Australia August 28, 2010

Sledging, ancient Greece style

Tuesday, August 24th Psyops was the least intimidating of all the monsters of Ancient Greece

Tuesday, August 24th Psyops was the least intimidating of all the monsters of Ancient Greece. His plan for overthrowing the gods by putting it about that Zeus was a bed-wetter who cried at romantic films and was frightened of spiders didn’t prove particularly successful. And yet, there are still devotees of Psyops around to this day, in the CIA, MI5 and even the Australian dressing room, where a touching belief in the value of virtual sledging persists.

Naturally, the teasing has become a lot more sophisticated over the years. Simon Katich has, for example, questioned whether the fence panels Matt Prior has recently installed were ethically sourced, Nathan Hauritz has already got in a dig about the lack of screwdrivers in the Swann household and Dougie Bollinger has had some pretty hurtful things to say about the way Andrew Strauss eats asparagus.

Ricky Ponting isn’t worried about the Pommies either. Why’s that Ricky? Because he’s seen all the English batsmen and the ones he hasn’t seen, he’s got footage of, so there are no surprises. Difficult to argue with that. Still, short of picking an entire team of complete unknowns, it is hard to see what might constitute a surprise in the England line-up. Gingerbread bats? Darth Vader in a tutu? Adil Rashid?

Wednesday, August 25th I’ve never been inside a branch of the Clydesdale Bank. I’m sure it is a fine and upstanding institution. Nevertheless, I can’t help wondering whether they’re really doing themselves any favours by sponsoring a yawnfest that has spread across the English summer like a particularly virulent strain of fixture algae. My overriding impression of the CB40, and hence of its sponsor, is of dingy half-empty premises, scruffy employees in funny-coloured clothes and a vague sense of despair.

And of course, rain. The ECB showed how much they thought of the new competition by scheduling it during the wettest parts of the season (April, May, August and September). Today Somecounty and Anothershire didn’t even bother starting, it was so soggy. In the absence of any entertainment on the pitch, we almost got an interesting discussion in the booth when Mark Butcher threatened to tell us what he thought of county cricket. Luckily, Ian Ward was on hand to forestall any danger of excessive stimulation on the part of the viewer.

Thursday, August 26th We all know about shadows: long, shady coves who follow you about on an evening. Scary, aren’t they. Well, just imagine how scary a batsman’s shadow is. All that protective headgear and extensive padding must throw some evil-looking troll-shaped shade. No wonder Ian Bell always looks so nervous. Fortunately, at The Oval last week, the umpires were on hand to whisk the players off the field the moment that the shadows began to spread their sinister menace across proceedings.

Today the umpires had to step in again, this time to protect the poor dears from the dangers of artificial light. You might think that that the presence of expensive floodlights at Lord’s means an end to the problems associated with dinginess. Well, you’d be wrong, no matter how much you’d paid for your ticket. The floodlights are not there to light up the ground when it gets dark, dear me no. That is a rather narrow interpretation of the role of a modern lighting facility. In fact, they are only there to “support” the natural light. At the precise moment when these towering £2.8million structures start to do their job and illuminate the pitch, all play must halt immediately. The batsmen can then shelter in the pavilion until the sun comes out the following morning, at which point they can safely drive back to their hotel.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England