December 28, 2011

Two new characters in cricket’s soap opera

Andrew Hughes
Marchant de Lange finished with 7 for 81, the second best figures by a South African on debut, South Africa v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Durban, 2nd day, December 27, 2011
Moroccan gem dealer de Lange prepares to launch an extra-large ruby to test its quality  © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
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Monday, 26th December The 21st century cricket watcher lives a blessed existence. If our forbears wanted to see that new South African with the daring haircut or India’s latest medium-paced fast bowler, they had to wait half a decade or so, until the tour schedule brought the team in question to home soil. A fresh-faced and sprightly protégé could become a gnarled and stooped veteran before half the cricket world had seen him in action.

But now, with simultaneous broadcasts, highlights, extended highlights, and the frankly unnatural capacity to record two things at the same time, the cricket fan can see every ball of a man’s career, from that first nervous push outside off to the tears he wipes away at his final press conference. In 3D.

So today, weighed down by too many helpings of fruit-based steamed puddings, it was my pleasure to be able to contemplate, from the depths of my sofa, two intriguing new characters in the international cricket soap opera: Ed Cowan and Marchant de Lange.

My first impression of Cowan is that he has more than a flavour of Simon Katich about him, although he doesn’t seem to shuffle about so much, and as far as I know, has yet to take his captain by the throat. de Lange should be a dealer in precious gems, with an office on a seedy side street in Marrakech, but he is in fact a strapping fast-bowler from the same Terminator-factory that brought us Morne Morkel.

But whether they go on to illustrious commentary careers or end up having to take demeaning jobs in sports administration, it is always a kind of privilege to see players take their first step onto the Test stage. Good luck to both of them.

Tuesday, 27th December Today we heard from Mustafa Kamal, the Bangladesh Cricket Board chief, who has been mulling something over and clearly needed to get it off his chest.

“I was listening to the commentators during the recently concluded Pakistan series. Everyone mentioned there that we got bad decisions.”

I’m a lesser man than Mr Kemal, no doubt, but even a humble cricket fan can spot the problem here. Listening to commentators is not absolutely guaranteed to give you the full picture, reality-wise, and relying on commentators from your own country for the objective truth on these matters is rather like relying on a mother to give an unvarnished assessment of her son’s character.

“I cannot talk against umpires, being an ICC director… but I have seen that against weaker countries, there are more wrong decisions.”

Are there? Well, now I’m intrigued. Did he have any graphs, tables, or spreadsheets to seal the deal? After all, these days it ought to be perfectly possible to tot up the details of umpiring bloopers worldwide and thus demonstrate that x is greater than y. Sadly, Mr Kemal had not a single pie chart or indeed number to call upon, and his plucky attempt to scale Mount Conspiracy failed to reach base camp.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Posted by Imran on (January 28, 2012, 10:24 GMT)

Please, your thoughts on Bowden's recent 3rd umpiring in Abu Dhabi? On Misbah, Broad, Strauss?? Oxenford's been fantastic, the referrals have been dire for Pakistan.

Posted by Imran on (January 27, 2012, 11:14 GMT)

Seeing the second test between Pakistan and England, are you still sticking to the dogma that there's no evidence that weaker teams get more decisions going against them? Or are we still screwing our eyes shut and sticking our fingers in are ears and pretending that there's nothing to talk about?

Posted by Indranil on (January 4, 2012, 12:01 GMT)

Oh! Andrew, I made another meaning of your comments of Mr Kemal ....as a cricket watcher myself, today I see too many visuals (thanks to computer) in giving simpler truths and thought your reply to be one such banter. For Imran et al, widening focus of the observation is a little unnecessary when there are important issues to attend to at hand and one's word ought to be backed up by performance. I say blaming everything on Rio was tantamount to belittle the achievement of another young resurgent team, Pakistan. And back up with results, dear! It is really getting late. WHen Sehwag said "ordinary team", he thrashed them ultimately but some other batman also said "ordinary bowlers" about a team and then his own team got humiliated in a rather not so unexpected "upset".

Posted by kanak on (December 31, 2011, 10:49 GMT)

Andrew your comment about Kamal is beyond the limit of decency. I am not a fan of that man. But I still feel your words are like the sound of a colonial!!

Posted by Andrew Hughes on (December 30, 2011, 13:13 GMT)

Thanks all for your comments

Sajjo and Imran, I watch an awful lot of cricket and I have seen many incorrect decisions, but I've yet to notice any bias. And how do we define a 'weaker' nation? I'm not convinced that only England and Australia benefit whilst everyone else loses out. But as I said in the blog, we could add up these umpiring errors and calculate how many go against certain teams. Of course, you would then need to demonstrate that it was anything more than statistical coincidence

Imtiaz complains about a lack of substance. I am sorry to have disappointed him. However, this is Page 2, if he wishes for more substance, there is plenty of that on the main Cricinfo pages. My blog is what it says: a fan's diary. I can't rule out occasionally producing something of substance, but I suggest Imtiaz might be looking in the wrong place.

Sourabh makes a good point. Is it possible that so many debutants do well because the standard of international cricket is dropping?

Posted by sajjo on (December 28, 2011, 22:18 GMT)

umm its actually very true, i have been observing it for many years. weaker teams and asian teams such as west indies, zim, india, pak do get more wrong decisions going against them. teams like australia and england benefit more from decisions going in their favour. many fans here in the caribbean feel victimized because they think the ICC is racist.

Posted by Sourabh on (December 28, 2011, 17:09 GMT)

Even Chandimal hit a fifty on debut!!!! This really is the year of the debutant!!!

Posted by Imran on (December 28, 2011, 14:04 GMT)

Re: The comments on Mustafa Kamal's opinion on bad decisions going against weaker teams - one would think that Mr Hughes does not, in fact, watch any cricket.

Posted by Imtiaz Zafardeen on (December 28, 2011, 10:09 GMT)

Andrew - what a ball of rubbish this piece is ? Best not waste your ink if you 'aint got nothing to say of substance my friend. There's plenty of good reading material on cricinfo and meaningless write-up's like this just takes away the gloss. On second thoughts, you might as well write that 'whimsical book on village cricket'...

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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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