September 7, 2011

A positive spin on Donkeygate

Isn’t a field where an ass belongs, after all?
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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.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Luke on September 9, 2011, 9:37 GMT

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

  • 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.

  • 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!!

  • 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 :)

  • 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 :)

  • 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. "

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Luke on September 9, 2011, 9:37 GMT

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

  • 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.

  • 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!!

  • 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 :)

  • 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 :)

  • 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. "

  • Correctulator on September 8, 2011, 1:55 GMT

    Well done Andrew, That is the funniest thingy ever.

  • sohaib on September 8, 2011, 1:38 GMT

    Jaywardene scored a century on the same pitch and Hussey a near century, what does ICC wants, featherbeds? Some real d....ys in ICC

  • Kez on September 7, 2011, 22:34 GMT

    The spongebob reference had me in fits of laughter hahahahahah

  • Rahulbose on September 7, 2011, 19:58 GMT

    It would be interesting to read your take on MonkeyGate. Somehow I suspect you were not as cavalier about that incident. As for Chris Broad the point to note is not that he is a batsmen, but that his animus against all things and all people from the sub-continent has been well known right from his Pakistan touring days.

  • Sreekanth on September 7, 2011, 19:04 GMT

    Mr Hughes, well the more positive interpretation of Nasser's comment of being in his element or to feel at home is out of context at that point, so please don't try to cover it up or support Nasser we know what he meant. Event we want international harmony and that can be achieved by a public apology from Nasser... as simple as that.

  • Rehan on September 7, 2011, 18:36 GMT

    Very well elaborated, the donkey issue, totally agree, the perception of "donkey" in both cultures is different.

  • Edwin Burrows on September 7, 2011, 18:01 GMT

    I've got to say I was absolutely appalled at the state of the pitch at Galle. It was shocking that only 599 out of the 2006 Test matches that have been played have had a smaller total of runs scored in them than the 841 runs scored in this match.

    When I watch a match being played in the subcontinent I expect to see a match in which more than 1500 runs are scored in it and it was a disgrace that this match actually ended with a result in which one team wins. What is this the 20th Century? We're supposed to have wicketless draws where no team goes home as the losing team and batsmen can celebrate each getting a century.

    I mean really what has this game come to.

  • Prashant on September 7, 2011, 15:43 GMT

    Ha Ha! Spongebob Squarepants part was hilarious! That was out of nowhere.

  • patr on September 7, 2011, 14:58 GMT

    Well, the Sri Lankan Board will have the last laugh when the next test scheduled is played in SSC, which has a pitch similar to a concrete landing strip.

  • Jay Nair on September 7, 2011, 14:46 GMT

    Let us have more gates so that it adds spice to an otherwise one sided series. Nasser just wanted to get some easy publicity and he got it. Let us hope some other ex cricketers do not bring another animal into the picture, let us say - a mule?

  • Spoo on September 7, 2011, 13:47 GMT

    The crowd will be woken up to remind him to go home( which means 1 person watching for those who missed it) Ha ha Ha ROFL in my office. Wittiest line I have come across this year...

  • hattima on September 7, 2011, 13:40 GMT

    Indians will start appreciating donkeys the day the Australians start appreciating monkeys ...

  • Ali on September 7, 2011, 13:26 GMT

    "Donkey" is to fielders as "Bunny" is to batsmen. No one ever complained about being called a bunny...

  • Xolile on September 7, 2011, 13:06 GMT

    Statistically batsmen were more likely to score a Test double century during the 1930s than during any other decade

  • A. Harrison on September 7, 2011, 12:04 GMT

    Chris Broad always finds something to moan about when he goes to South Asia. It was the umpiring in 1987 when he was a player, Murali's bowling action in 2004, security arrangements in 2009, now it's the pitches. Shows from where his son gets the tendency to histrionics ...

  • IG on September 7, 2011, 11:56 GMT

    It was on the news the other day - A donkey had taken offence to Hussain's comments. He said something like 'the comment is in bad taste - an international commentator shouldn't say such things and we will report it to the ECB and warn them not to hire such commentators in the future' - on second thought, that might have been the BCCI vice-president Rajiv Shukla...

  • Ragavan on September 7, 2011, 11:18 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. -- LMAO

  • Akheel on September 7, 2011, 11:16 GMT

    Yep, It was an exciting test match at Galle for the spectators. Skills and determination won OZ the test. Why cry foul Mr. Chris Broad??

  • Suraj on September 7, 2011, 10:57 GMT

    GREAT ARTICLE ,

    STUPID INDIAN MEDIA READ THIS OR SOMEONE LINK THEM HERE.

    INDIAN NEWS CHANNELS ARE SO STUPID , THEY CONSTANTLY BOMBARD OTHER TEAMS AND COUNTRIES WITH THEIR STUPIDITY AND ONE REPLIES THEY FEEL INSECURE. WHY DID INDIAN PEOPLE MADE GREG CHAPPEL A DONKEY , STICKED POSTERS OF HIS TO DONKEYS.

    "When a commentator tells us that Sehwag has launched himself at a short one, he is not implying that rocket fuel was involved."

  • tauseef on September 7, 2011, 10:52 GMT

    Yes I agree with Nasir Not Just Players but board are some donkeys tooo

  • Tayyab Abbas on September 7, 2011, 8:32 GMT

    Superbly written article. . . The "Donkey" controversy is fueled by the differences in cultures of two countries . . In sub-Continent donkeys are not appreciated much in or off the filed, even despite of their hard work. .

  • Hergu on September 7, 2011, 7:57 GMT

    Some times I think Indian Team is a donkey. There schedule is so pack that they have to work like a donkey round a clock. Cricket, cricket and more cricket and hence are these many injuries related issues are popping up.

    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.

    Why cant there be different teams that may play differrent formats?

    But we fans are so pathetic that we want Tendulkar to play all formats of game and win every single match. We are to blame too.

  • Javed on September 7, 2011, 7:49 GMT

    Humourously made, but the last point is the most important here. On what grounds has the groundsman been referred? Because he dared to prepare a pitch to create exciting cricket? Another OG by the administrators.

  • Goose on September 7, 2011, 7:40 GMT

    The donkey thing was blown way out of proportion. There was nothing wrong at all with what Mr. Hussain said, and I'm Indian. If our fielders are slow, our fielders are slow.

    And can anyone explain why the Galle pitch is supposed to be awful? I don't get it.

  • Theena on September 7, 2011, 7:30 GMT

    'Sometimes I think the ICC don’t really want people to watch Test cricket.'

    Couldn't agree more.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • Theena on September 7, 2011, 7:30 GMT

    'Sometimes I think the ICC don’t really want people to watch Test cricket.'

    Couldn't agree more.

  • Goose on September 7, 2011, 7:40 GMT

    The donkey thing was blown way out of proportion. There was nothing wrong at all with what Mr. Hussain said, and I'm Indian. If our fielders are slow, our fielders are slow.

    And can anyone explain why the Galle pitch is supposed to be awful? I don't get it.

  • Javed on September 7, 2011, 7:49 GMT

    Humourously made, but the last point is the most important here. On what grounds has the groundsman been referred? Because he dared to prepare a pitch to create exciting cricket? Another OG by the administrators.

  • Hergu on September 7, 2011, 7:57 GMT

    Some times I think Indian Team is a donkey. There schedule is so pack that they have to work like a donkey round a clock. Cricket, cricket and more cricket and hence are these many injuries related issues are popping up.

    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.

    Why cant there be different teams that may play differrent formats?

    But we fans are so pathetic that we want Tendulkar to play all formats of game and win every single match. We are to blame too.

  • Tayyab Abbas on September 7, 2011, 8:32 GMT

    Superbly written article. . . The "Donkey" controversy is fueled by the differences in cultures of two countries . . In sub-Continent donkeys are not appreciated much in or off the filed, even despite of their hard work. .

  • tauseef on September 7, 2011, 10:52 GMT

    Yes I agree with Nasir Not Just Players but board are some donkeys tooo

  • Suraj on September 7, 2011, 10:57 GMT

    GREAT ARTICLE ,

    STUPID INDIAN MEDIA READ THIS OR SOMEONE LINK THEM HERE.

    INDIAN NEWS CHANNELS ARE SO STUPID , THEY CONSTANTLY BOMBARD OTHER TEAMS AND COUNTRIES WITH THEIR STUPIDITY AND ONE REPLIES THEY FEEL INSECURE. WHY DID INDIAN PEOPLE MADE GREG CHAPPEL A DONKEY , STICKED POSTERS OF HIS TO DONKEYS.

    "When a commentator tells us that Sehwag has launched himself at a short one, he is not implying that rocket fuel was involved."

  • Akheel on September 7, 2011, 11:16 GMT

    Yep, It was an exciting test match at Galle for the spectators. Skills and determination won OZ the test. Why cry foul Mr. Chris Broad??

  • Ragavan on September 7, 2011, 11:18 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. -- LMAO

  • IG on September 7, 2011, 11:56 GMT

    It was on the news the other day - A donkey had taken offence to Hussain's comments. He said something like 'the comment is in bad taste - an international commentator shouldn't say such things and we will report it to the ECB and warn them not to hire such commentators in the future' - on second thought, that might have been the BCCI vice-president Rajiv Shukla...