April 6, 2010


The attack of the handymen, and severe llama-petting

Andrew Hughes

Billy Bowden: relieving dullness and bringing people out of stupors since 1995 © Indian Premier League

Sunday afternoon’s game was not easy on the eye. Perhaps it had something to do with the venue. The Feroz Shah Kotla may be many things, but aesthetically pleasing it is not. This is mainly due to the looming edifice at the Tata End: a brooding construction that owes much to the Brutalist movement of the 1960s, giving the startling effect of a multi-storey car park where a pavilion should be.

Then again, perhaps it had more to do with the prominent role played by Paul Collingwood, who if he were to be represented in architectural form, would surely be a concrete bunker. And though a concrete bunker is a reassuring thing and of great value in an emergency, it is unlikely that tourists and casual pleasure seekers would queue to be given a guided tour of the Collingwood.

But a Collingwood innings is not without its pleasures, not least the resourcefulness with which he employs his favourite shot, which at first glance appears nothing more than a bottom-handed swish across the line, but on closer inspection turns out to be the Swiss army knife of cricket shots, adaptable to any circumstance. His modus operandi may appear vulgar, but that is our problem, not his. He is a natural cricketer.

As is his similarly understated captain. Gambhir doesn’t flail his arms about like a demented traffic policeman and is unlikely to be heard praising the “Delhi brand”. He is as straightforward as Sehwag, but not so otherwordly; an artisan, not a wandering guru. Interviewed by Ravi Shastri before the match, he looked like a car mechanic: slightly scruffy in his blue overalls, hands on hips, talking about the task that lay ahead as though giving an estimate on a tricky engine overhaul.

Then, on a day for wholehearted yeomen, there was big Jacques, putting in one more solid shift with bat and ball. Jacques the Ball spends much of his time looking ruefully into the middle distance, shaking his head or trudging back to his mark. Yet still he lumbers in and flings the ball hard into the earth as though he were issuing a challenge. When he was bowling to the equally pugnacious Warner, it reminded me of two cavemen settling a dispute over a mammoth carcass with a rock and a lump of wood.

But amidst all this testosterone and gruffness, as Warner, Collingwood and Kallis took care of business, there was a danger of a showbiz deficit. Luckily, Billy Bowden was in the house and the crowd loved him. I’ve been struggling for a way to describe his method of indicating a four. The best I can come up with is that it looks like a man cautiously petting a llama. He gave some other signals that, frankly, defied description. Perhaps Wisden should consider adding a Bowden appendix to their next edition, complete with diagrams, so that we can all appreciate his art.


Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Posted by Felix on (January 28, 2012, 22:07 GMT)

Was meerly pointing out Hussey’s fall from grace has dropped him into irrelevance, jrod. I don’t think I even noticed him when he was fielding.

Posted by YOWASLAVIA JOE BOB HIPDOWN MACARONI on (April 14, 2010, 6:56 GMT)


Posted by A.S.K. WHAT? on (April 9, 2010, 20:46 GMT)

Hey A.S.K. calm down. That terminal illness jibe was painful, literally. I don't particularly find either Andrew or Anand very funny but if the editor (whom I'm not really a fan of, sorry lol) lets them, some people do find it funny. The only thing I don't like is how the IPL receives so much attention and coverage...Honestly guys even the Friend Provident Trophy features better cricket...Cricinfo is supposed to be a global site, not Anglocentric or Indiacentric

Posted by dizz on (April 9, 2010, 14:00 GMT)

".it reminded me of two cavemen settling a dispute over a mammoth carcass"- simply awesome and Andrew Please do not bring yourself down to comment on posts made by petty minded little people like A.S.K.

Also I am so amused at the way people [probably indian] flare up when something is said about the IPL. The most hilarious topic on cricinfo is IPL.

Posted by Andrew Hughes on (April 9, 2010, 8:59 GMT)

A.S.K., thanks once again for taking the time to comment. I can only suggest that next time you give yourself a minute or two to fully absorb what has been written, before rushing to post.

Posted by A.S.K. on (April 8, 2010, 13:32 GMT)


"my writing contains little in the way of gardening advice, theological discussion or quantam physics".... Those subjects are about as funny as finding out you have a terminal illness.

I hope you get the message now....

Take care, regards,

Posted by Anand Ramachandran on (April 8, 2010, 11:08 GMT)

Andrew - do be careful who you refer to as a proper humourist. Cricinfo readers certainly don't believe that I am one - and you have now foiled my evil plans of redirecting all of them towards your pieces.

All right - we'll just agree on Zaltzman, then. Or Sambit Bal.

Posted by dinosaurus on (April 8, 2010, 10:47 GMT)

The one time Billy's theatrics really got the better of him was when Stuart Broad took a five-for in an Ashes Test, and Billy asked him for the ball as a souvenir. Thank heavens the officials sorted it out afterwards.

Posted by Decorum on (April 8, 2010, 1:55 GMT)

Well said, Mr Hughes. If people don't like what AH writes, just move along to find something you do like. Posting a non-constructive criticism serves solely to irritate and just reflects poorly on the poster, in my opinion. If AH's articles have "ceased to amuse" you, why post that? Just stop reading him and move on.

I like Billy B and I love the fact that he offends the self-declared purists. Yes, I wish he were a more competent umpire but we surely wish that of all of them. *Given* his level of competence, his antics are an interesting sideshow, I reckon.

AH: I like your even-handedness, your wit and your eye for the ridiculous (and consequent lack of pompousness about the ultimately frivolous distraction that is cricket.) Keep it up!

Posted by jay on (April 7, 2010, 23:18 GMT)

You guys do realize that Billy does those gestures because he has chronic joint pain. The legendary crooked finger is because it cause him pain to straighten it. He started the exaggerated gestures to loosen up his joints, and well they became part of who he is as an umpire.

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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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