West Indies July 9, 2011

Chris and Kumar go their separate ways

They have the same problem but they deal with it differently

Tuesday, 5th July Chris Gayle and Kumar Sangakkara have a lot in common. They are supremely talented players whose careers have been interrupted by lesser men. But they are dealing with it in different ways. Chris composed a moving piece in 33 paragraphs based around variations on a theme (the theme being “It’s Not Fair”). Kumar looked further than his own future and made an eloquent and impassioned plea for the reform of Sri Lanka’s cricket establishment.

And the response of Sri Lanka’s sports minister to these thoughtful, reasoned and articulate remarks? He stuck to the code of administrators worldwide, cranked up the pomposity dial to maximum and let off some self-righteous steam. The most significant thing he noted about the speech? That Kumar should have sought permission from the board in order to criticise the board.

But this is worse than just a few more puffed-up men in suits and fancy moustaches, stroking their egos. This is corruption we’re talking about, you know, that “very bad thing” that we were all so determined to root out a few months ago. Have we forgotten about that? Or is corruption only a problem when it involves players?

Wednesday, 6th July Exciting developments, franchise watchers: the Kochi Katastrophes might be for sale! This news had me rooting down the back of my sofa for small change and ringing my elderly relatives to persuade them to invest their life savings. Having supported the purpley-tangerines in their debut season, only to see them blow it in a series of let-downs, flops and disasters, I thought I might as well buy the thing and sort them out.

And they can’t be that expensive. They finished eighth. They barely have any sponsors. Their gate revenue was puny, they couldn’t get a new stadium built and their shirts are revolting. Surely they’ll be going for a knock-down price? What’s that? US$ 333.33 million? Hmm. Well how much for Sreesanth’s head band?

Friday, 8th July Things are getting out of hand in the shires. The wickets are littered with dummies and the county championship’s traditional soundtrack of four hands clapping is being drowned out by John McEnroe-style protests and language that would make a Premier League footballer’s mistress blush.

So what is going on in snoozy-time land? Are they putting something in the tea? Are there bonus points available in the championship this year for petulance, swearing and generally carrying on like a three-year-old on a long car journey? No. The Professional Cricketers Association believes the problem is twofold. First, the DRS is to blame. The players, having watched cricket on telly, want to emulate their heroes, but when they make those cool T-shapes in a county game, nothing happens. Naturally, they become disillusioned.

The second problem is slightly duller and has to do with some kind of umpiring feedback thingy. The PCA’s head Nursery School Supervisor explained:

“I think it's important that the players have a mechanism for giving feedback and that they have the confidence in it so that they don't get frustrated.”

The poor dears.

But why exactly are players commenting on umpires? Do schoolchildren fill in questionnaires rating the performance of their headmaster? Umpires are not in the service industry; they don’t need to be sensitive to the needs of their clients. They are enforcers. They are there because: a) the players can’t be trusted to play nicely and b) the players don’t know the rules.

I suggest that, in addition to fines, bans and stiff talkings-to, errant pros should be forced to write, “I must not undermine the umpire’s authority,” a hundred times on the pavilion blackboard. And an hour or two on the naughty step wouldn’t hurt either.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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