December 7, 2011

We don’t need no stinkin’ rotation

And the joyous spinfest that was the third Bangladesh-Pakistan ODI

Monday, 5th December Rotation is, on the whole, a good thing. Without it, merry-go-rounds would be a good deal less merry; our cities would be congested with commuters on horseback*, and we would probably never have heard of Shane Warne.

But for the professional sportsman, rotation has a sinister side. It’s okay when it’s happening to someone else. Michael Hussey, for example, is quite relaxed about the prospect of bowler rotation. Batsman rotation, on the other hand, is quite possibly the end of civilisation as we know it, and The Huss is having none of it.

"From a batting point of view, if you're playing well you want to keep batting, and if things aren't going right, you want to keep playing so you can get that big score.”

Well, quite. But if batsmen in form shouldn’t be rotated and batsmen out of form shouldn’t be dropped, then the only ways out of the team would appear to be retirement, insanity or imprisonment. The Australian batting order is like the mafia, only less efficient and with more silly green hats.

Huss also has the solution to Phil Hughes’ minor technical flaw (his compulsion to play the cut shot regardless of the state of the game, the position of the fielders, the length of the ball or the direction in which he’s facing): just keep swinging, Phil. And if that doesn’t work, it so happens that Mike knows of a veteran left-hander who could step into the rotation-proof opening position at short notice.

Tuesday, 6th December Like rare flowers, the talents of most professional cricketers bloom for a season, and right now it’s Mohammad Hafeez’s time in the sun. Having earlier opened the batting, Super Prof once again opened the bowling and once again skittled Tamim before the poor chap had had the chance to fully digest his pre-game energy bar.

The tricky thing about facing a ball from Hafeez is that although you know it probably won’t turn, there is always the outside possibility that it will. Today the Bangladeshi batsmen were braced for the one that didn’t, only to be undone by the revs on the one that did. He is my new favourite mystery spinner. (Ajantha isn’t allowed out to play very often these days.)

And it wasn’t just the Professor who was enjoying himself. With 11 twirlers doing their thing, the match was a festival of spin, as one after another, batsmen were ensnared like desperately struggling flies in a spider web.

At 50 for 1, it was Bangladesh’s game; there were congas in the crowd and the home side had just taken the batting powerplay. And then the floodlights failed. Umpires Cloete and Haque took a light reading, though they had to employ the special backlit display setting on their meters in order to read the numbers confirming that it was dark.

Umpires are obsessed with their light meters. If Asad Rauf were to feature in an episode of Scooby Doo, he’d be the one left behind in the spooky corridor of the haunted house because he’d stopped to take another reading. Mrs Bowden frequently has her bedtime novel confiscated by Billy on the grounds that his light meter says conditions are unfit for reading and the bedside lamp is casting dangerous shadows.

Anyway, eventually the lights came back on, Bangladesh remembered that they were Bangladesh, and crumbled to 119 all out.

*Although a world without cars would also mean a world without the television programme Top Gear, so it wouldn’t be all bad.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England