September 7, 2011

A positive spin on Donkeygate

Andrew Hughes

Donkeys have been a natural and integral part of cricket since the Chappell-Ganguly era at least © AFP

Saturday, 3rd September You’ve got to feel for MS Dhoni. We’ve all had holidays like this. Trapped in a caravan, a tent or a four-star hotel, surrounded by the same old faces, going slowly insane with nothing to do but watch Alastair Cook bat for weeks at a time, listening to everyone complaining about their aches and pains, and counting the days till it’s time to go home. And then, just when it seems things might be looking up, it starts to rain.

I can remember following England tours that scored just as high on the angstometer, in which the only sounds you heard were the clatter of wickets, the roar of the home crowd, and the stamping of passports as another batch of trembling replacements arrived at immigration control. As it happens, Nasser Hussain and his fragile fingers featured in many of those tours, so you’d think he would understand the tourists’ pain. Instead, his loose talk of donkeys has caused the summer’s third “Gate”.

But it isn’t always a good idea to take cricket folk literally. When KP called Graeme Smith a muppet, he didn’t mean that he believed the South African captain was made of cloth and operated by strings. When a commentator tells us that Sehwag has launched himself at a short one, he is not implying that rocket fuel was involved. Then there are the phrases like “impetuous hooker” and “flashing outside off stump” that could lead to all kinds of litigious misunderstanding if they were taken literally.

So in the interests of international harmony, here’s another, more positive interpretation of Nasser’s agricultural metaphor. A field is, after all, where a donkey belongs. Therefore the phrase, “he’s a donkey in the field” simply means “to be in his element” or “to feel at home” and is an adaptation of the well-known saying, often heard in the villages of rural Essex: “He’s as happy as a donkey in a field.”

Monday, 5th September The pitch at Galle was dryer than a dry gin in the Gobi desert and dustier than the trophy cabinet at Sahara Smiles, the world’s least successful synchronised swimming team. The ball was doing sneaky things from day one and batting was as tricky as trying to tiptoe through a snake pit in the dark. Which is precisely how it should be.

A Test run should be a hard-won thing, a precious jewel wrestled from the teeth of an angry clam at the bottom of a piranha infested lagoon*. Instead, we are currently in a period of rampant inflation, in which the value of the Test run has plummeted. A double-century in 2011 would be worth 150 back in 2001, whilst an Alastair Cook accumulatorathon translates as a pretty little thirty-something cameo at 1930 prices.

So do we celebrate this triumph? Do the powers that be initiate The Most Noble Order of the Gracious Groundsmen and give the Galle curator a yacht, a lifetime’s supply of broom handles and a complimentary Test century? Nope.

Chris Broad (a batsman, let it be noted) refers the venue to the ICC’s Department Of No Fun. Next spring, the Galle pitch will be flatter than the M25, England will declare on 750, Jayawardene will score a triple-century, and the crowd will need to be woken up at the end of the fifth day to remind him to go home. Sometimes I think the ICC don’t really want people to watch Test cricket.

*Marine biologists may query one or two of the details in this metaphor. However, I would refer them to the renowned documentary series, Spongebob Squarepants which is, as we are all aware, the authority on matters aquatic.

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Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Keywords: Commentary

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Posted by Vikram on (September 14, 2011, 11:39 GMT)

Donkey and Monkey. Does one letter really make that much of a difference ? One is a joke and the other is racist ? Lets have one set of rules then. Animal metaphors ok. Racism or neo-colonialism or reverse-racism not ok.

Posted by Bala on (September 10, 2011, 15:22 GMT)

Sehwag: Candidate for getting arrested. He has made "flashing outside the off stump" into a habit, wherever he goes. Near the roadside walls of India, it may be tolerated; but not elsewhere in the world. Perhaps a compulsive disorder? Mr Srinivasan, can you please arrange some good counselor to help Sehwag get rid of this disorder, while he is recovering from his surgery.

Posted by waterbuffalo on (September 10, 2011, 3:32 GMT)

My opinion, take away helmets and let bowlers bowl four bouncers an over, then we will really see who the best are, and and India might finally have a bowler who could bowl 95. I played in the era before helmets. It was very funny to see a batsman turn white or green, I never was a hooker, because only the best batsmen hooked, now Harbhajan hooks and he he thinks he is a champion batsman. Take off the helmet and see whether you can hook. I learned from Boycott, drop your hands and swerve. When we bowled (I opened) we had silly mid off and silly mid on for 15 overs, in a 50/40 over game, we had no helmets, no shin pads and nobody died. That was when cricket was fun to watch. We played one day cricket like Test Cricket, 3 slips, two gullies, and silly mid on and mid off. I also opened the batting once in a tournament., All I did was leave the ball, Boycott style. Never, ever hit the ball in the air, and never go fishing outside off stump. Now they take second slip out after 2 overs.

Posted by Mike Gooding on (September 9, 2011, 17:32 GMT)

we'll be in trouble if we start getting the shirtfronts of the 20s and 30s back. Maybe we should go back to uncovered pitches.

Posted by Luke on (September 9, 2011, 9:37 GMT)

Xolile: Only because there was a massive statistical aberration in the 1930's called Donald Bradman.

Posted by sunil sridhara on (September 9, 2011, 6:00 GMT)

metaphors were always part of the cricket when a south african cricket player was called a terrorist was that suposed to mean he was aggresive on the field? its a difficult job for them, but they have to understand that there are billions involved and their sentiments. I think Nasser should get off the donkey's back.

Posted by Ahmad on (September 8, 2011, 5:51 GMT)

"Then there are the phrases like “impetuous hooker” and “flashing outside off stump” that could lead to all kinds of litigious misunderstanding if they were taken literally." Sublime...brilliant references!!

Posted by Rajkamal on (September 8, 2011, 5:37 GMT)

“impetuous hooker” and “flashing outside off stump” ...I like that.. flashing out side off stump thing might be cool thing only if Ajit Agarkar is not allowed to indulge in that :)

Posted by Rajkamal on (September 8, 2011, 5:34 GMT)

I feel its a great insult to the donkeys by comparing them with the Indian fielders..donkeys are obviously much faster :)

Posted by Fawad on (September 8, 2011, 5:02 GMT)

'Sometimes I think the ICC don’t really want people to watch Test cricket.' i don't agree with the idea behind this statement.....according to the writer the pitch was not ideal for cricket....but pitch was actually prepared for both the teams....If someone says that the pitch was prepared for batting then we all know that Indians are good batsmen in cricket world these days... if someone says that the pitch was supporting the spinners then it is understood that the teams from sub continent bowlers can use the spin more lethally as compare to English.... Finally we can say English played superbly and Indian played not up to mark.....i will also second the post by Hergu...that is "BCCI is all for money and they dont care for players health. When team loses, there is always a scapegoat to blame at. But they should be blamed.

The more you play the more you earn, so players play all the time. "

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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