February 13, 2010

India

Down with free speech. Free pitches instead

Andrew Hughes


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

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Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Posted by 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!

Posted by Sundar on (February 17, 2010, 16:48 GMT)

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

Posted by 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

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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!

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
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

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