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Sunday, 2nd October What’s the first rule of Ball-Tampering Club? Don’t talk about Ball-Tampering Club.
In his candid interview on the subject, Umar Gul happened to mention the names of a couple of English players and with a weary inevitably, silliness ensued. Journalists had to pretend that this was controversial, England’s middle captain Alastair Cook, had to pretend to be offended. and then Umar had to pretend that he hadn’t said what he’d said.
But isn’t it time we all stopped clutching our handbags and reaching for the smelling salts every time someone mentions ball-tampering? We’ve coped with players on drugs, slappings on the field of play, routine verbal abuse, various kinds of corruption and Shane Warne’s new hairstyle. Are we really that shocked by the idea of a bowler altering the condition of the ball?
Anyway, I’m with Shoaib on this one. Let’s legalise it. Bowlers need all the help they can get these days, and it’s not as if we’re talking about putting razor blades in the seam or replacing it with an exploding Edam cheese. Let them do what they like with the leathery thing. Although we should probably still draw the line at eating it.
Monday, 3rd October Daniel Vettori today denied that he was captaining a one-man team. That is true. Technically, there are 11 players in red, they all make a contribution and thanks to their efforts, the Chris Gayle XI are still in with a chance of making the semi-finals.
The man himself was toying with Somerset today. Early on, he was pottering along at a paltry run-a-ball, with all the vigour of an elderly man doing a bit of light weeding. And then he started to bat. He doesn’t move much, just enough to do the job, like one of those street performers who pretend to be a statue before scaring the living daylights out of passers-by. A half step, a vague swat and there goes the ball again.
Somerset are still in it, but experienced Somerset watchers are not going to fall for it this time. Their fans will not be emerging from behind their sofas until the last post-match cliché of congratulation has passed Ravi’s lips and Peter Trego’s cap smells like the inside of a champagne bottle.
Tuesday, 4th October Cricket and technology have been living together for a few months now, but to be honest, the relationship is in trouble. Having rushed into things, we’re a bit disillusioned since it turns out technology can be unreliable, doesn’t always do what it said it would, and is frankly rather insensitive to our needs.
Aleem Dar today said that we need more consistency from one series to the next. This is true. I’m sure the players must struggle to remember which gadgets are plugged in at any given time; after all, some of them have difficulty remembering the lbw law or that accepting money from random strangers is wrong.
But there’s another problem. A lot of the DRS bloopers are caused by humans. We’ve got the technology; we just don’t know how to use it. So one obvious solution is to remove humans from the process entirely. I’m picturing Terminator-style umpiring devices, able to officiate for hours at a time without forgetting the rules, nodding off during Ishant‘s run-up or worrying about getting their panama wet.
And for entertainment value, they could be programmed with familiar voices. The default setting would be Mr Spock:
“The ball pitched outside leg stump, Mr Ajmal and therefore your appeal is illogical.”
And I’m thinking a Dalek mode for those moments when things get a little heated in the middle:
“Mr Broad! Comply with the Spirit of Cricket or you will be exterminated!”
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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