September 14, 2011

Maths 1, India 0

Arithmetic: jumping up and biting cricketers on the bottom for nearly 20 years now

Sunday, 11th September The forces arrayed against India this summer have been formidable. The fixture list, the England team, the fragility of the human body, and the weather have all conspired to make this the least successful visit to these islands since Julius Caesar spent a late summer break shivering in a tent on the Sussex coast.

And now even mathematics has turned its back on the tourists. Anyone who has tried to dry their washing in England in September knows how umpires Erasmus and Illingworth felt today. Is it really raining? It is just spitting? Is it worth fetching your underpants in again? Is it brightening up over there?

But amidst all the traipsing in and out, the shaking of umbrellas and the holding out of rainfall-measuring palms, India appeared to have won. That was, until maths jumped out from behind the scoreboard and yelled “Surprise! You got it wrong!” before stamping all over their victory cake and high-fiving Alastair Cook.

I know how they feel. Maths was always doing that to me. No matter how hard you think you’ve studied the equation, there is always something you’ve missed. It wasn’t quite as wince-inducing as Shaun Pollock’s numerical faux pas in 2003, when he failed his maths GCSE live on national television, but you had to feel sorry for India.

Now personally I like Duckworth Lewis. Its very complexity is reassuring. After all, something that complicated must be accurate. And it has succeeded in making precipitation entertaining - a godsend for a game so frequently plagued by the wet stuff. But this messing about with bits of paper full of numbers is all a bit old school.

What we need is an entirely separate scoreboard; the Duckworth Lewis-ometer. It could be concealed below ground, rising like the Lord’s floodlights should it be required, to keep us all updated, ball by ball, on the D/L situation. And Ravi Bopara could even have the numbers beamed directly onto the inside of his helmet so he could choose just the right moment to play that pointlessly risky match-turning slog.

Monday, 12th September Today’s ICC awards were, quite rightly, dominated by the modern game’s titans of crease-occupation, Mr Trott and Mr Cook. Despite an apparently shaky microphone technique and uncertain podium footwork, the England vice-captain kept up a dogged acceptance speech and proved difficult to remove, though after two hours, officials did finally persuade him to leave by tricking him into believing it was the tea interval.

Having kept the audience waiting while he scraped an immaculate line in the carpet, Trott’s speech was a risk-free affair, featuring no expansive verbiage, just a careful accumulation of thank yous and platitudes. He left the stage to enthusiastic applause, as the rumour that KP was on next brought people back from the bar .

And amidst all the high-profile winners, it is worth mentioning some of the unsung heroes. The Sir Humphrey Appleby Award for Administrator of the Year was announced towards the end of proceedings, though it was delayed for several minutes as Haroon Lorgat had to ask the cleaning lady to turn off her vacuum cleaner.

Sadly none of the nominees for the award could be present. Dr Julian Hunte had caught the wrong flight and ended up in London, Ontario. Mr Ijaz Butt had accidentally locked himself in his pantry, and Mr James Sutherland was detained in his hotel room, having caught his Cricket Australia tie in the executive trouser press. In the opinion of the judges, there were no winners in this category, only losers, and the award was held over.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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