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Faithful readers may have noticed that I have thus far avoided talking about the lesser of the two of cricket’s great skills (Yes, two. Fielding is a little like the Zimbabwe cricket team. We all know it is there, but we do our best to avoid it). The more cynical among you probably suspect that this is because my batting achievements have not exactly set the world alight. Well, that is just not true. While my 52, scored for Mannofield’s 4th XI against Inn at the Park 3rd IX (not a typo), probably isn’t quite up there with Sachin’s ODI double-ton or Lara’s 400, their third-change bowler got some decent bounce for an 11-year-old, and their “spinner” was probably olde... I mean more experienced than our entire team put together.
I will put the trumpet to rest now, I promise. This week I will highlight the plight of repressed batsmen. They may be sadistic sods with an attitude to fair play that would disgust even John McEnroe, but believe it or not, they have feelings too. Batsmen, more than anyone else in cricket, are nerds at heart. In fact, had Bill Gates been born in India or in Australia, he would probably be opening the batting for them in Test matches. The reason that every true batsman has an inner Hermione Granger bursting to get out is that he is consumed by statistics. Ask any batsman worth his salt how his season is going and he will reel off his aggregate, average, strike rate, proportion of runs in boundaries, how he got out and various umpiring grievances for not just the current season but the five preceding. Ask a bowler the same question and he will grunt, shrug his shoulders and mutter something like “a’right” before shoving aside some batsman’s vodka tonic and grabbing his pint of lager.
So you will see that, because statistics determine the very soul of every batsman, the story I am about to unfold is a tragedy of Grecian proportions. Picture the scene: A young batsman strolls off the field to a ripple of applause, raises his bat and acknowledges his team-mates (and mother), who have just witnessed his first century of the season. Feeling immensely satisfied with a job well done, he loosens his pads in the changing room and does what every self-respecting batsman would do in the same situation, i.e. calculate the impact on his season and career averages. Just as he decides to discount the duck scored in the early April friendly - as, a) a clearly terrible decision, b) not a league match anyway, and c) discounted so it would push his average over 41.33 recurring - he hears a faint tinkle against the window. “Oh well, if it rains at least I won’t have to indulge in that tiresome fielding routine that we batsmen seem to be unable to ban from the game”. The game is subsequently called off, as the light shower becomes a monsoon, the likes of which have rarely been seen in Aberdeen grade cricket. The batsman shrugs his shoulders and goes home. The next morning he wakes up and immediately checks the online record of the match to check whether his calculations were indeed correct. To his horror, there is no score recorded against his name and, worse still, his average remains unchanged. Thinking this must be some kind of horrible mistake, he calls the scorer, who bravely masks his disgust at being woken up at 5.33am on a Sunday morning to say: “Sorry Jacques, but stats from abandoned games do not count towards the averages.”
The batsman desperately refers to the league rules, but there is no avoiding the awful truth: to all intents and purposes, his hundred did not happen. Even if his now increasingly desperate crusade to get the rules changed pays off, there are at least single digits of batsmen out there who have suffered the same fate. Hamish Manks, for example, whose gallant hundred against Phoenix Park does not count towards either his average or the Player of the Season standings. Or take young Harry Stafford, who cracked 142 against Ashford only for Ashford to pull out of the league and thus invalidate all records achieved against them. These young men need somebody to stand up for them and make a stand. They deserve to regain their self-worth, their appeal to the opposite sex and the recognition of their peers.
Will I do it for them? No way, my 0 for 60 off eight overs in the pouring rain never happened and I have the non-existent stats to back it up. Who cares about batsmen anyway?
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