March 7, 2012

How to deal with the Woolf Report

The damned thing refuses to shut up and go away quietly

Monday, 5th March Despite the best efforts of senior administrators to lose the Woolf Report (leaving it in the toilets on the 5:45 to Euston; posting it to Outer Mongolia; taking it ten miles into the desert and burying it under a pile of Alastair Cook’s autobiographies) the perishing thing keeps turning up again, and so now the ICC’s Convincing Excuses Committee has been forced to call a meeting to talk about it.

Many of cricket’s top administrators are unhappy with the Woolf Report. For example, Mr Srinivasan, head of the BCCI, is said to be unconvinced by the pie charts on page seven; the owner of the Chennai Super Kings, a Mr Srinivasan, doesn’t really like the title, and Mr Srinivasan, ICC director, has expressed considerable reservations about the font.

Following the meeting, I understand that the ICC’s contact in the Indian Space Agency (a Mr Srinivasan, no relation) has agreed to put the Woolf Report into a sealed canister aboard their next rocket. The document will then be released into space for wider consultation amongst other life forms and a final decision on implementation of its recommendations is expected sometime in June 2212.

Tuesday, 6th March With the light speed barrier overcome, scientists are full of optimism and are turning their attention to other phenomena. Take confidence, for example. Confidence is invisible to the naked eye, but if you could see it, what would it look like? Well, Professor Graeme Smith is in New Zealand for some experimental work and has been outlining some of the methods his team will be using to get to the bottom of it.

“Maybe we can dent that confidence… maybe their confidence is not as thick and strong as it was… hopefully we can get into that and open it up a little bit.”

Coincidentally “thick and strong” used to be the chief selection criteria for the South African cricket team. But those days are gone, and whilst they have their share of bruisers, bashers and bulldozers, there is an artistry and subtlety about the South African team these days that is pleasing and also rather moving, like watching a former heavyweight boxer knitting a lamb’s wool sweater for his grandmother.

Another reason to look forward to this series is the prospect of some revved-up bowling action on pitches more helpful to fast bowlers than the butler who brings Mr Steyn and Mr Morkel their raw beef on a silver platter every morning. Former blocker and nudger Mark Richardson has confirmed as much:

“These Test matches are going to be played in slowish, green, seaming conditions.”

Excellent. If that’s the kind of pitch New Zealand come up with, I might even overlook the fact that, like the Australians, they have the bad manners to play their cricket in the middle of the night. But wait, Richardson doesn’t think it’s a good thing.

“I don’t believe seeing batsmen poke and prod or take their chances and slog is a particularly good spectacle.”

Au contraire, Mr Richardson. I don’t mind watching the occasional flourishing cover drive or stylish leg glance, but that’s just what they should be, occasional, like rare gems, so we appreciate their beauty all the more. Most of the time, Test batsmen should be hopping, ducking and wondering where their next run is coming from. As Sydney Barnes would say, that’s proper cricket.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England