England October 13, 2012

We need some excuse-making coaches here

The modern-day proliferation of backroom flunkies is often portrayed as a bad thing

The modern-day proliferation of backroom flunkies is often portrayed as a bad thing. Ex-pros who can remember a time when an international cricketer had to wash his own underpants sometimes appear bewildered by this state of affairs. Does Team England really need 27 chiropractors, a battalion of soup testers and a crack team of water-alkalinity troubleshooters?

Well, yes, they do. Thanks to this army of advisors, counsellors and hangers-on, the modern cricketer is able to sidestep countless traps and pitfalls, that, if left to stumble along without guidance, they would undoubtedly blunder straight into.

For instance, thanks to the work of nutritionists, the modern cricketer understands that eating three pigeon pies and a portion of battered chocolate for breakfast will not help him perform to his best. Thanks to integrity consultants he's discovered that being paid to fix cricket matches is wrong. And thanks to the efforts of fashion advisors, he understands that tattoos make him look more manly and emphasise his individuality.

That said, there is still room for improvement on the media-handling front. The tendency for Australians to preface every comment with the phrase, "Ah, look…" has yet to be eradicated. Despite the best efforts of elocution coaches, the post-match interviews of many cricketers from the north of England remain unintelligible. And then there are the terrible excuses.

Excuses are as much part of the modern game as photo shoots, silly sunglasses and forgetting which franchise you are supposed to be playing for this week. Yet so many cricketers appear reluctant to put in the hard yards and improve their justificatory skills. Take Dimitri Mascarenhas. Under pressure to explain Hampshire's one day one-day campaign at the Champions Thingy in South Africa, this was all he could come up with:

"When we saw the pitch yesterday, we thought there was no way we could play on that wicket."

Really? Was it strewn with bear traps? Were tarantulas nesting in the popping crease? Were the wildebeest migrating via Centurion again? No. It turns out that the pitch was a bit damp.

"In 20-over cricket, you want a flat wicket."

Speak for yourself, old chap. Personally, the only thing I want from a 20-over game is for the players to turn up, the seats to be relatively comfy and the music not too dated. Beyond that, I have no expectations pitch-wise. Soggy or dusty, it makes no difference to me. I don't measure my enjoyment by the length of the affair; a 14-over wicket fest can be just as much fun as a 20-over six-hitting contest.

It seems the more you pay a sportsman the more fussy he becomes about the going. I can only imagine the horrified reactions of the modern cricketer if he were asked to play on an uncovered wicket. I suspect some of them might faint. It's even worse in Test cricket. Slippery run-ups, a hint of fog, a bit of drizzle, a swarm of bees: there's no end to the minor inconveniences that can be used as a pretext not to do the thing they are paid to do.

"The most disappointing thing is that it was all in the toss. It was decided on that."

Well, not quite, Dmitri. It was decided on the fact that Auckland scored all the runs you got, plus two more, on the same unplayable pitch that you were complaining about an hour earlier. Never mind awards dinners, charity speaking engagements and winter nets, I suggest you spend this close season increasing your excuse-making repertoire working for one of England's many splendid rail franchises.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England