 14, 2010, 13:51 GMT

    Worst ever article i have ever read. Was a total torture reading this. Ideas fell totally apart from each other. On the whole delete this article from Cricinfo.

  • k.newman on February 14, 2010, 13:19 GMT

    I cannot understand why a spinning pitch is considered "unsporting" and at the same time a green pitch considered "home advantage".... and i think we have to give it to Colly for his kind of satire...Bangladesh does sound like a country with nothing but a bunch of radicals...by the way they own some good restaurants here...lol

  • scrunter2 on February 14, 2010, 12:26 GMT

    Let the fools talk we need more comedy in this world.

  • Mohan M SItaram on February 14, 2010, 7:30 GMT

    Awesome!! Just love your posts Andrew...

  • mandar on February 14, 2010, 5:23 GMT

    Worst 2 mins of me life..

  • Kish Kumar on February 14, 2010, 2:26 GMT

    What I don't understand is why do you think India will win in such a pitch? I hope you are not suggesting that only the South African batsmen have to bat in that pitch.

  • anonymous on February 14, 2010, 2:06 GMT

    Andrew Hughes - I like this fellow. Paul "Chuckles" Collingowood, I've lost all respect for you my friend. Let's hope Tamim does some talking with the bat.

  • vikas on February 14, 2010, 1:48 GMT

    Just two question- 1. Why it is ok to have a green top and not a gobi-deserteque pitch? 2. Why are your articles are anti-Indian? I thought a journalist is impartial always!

  • Robin Sen on February 13, 2010, 23:50 GMT

    Hey Andrew, Absolutely loving your columns..they're getting better every week. Paul Collingwood makes me cringe..what a childish comment! Bet he'd be the first on the plane when Bangladesh launch the BPL! (Bangladesh Premier League)

  • peter Haydock on February 13, 2010, 23:40 GMT

    Pity Colly doesn't use the internet. A 10-second search would have revealed at least 14 courses scattered about the country. Some of them look pretty good too. A diplomatic friend who was posted to Dhaka told me it was one of his best overseas posts.

  • RAHAT on February 13, 2010, 22:15 GMT

    dats a nasty pitch!! hahahaha, and for da information, there is quite a few golf course in bangladesh(one is just beside my house) but they seems just too large for collingwood , at least his back lift suggests dat, hahahah\

  • Adit on February 13, 2010, 21:50 GMT

    I want to roll my arm on that pitch too!

  • vik khan on February 13, 2010, 21:34 GMT

    Good on you Andrew!Chris Gayle must've had a few tokes on one of those 'magic' roll-ups. As much as I would love to see the Windies do well because I think they're a great bunch of guys, the 4-1 prediction against the Aussies was a little optimistic. I know the Aussies are arrogant,but they're also class.West Indies are like Pakistan, they have had amazing teams in the past with genuine match winning bowlers and batsmen. Now they only have a couple of players whom they rely upon like Sarwan and Chanderpaul. Gayle is undoubtably talented but he is not consistent enough. The bowling is okay but not consistent enough. Ambrose,Walsh,Marshall,Holding and co were not only amazing bowlers but struck fear into the opposition.They terrorised batsmen and half the battle was won. As for Collingwood,I like the guy but yes this comment was a little disrespectful to a country that will be hosting your team.Hope SA win last test.They are a brilliant side who work hard and deserve it. Good luck ENG

  • Razz on February 13, 2010, 21:17 GMT

    Here here to free pitches.

  • Nirjhor on February 13, 2010, 19:57 GMT

    I was really amused when coming across this quote from a "English" Cricketer named Paul Collinwood...Well there are reasons I took it personally (I am from Bangladesh, it should be a given by now). However, I would urge Mr. Collingwood to concentrate on his Cricket (rather than golf and that includes all form of cricket, not just T20 :p) while touring Bangladesh during WC 2011, as we all know England got their face busted in last couple WC tours. I guess, in that sense it is appropriate for Mr. Collingwood to google for nicer golf course, steel clubs, beaches, 5 star resorts. After all, following an early exit and no plane to take them back home, they are entitled to have some good time...isn’t that what England has been doing in previous 4 World Cups?

  • Casey Abell on February 13, 2010, 18:51 GMT

    I don't know about gagging cricketers, but I'm all for silencing sportswriters.

  • anurag bhide on February 13, 2010, 17:54 GMT

    Let hand it to Chris Gayle, maan. He still can single-handedly club his way to a couple of wins. 4-1 of course was nothing short of a joke.

    You seem to have settled on the Kumble-Tayfield Trophy as the name for the title that hangs in the balance. I think I might have come up with a better one in a stroke of genius. Yes, Wait for it - the Sreesanth-Nel Shield - a tribute to the greatest maniacs to have ever graced the cricket pitch from either side. Besides it helps that they have a bit of a history of a personal rivalry between themselves. Remember Wanderers '06 and the unforgettable pelvic gyration that accompanied the helicopter bat just after the horizontal swat over Nel's head? Not to mention Sreesanth's finest hour.

    Kumble-Tayfield just doesnt make the cut as Tayfield was probably older then Kumble's grandmother.

  • Sens on February 13, 2010, 16:46 GMT

    Very well written piece on all 3 points! (Y)

  • jamshed on February 13, 2010, 16:19 GMT

    The Bangladeshis should be grateful that Collingwood Sahib has deigned to go to Bangladesh.

  • gravity on February 13, 2010, 15:17 GMT

    Funny...Mrs Hughes!!!!

  • Sharthak on February 13, 2010, 15:07 GMT

    Good one, Mr. Hughes. I am from Bangladesh,and i just didnot like the idea of Collingwood speaking thus. Wooden clubs??? What will he say when he sees BMWs or Lexus' owned by our wealthy people? Its not out of anger that I say this,but there is a general aura in the country's cricket lovers, that England are in for some tough time, in front of our quality spinners!

  • jai on February 13, 2010, 15:06 GMT

    'Let curators give full rein to their imagination and let’s see the return of the minefield, the cabbage patch and the sticky dog.' -AMEN 2 dat!

  • Chris Harry on February 13, 2010, 14:56 GMT

    This is the sort of moany nonsense I'd expect in some liberal newspaper. Get a life.

  • Kalyanaraman Subramaniam on February 13, 2010, 14:41 GMT

    Interesting article; quite like the one, I have come to read with pleasure. With so much gibberish (or any less complimentary expression, if you please) being dished out by the 'elite and intellectual cricketers", there should not be any dearth of output from Andrew for the foreseeable future.

    on the golf stuff, www.top100golfcourses.co.uk/ has a very interesting pointer, "According to the Bangladesh Golf Federation, there are 14 Bangladeshi golf courses...". Maybe Collingwood may want to check out the admission criteria.I am sure he will get a free life membership, if he condescends to help Bangladesh win !!

    whenever I get to hear the utterings of you-know-who, I am reminded of a saying, "it is better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you are a fool than to open it and confirm the opinion"

  • Rohan on February 13, 2010, 12:35 GMT

    This could've been so much more! It's funny nonetheless. Loved the bit about Chuckles.

  • plsn on February 13, 2010, 10:44 GMT

    Yours is the only sane comment about pitches since I knew cricket. You are on the spot when you ask why all the pitches should be made to the same standard. And are these standards supposed to be Australian, English or South African? If a batsman is rated poor b'cos he can't bat on fast pitches, why should another batsman who cannot face spin and play on spinning pitches be rated as world class? Senseless and selfish ICC and some of its members!

  • Shaz on February 13, 2010, 9:42 GMT

    I guess cricketers should concentrate on their games rather than speaking idiot things.....Tigers are waiting with English Colly grave

  • Shivaji on February 13, 2010, 9:27 GMT

    True true!.....the real test for the batsmen is to conquer the conditions and the bowlers...but unfortunately these things have gone a bit unfashionable. Plus the over zealous need to standardise everything is the bane for todays society and so cricket is nothing different but how would i love to see batsmen conquering different kinds of pitcehs and conditions....dry, wet, damp, bouncy, everything! and yes....the foot in the mouth stories were quite refreshing indeed for those who feel that cricket is bereft of drama!there is plenty of it around!

  • prem on February 13, 2010, 9:03 GMT

    yeah andrew, u forgot the Bunsen burner..!wht say?

  • Anirudh on February 13, 2010, 8:37 GMT

    Hilarious!! However you've hit the nail on the head of a really important issue - result oriented pitches. In order to make Tests appealling, the ICC should ensure, not condemn, that all pitches produce a result in 4 days. That'll save cricket!

  • kap on February 13, 2010, 8:34 GMT

    Well done Andrew, for calling up Collingwood's comment. The fact an oaf like him is a current England captain even if it is T20 is a sad reflection on the calibre of characters in the current set up.

  • Jag on February 13, 2010, 8:22 GMT

    haha you are the man...but honestly i dont see the problem in india preparing spinning pitches. They are playing at home you know.

  • Rishabh on February 13, 2010, 8:20 GMT

    Dhoni's a seamer, Andrew! He's bowled in a Test match and can swing the ball too!

  • Denny on February 13, 2010, 8:18 GMT

    Collingwood isnt even a talented cricketer to warrant listening to.

    What a stupid, insulting and close-minded comment that was.

    Lets hope karma hits him hard ay

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  • Denny on February 13, 2010, 8:18 GMT

    Collingwood isnt even a talented cricketer to warrant listening to.

    What a stupid, insulting and close-minded comment that was.

    Lets hope karma hits him hard ay

  • Rishabh on February 13, 2010, 8:20 GMT

    Dhoni's a seamer, Andrew! He's bowled in a Test match and can swing the ball too!

  • Jag on February 13, 2010, 8:22 GMT

    haha you are the man...but honestly i dont see the problem in india preparing spinning pitches. They are playing at home you know.

  • kap on February 13, 2010, 8:34 GMT

    Well done Andrew, for calling up Collingwood's comment. The fact an oaf like him is a current England captain even if it is T20 is a sad reflection on the calibre of characters in the current set up.

  • Anirudh on February 13, 2010, 8:37 GMT

    Hilarious!! However you've hit the nail on the head of a really important issue - result oriented pitches. In order to make Tests appealling, the ICC should ensure, not condemn, that all pitches produce a result in 4 days. That'll save cricket!

  • prem on February 13, 2010, 9:03 GMT

    yeah andrew, u forgot the Bunsen burner..!wht say?

  • Shivaji on February 13, 2010, 9:27 GMT

    True true!.....the real test for the batsmen is to conquer the conditions and the bowlers...but unfortunately these things have gone a bit unfashionable. Plus the over zealous need to standardise everything is the bane for todays society and so cricket is nothing different but how would i love to see batsmen conquering different kinds of pitcehs and conditions....dry, wet, damp, bouncy, everything! and yes....the foot in the mouth stories were quite refreshing indeed for those who feel that cricket is bereft of drama!there is plenty of it around!

  • Shaz on February 13, 2010, 9:42 GMT

    I guess cricketers should concentrate on their games rather than speaking idiot things.....Tigers are waiting with English Colly grave

  • plsn on February 13, 2010, 10:44 GMT

    Yours is the only sane comment about pitches since I knew cricket. You are on the spot when you ask why all the pitches should be made to the same standard. And are these standards supposed to be Australian, English or South African? If a batsman is rated poor b'cos he can't bat on fast pitches, why should another batsman who cannot face spin and play on spinning pitches be rated as world class? Senseless and selfish ICC and some of its members!

  • Rohan on February 13, 2010, 12:35 GMT

    This could've been so much more! It's funny nonetheless. Loved the bit about Chuckles.