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Thursday, 7th June How disappointing. I’d been looking forward to the forthcoming bout of extremely heavyweight boxing between two of New Zealand’s finest exponents of the verbal jab and the Twitter upper cut. But now it seems that the title fight between Jesse “Occasionally Suspended” Ryder and Craig “Retired” McMillan is off.
Like draping a dust sheet over a nude painting of WG Grace, the suggestion that this fight was for charity was just a polite veil over the unpleasantness. Jesse has been training in the pugilistic arts (swearing, gouging, gargling blood and biting) for several months, and Craig, whose only jousting opponent recently has been the English language, would probably have had his commentary face mangled.
What was the cause of this proposed bout of fisticuffs? Well, a little while back, Craig suggested that Jesse had slowed down a little when nearing his fifty in a Twenty20 game against South Africa. And as every ten-year-old will tell you, when someone casts aspersions in the media about a perceived compromise in your strike rate, there’s only one thing to do. Ask them if they want a fight.
A lesser man might have thanked Craig for his opinion before explaining how the match situation, the position of the field or the prevailing wind had caused his run-scoring to slacken. But history-loving Jesse is clearly a student of the pre-Medieval approach to justice. For a few centuries after the Romans retired hurt, the accepted European method of resolving slanderous accusations, pig custody disputes and arguments about who burnt the muffins was the same: a fight to the death with battle axes.
Of course, had Craig kept his wits about him he could have hit back with a challenge of his own. Perhaps a chess match. What’s the matter, Jesse, are you chicken? Don’t you know how the knight moves? Or maybe, being New Zealanders, they could have settled things the old-fashioned way, with a vowel-elucidation test. First one to correctly pronounce "the seven sisters sat on the six sacks" is the winner.
It seems then that we won’t get our punch-fest, but Jesse’s challenge has led to other cricketers trying to settle their differences in equally random ways. I gather that Ian Botham and Ian Chappell will be going toe to toe in a winner-takes-all session of Hungry Hippos whilst Nick Knight has responded to KP’s recent critique with a Scrabble challenge. Sadly, KP has pulled a McMillan, coming up with the feeble excuse that he hadn’t time to get a dictionary as it was a bank holiday and all the book shops were shut.
But I suppose the oddest thing about all this is that Jesse didn’t think of something cricket related to settle a dispute between two cricketers. Maybe hitting a stump from ten yards? A tea-drinking contest? A cricket quiz? The questions write themselves. To the nearest kilogram, how much does Jesse weigh? What was Craig’s Test strike rate? When was the last time New Zealand won a Test series? Anyone…?
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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. Providing his ransom demands continue to be met, he has promised never to write a whimsical book about village cricket. @hughandrews73