India in the West Indies 2011 July 1, 2011

Randomness rocks raucously

In which a measure is proposed to introduce further arbitrariness into decision-making in cricket
34

MS Dhoni has had little to complain about of late. If he had eaten a fried breakfast every time he had received a trophy, an accolade or a blast of public adulation this year, he would now be the size of 18 Inzamams. However, he received a minor setback in the current Barbados Test, when a blooper in the TV umpiring box led to him being dismissed on the rogue evidence of the wrong ball.

As an Englishman, I cannot help but regret that this new strain of dismissal was not available to umpires during my nation’s dark days of Ashes humiliation in the 1990s and early 2000s. “That’s out, Hayden. Technically, you smashed that wide long hop for four, but I’m going to judge you on the evidence of the ball Warne bowled to Hussain yesterday afternoon. Out. Plumb in front. Hitting the middle of middle. On your way, sunshine. 0 for 1.”

The prancing stride of technological progress is supposed to be ridding the cricketing world of the vicissitudes of umpiring error, yet it frequently adds an entertaining element of random injustice to proceedings. Players are given out or not-out when technology suggests they were in fact respectively not-out and out, on the grounds that they were only marginally not-out and out, and therefore should remain out and not out. Players are given not-out despite technology suggesting they were definitely out, because someone in a suit somewhere doesn’t like one of the bits of technology used. Players are given out when they were clearly not-out, because one of their team-mates had earlier pretended he was not-out even though he must have known he was out. Catches are denied because the tip of an unusually curious blade of grass could theoretically have been protruding through a fielder’s fingers. And now Dhoni has been despatched back to the pavilion because someone put the wrong roll of cine film into the projector in the TV umpire’s private cinema (I admit I am not entire up to speed with what technology the ICC is using these days).

The spirit of randomness at large in the adjudication of cricket could and arguably should be extended further. The Confectionery Stall fervently believes that there should be scope within the game of cricket for a fielding team, once an innings, to decide summarily that an opposition batsman is out. This would add another fascinating level of tactical intrigue to the great game – do you save the AutomaticOutTM to dismiss the opposition’s best player as soon as he walks to the wicket, or do you wait to see whether or not he is in form, in case you need to get rid of a lesser player who is proving more dangerous on the day? In a tight game, do you hold on to your AutomaticOutTM as long as possible, saving it for when one or two wickets are left and just a few runs are needed to win, or do you play it early in an effort to turn the momentum of the match at a critical juncture? Does a captain merely use it to settle his own personal vendettas against opposition players – in a game meandering towards a draw, a fielding captain could wait until his nemesis is on 99 before calling the AutomaticOutTM and depriving his loathed opponent of personal glory, whilst running around punching the air and shouting, “Got him, got him, yes, he’s gone.”

Throughout cricket history, some umpires appear to have unilaterally applied their own version of the AutomaticOutTM, triggering innocent and baffled batsmen with a proud waggle of the finger and an internal giggle. For the sakes of consistency and fairness, the system must be formalised, and the AutomaticOutTM is clearly the best way to do this.

Of course, the AutomaticOutTM, whilst providing huge interest for spectators, players and pundits alike, would further undermine the authority of the umpire. Amidst the squibbling squabbling over the DRS, with both sides claiming to have emerged victorious and having clung on to their precious principle that some decisions should remain wrong, no matter what system is used.

Ultimately it seems inevitable that umpires as we know and intermittently love them are an endangered species. In time, they will be replaced either by omniscient robots or by grim-faced, shaven-headed, bicep-twitching, tattoo-headed nightclub bouncers employed to stop players scuffling through a mixture of intimidation and growling. Or, in an ideal world, by omniscient robot nightclub bouncers armed with flamethrowers and an overriding sense of justice.

Aside from the Dhoni controversy, the second Test has been another intriguing low-scoring game on another pitch whose jaunty behaviour might have been annoying if it was a noisy teenager on a crowded train carriage rather than a cricket pitch, but which makes for good and interesting cricket. Such surfaces may be an unintended and happy by-product of the pitifully low crowds that attend Test matches in most parts of the cricketing universe these days. Ground authorities no longer need to worry about losing gate money on non-existent days four and five if no one is coming through that gate on days one to three.

In fact, the evidence of this game suggests that, for the good of Test cricket, administrators should do absolutely everything in their considerable powers to dissuade spectators from attending Test cricket. Thus freed from the constraints of financial necessity, the groundsmen would be free to prepare pitches that produce the kind of Test cricket that spectators would happily pay to watch.

Meanwhile Alistair Cook’s England established themselves as odds-on favourites to win the 2015 and 2019 ICC World Cups by thrashing Sri Lanka in the Sanath Jayasuriya Testimonial match on Tuesday. If they can replicate the form they showed at the rain-splattered Oval – decisive and positive batting, followed by incisive bowling and sharp fielding, all leading to a thumping victory ‒ in every match of the tournament in Australia in just 45 months’ time, they will fly home with a sparkly new trophy.

New captain Cook set a blazing tempo, clattering away at a super-Sehwagian 160 runs per 100 balls at the start of the innings. Admittedly he blazed and clattered for only three balls, but he evidently inspired his troops. If he can maintain that scoring rate for the rest of his captaincy career, and, ideally, rectify the getting-out-third-ball problem that has bedevilled him throughout his current one-match tenure as ODI skipper, he will silence any press-box sceptics.

It might be a little presumptuous to draw too many conclusions from any one game – as England’s World Cup campaign proved on a match-by-match basis ‒ but it was a good beginning, particularly given that, in the Colombo quarter-final at the end of March, England had been unceremoniously heffalumped by Sri Lanka, after curiously deciding not to risk disturbing any rare birds that might have been nesting in the proximity of the boundary rope. They were aided by the fact that, unlike in the World Cup, key bowler Jimmy Anderson is no longer running in to bowl as if he has just finished a 36-hour-shift as a junior doctor in a busy hospital’s accident and emergency department.

Sri Lanka were perhaps encumbered by the fact that, whilst they showed their support for the ICC’s democratisation drive by selecting a member of parliament to open their batting, England, by unsporting contrast, did not send Cook in alongside Debbie Abrahams, the Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • PH on July 21, 2011, 20:24 GMT

    My Dad spotted the Debbie Abrahams-cricket connection before Andy.

  • Praveen on July 2, 2011, 22:48 GMT

    Andy, the best funniest joke based on the Dhoni's incident goes to you.

  • Mustafa on July 2, 2011, 22:46 GMT

    Andy, i completely realize that this is a humour column and your comments are firmly tongue in cheek but i would like to point out that the financial necessities that dictate the laying of featherbeds as cricket pitches (which increase the probability of a full 5 day match) have everything to do with TV, broadcasters and sponsorship revenue rather than the comparatively insignificant gate receipts.

  • Pete Robinson on July 2, 2011, 10:59 GMT

    @Nicholas - why not read the other comments on the article before posting? You might save a little face.

    @ Mohan C Sridhara - re: 'The article was repetitive, hardly humorous, predictable and sporadically humorous!' - great, great ironic comment. Not usre if it was deliberate? You knock Andy for being repetitive then say he's both 'hardly humorous' yet also 'sporadically humorous'? Huh? but you claim to be a fan. Hmm.

    @ Andy - great stuff as usual.

  • piyush on July 2, 2011, 7:22 GMT

    Yah, one AutomaticalOut(TM) and an AutomaticRecall(TM) in mid overs in ODI's ...

  • Nac Kieron on July 2, 2011, 6:36 GMT

    Automatic Out! Probably the most ingenious and funniest joke invented by Zaltzman! If Andy were to get money for the number of laughs elicited by his readers, he would be a billionaire now.

    Keep it up Andy!

  • Arnab Banerjee on July 2, 2011, 6:33 GMT

    Thanks Andy for keeping us cric-lovers(a poor pun and very intended) a little sane with your brand of insanity. :) Keep scribbling.

  • Ruchit on July 2, 2011, 4:42 GMT

    I reckon more than half the people reading the article didn't understand more than half of what you wrote AndyZ. "Amazing, Brilliant, Good Job", really? This man is spending precious time for our entertainment, and possibly for some bucks but lets some some more appreciation. Rather than looking for "jokes" look at the purpose of the article. I'm sure you'll find a lot of things to laugh at. AndyZ's humor and puns are extraordinary, but what's even more intriguing is his rhetoric. They seem to rhetorically introduce a rhetoric. AndyZ how about something on "Indian players getting 'injured' before W.I series"?

  • Antony on July 2, 2011, 3:48 GMT

    Andy, I love you, but some of the commenters on your blog are the most fundamentally demented people ever.

    @Mohan C Sridhara: shut up.

  • Ponga Pandit on July 1, 2011, 22:59 GMT

    You rock Jazzy Zaltzy.

    You and that chap Veera's diaries are the bright spots on Cricinfo (which is reading more and more like an Indian tabloid newspaper these days.)

    Hayden's dismissal followed Cook and Abraham- just insane.

    Keep up the levity and you might yet save the world.:-)

  • PH on July 21, 2011, 20:24 GMT

    My Dad spotted the Debbie Abrahams-cricket connection before Andy.

  • Praveen on July 2, 2011, 22:48 GMT

    Andy, the best funniest joke based on the Dhoni's incident goes to you.

  • Mustafa on July 2, 2011, 22:46 GMT

    Andy, i completely realize that this is a humour column and your comments are firmly tongue in cheek but i would like to point out that the financial necessities that dictate the laying of featherbeds as cricket pitches (which increase the probability of a full 5 day match) have everything to do with TV, broadcasters and sponsorship revenue rather than the comparatively insignificant gate receipts.

  • Pete Robinson on July 2, 2011, 10:59 GMT

    @Nicholas - why not read the other comments on the article before posting? You might save a little face.

    @ Mohan C Sridhara - re: 'The article was repetitive, hardly humorous, predictable and sporadically humorous!' - great, great ironic comment. Not usre if it was deliberate? You knock Andy for being repetitive then say he's both 'hardly humorous' yet also 'sporadically humorous'? Huh? but you claim to be a fan. Hmm.

    @ Andy - great stuff as usual.

  • piyush on July 2, 2011, 7:22 GMT

    Yah, one AutomaticalOut(TM) and an AutomaticRecall(TM) in mid overs in ODI's ...

  • Nac Kieron on July 2, 2011, 6:36 GMT

    Automatic Out! Probably the most ingenious and funniest joke invented by Zaltzman! If Andy were to get money for the number of laughs elicited by his readers, he would be a billionaire now.

    Keep it up Andy!

  • Arnab Banerjee on July 2, 2011, 6:33 GMT

    Thanks Andy for keeping us cric-lovers(a poor pun and very intended) a little sane with your brand of insanity. :) Keep scribbling.

  • Ruchit on July 2, 2011, 4:42 GMT

    I reckon more than half the people reading the article didn't understand more than half of what you wrote AndyZ. "Amazing, Brilliant, Good Job", really? This man is spending precious time for our entertainment, and possibly for some bucks but lets some some more appreciation. Rather than looking for "jokes" look at the purpose of the article. I'm sure you'll find a lot of things to laugh at. AndyZ's humor and puns are extraordinary, but what's even more intriguing is his rhetoric. They seem to rhetorically introduce a rhetoric. AndyZ how about something on "Indian players getting 'injured' before W.I series"?

  • Antony on July 2, 2011, 3:48 GMT

    Andy, I love you, but some of the commenters on your blog are the most fundamentally demented people ever.

    @Mohan C Sridhara: shut up.

  • Ponga Pandit on July 1, 2011, 22:59 GMT

    You rock Jazzy Zaltzy.

    You and that chap Veera's diaries are the bright spots on Cricinfo (which is reading more and more like an Indian tabloid newspaper these days.)

    Hayden's dismissal followed Cook and Abraham- just insane.

    Keep up the levity and you might yet save the world.:-)

  • Deepak Khosla on July 1, 2011, 19:12 GMT

    ha ha ha ha... this is one of your best ones Andy... Hilarious... Keep entertaining us with such posts regularly.

  • Akash on July 1, 2011, 16:14 GMT

    @nicholas: My dear fellow, you clearly are reading an Andy Zaltzman article (or a Page 2 article for that matter) for the first time!

  • John on July 1, 2011, 16:10 GMT

    "I seriously hope that was a sarcastic article, but even if it was - I didn't pick it up."

    Erm, if you took the seriously, I have some tartan paint to sell you.

  • VanRonk on July 1, 2011, 15:41 GMT

    Absolutely brilliant!!!!! :-D

  • sri om on July 1, 2011, 15:39 GMT

    nice to read your blogs after hectic office time...well andy you are the reason to spend more time at cricinfo...keep writing more.

  • Kaul on July 1, 2011, 15:34 GMT

    Amazing!!! Loved the article!!! :)

  • saikiran on July 1, 2011, 15:28 GMT

    Why don't you call it OUTomatic TM instead?

  • Prashant on July 1, 2011, 15:26 GMT

    Keep getting better Andy. Damn good stuff.

  • jamierocker on July 1, 2011, 12:28 GMT

    Hilarious!!Lots of lovely bits esp.the Hayden Dhoni analogy;ground authorities not having to worry about gate money lost on days 4 & 5 with no one coming thru the gates on days 1to 3!! Also both sides claiming victory and clinging to their precious principles, that some things should remain wrong no matter which system is being used!!Such perceptive comments and told so humourously in typical Zaltzmanese fashion!

  • Ravishankar on July 1, 2011, 12:22 GMT

    Good! Very Good :)

  • rohan on July 1, 2011, 11:02 GMT

    that was an insannne article...i couldn't stop grinning at my macbook display...

  • Ashish on July 1, 2011, 11:01 GMT

    Hey zaltz, you have set the standards so high that anything less than perfect is disappointing. in this one, the thing missing was crisp! anyways the AutoOut part, that was awesome!

  • nicholas on July 1, 2011, 10:20 GMT

    You've got to be kidding me. Automatic out!? That's one of the worst ideas I've ever heard of. Imagine paying to go see Tendulkar and then he doesn't even get to bat. And then what happens to his average!? Its unfair, unbalanced and would devestate the game of cricket - we might as well play "one bounce one hand" or "tip and run" if you want to ruin the game with these backyard rules.And what was that about England being the favourites for the next WC in FOUR years!? I seriously hope that was a sarcastic article, but even if it was - I didn't pick it up.Poor.

  • Venu on July 1, 2011, 10:08 GMT

    A bit boring and predictable by your standards. The satire is missing !! Just too plain

  • Sridhar on July 1, 2011, 9:13 GMT

    That’s out, Hayden. Technically, you smashed that wide long hop for four, but I’m going to judge you on the evidence of the ball Warne bowled to Hussain yesterday afternoon. Out. Plumb in front. Hitting the middle of middle. On your way, sunshine. 0 for 1 - Hilarious!!!

  • Suresh on July 1, 2011, 8:59 GMT

    Real Pun after a long time.... :)

  • Sundar Isaacs on July 1, 2011, 8:53 GMT

    As always, just too good!

  • Mohan C Sridhara on July 1, 2011, 8:49 GMT

    BORING!!!

    Unbelievably boring Andy. The article was repetitive, hardly humorous, predictable and sporadically humorous! As a loyal reader of your blog, my biggest problem was the predictability. It followed the same pattern like most of your articles and was a really long read. I doubt you will even read this comment, but I couldn't refrain from commenting this time.

    P.S The highlight of the article was the Hayden getting out joke.

  • Lord.emsworth on July 1, 2011, 8:48 GMT

    I'm afraid we havent seen the last of MP Jayasuriya. Comeback nr.? is on the cards if he makes it to President. Like the bard said its gonna be 'a long farewell to all my greatness' Regarding umpiring why have an umpire at all? Nothing seems to be quite 'out' these days. Youre a brilliant innovator Mr. Z so why not come up with a suggestion to replace umpires? Personally I would suggest mixed gender teams (men + women) and no umpire. This way disputes can be solved in a more time ancient manner.

  • Atul on July 1, 2011, 7:58 GMT

    Zaltman

    'If he had eaten a fried breakfast every time he had received a trophy, an accolade or a blast of public adulation this year, he would now be the size of 18 Inzamams.'

    As they say in Punjab, Tusi Great Ho (You are great)

    Atul

  • Trisha on July 1, 2011, 7:55 GMT

    The out and not-out scenarios in paragraph 3 is ZaltzTM!

  • abdullah on July 1, 2011, 7:06 GMT

    Andy, where do u get these funny ideas from. U should be adviser-in-chief of Pakistan,Australia, and WI these days.

  • Himanshu on July 1, 2011, 6:52 GMT

    I really like the idea of Automatic OUT (New trademark filed for this one!) That will really make things interesting. Even more interesting will be the fact that even batting team will get to chose 1, automatic pardon (One of the batsmen given out, and confirmed OUT, will receive one life in an innings). However, it will reside purely with the Captain, and he can not use it for himself. By the way Andy: What is your chance of making it to the ICC technical commitee?

  • gmsj on July 1, 2011, 5:51 GMT

    AutoOut TM, not disturbing rare birds at the boundary et MP Jayasuriya - great ones Andy...your best yet !

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  • gmsj on July 1, 2011, 5:51 GMT

    AutoOut TM, not disturbing rare birds at the boundary et MP Jayasuriya - great ones Andy...your best yet !

  • Himanshu on July 1, 2011, 6:52 GMT

    I really like the idea of Automatic OUT (New trademark filed for this one!) That will really make things interesting. Even more interesting will be the fact that even batting team will get to chose 1, automatic pardon (One of the batsmen given out, and confirmed OUT, will receive one life in an innings). However, it will reside purely with the Captain, and he can not use it for himself. By the way Andy: What is your chance of making it to the ICC technical commitee?

  • abdullah on July 1, 2011, 7:06 GMT

    Andy, where do u get these funny ideas from. U should be adviser-in-chief of Pakistan,Australia, and WI these days.

  • Trisha on July 1, 2011, 7:55 GMT

    The out and not-out scenarios in paragraph 3 is ZaltzTM!

  • Atul on July 1, 2011, 7:58 GMT

    Zaltman

    'If he had eaten a fried breakfast every time he had received a trophy, an accolade or a blast of public adulation this year, he would now be the size of 18 Inzamams.'

    As they say in Punjab, Tusi Great Ho (You are great)

    Atul

  • Lord.emsworth on July 1, 2011, 8:48 GMT

    I'm afraid we havent seen the last of MP Jayasuriya. Comeback nr.? is on the cards if he makes it to President. Like the bard said its gonna be 'a long farewell to all my greatness' Regarding umpiring why have an umpire at all? Nothing seems to be quite 'out' these days. Youre a brilliant innovator Mr. Z so why not come up with a suggestion to replace umpires? Personally I would suggest mixed gender teams (men + women) and no umpire. This way disputes can be solved in a more time ancient manner.

  • Mohan C Sridhara on July 1, 2011, 8:49 GMT

    BORING!!!

    Unbelievably boring Andy. The article was repetitive, hardly humorous, predictable and sporadically humorous! As a loyal reader of your blog, my biggest problem was the predictability. It followed the same pattern like most of your articles and was a really long read. I doubt you will even read this comment, but I couldn't refrain from commenting this time.

    P.S The highlight of the article was the Hayden getting out joke.

  • Sundar Isaacs on July 1, 2011, 8:53 GMT

    As always, just too good!

  • Suresh on July 1, 2011, 8:59 GMT

    Real Pun after a long time.... :)

  • Sridhar on July 1, 2011, 9:13 GMT

    That’s out, Hayden. Technically, you smashed that wide long hop for four, but I’m going to judge you on the evidence of the ball Warne bowled to Hussain yesterday afternoon. Out. Plumb in front. Hitting the middle of middle. On your way, sunshine. 0 for 1 - Hilarious!!!