November 14, 2012

A rich tapesty of bovine excrement

Andrew Hughes
R Ashwin gestures at India's training session, World Twenty20, Colombo, September 14, 2012
New delivery? Not sure. Shiny new yellow t-shirt? Yes  © Associated Press


We all enjoyed reading Australia's top secret scrapbook of the self-evident, but as we work our way through Dermot Reeve's Psychological Warfare For Beginners, this week we've reached chapter two, entitled, "My Other Ball's A Teesra..."

Ravichandran Ashwin is threatening England with a new delivery, in the same way that you might taunt a frightened chicken with a packet of sage and onion stuffing. And why not. If you were about to enjoy a whole series worth of bowling at a succession of jittery-looking Englishman-shaped jellies, wouldn't you want to have a little fun with them first?

For Ashwin knows that he casteth his magic beans of fear on a particularly fertile psychological vegetable patch. Just as thespians are not supposed to mention the Scottish play, so the words "slow" and "bowler" have been banned from English net sessions. When England's reserve buttock masseur turned up to the team Halloween party wearing a Saeed Ajmal mask, he was sent home for making Ian Bell cry.

Ashwin isn't the first spinner to try this angle. The tactic dates back to the Bronze Age, when Goliath was so psyched out by an interview David gave to Hebrew Stone Flinger Monthly, in which the little fella talked about a new way of propelling a stone that the world had never seen, that the big Philistine was a nervous wreck by the day of the big match, whereupon he was felled by a straightforward old-fashioned clockwise-swung forehand.

How does it work? Well, with apologies to Sir Humphrey Appleby, it goes something like this. England know that Ashwin probably hasn't got a new delivery. Ashwin probably knows that they probably know that he probably hasn't. But even though they probably certainly know that he certainly hasn't and he probably certainly knows that they probably know that he certainly hasn't, they don't know for certain that there's no probability that he certainly has.

It's all part of the rich tapestry of bovine excrement that forms the backdrop to our great game, and Ashwin deserves a small ripple of polite applause for his efforts, even though it's as superfluous as a contestant in a Shooting Fish in a Barrel competition bragging that he's recently added a night sight to his machine gun. He's playing England, so even if he has a new delivery, which he hasn't, he won't need it.

For their part, the English batsmen have been working on a four-point strategy to address their embarrassing weakness, in order not to look too silly when the spinners come on:

1. Try to dominate the spinner by coming down the pitch early, possibly before he's started his run-up, and glaring at him from five yards away.

2. Put the spinner off by performing a wobbly-kneed dance, a la Bruce Grobbelaar in the 1984 European Cup Final.

3. Sweep, sweep and sweep again. Sweep for your life. Sweep like a Victorian urchin halfway up a chimney, like Cinderella with half an hour, a party to get to and a kitchen to clean.

4. Close your eyes, say three Hail Gattings, have a swing, and hope for the best.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Posted by Dan on (November 20, 2012, 19:22 GMT)

you just missed that important fact that the David and Goliath story is set in the Iron Age, not the Bronze...

Posted by Vinod on (November 17, 2012, 10:02 GMT)

Hilarious Andrew, one of the best uve ever written. The imitation of Sir Humphrey and England's tactics against spin were LOL funny. Looking forward to more of the same

Posted by Omar on (November 16, 2012, 14:56 GMT)

Wonderful, particularly England's strategy against spin!!! Still have tears in my eyes.

Posted by Mrs Doyle on (November 15, 2012, 20:44 GMT)

Phil said it all really......ah, except the new word you introduced us to, you are a clever old Hector Mr Hughes....

Posted by Azfar on (November 15, 2012, 19:22 GMT)

Hahahaha. Hilarious read. Thanks for the laughs Mr Hughes :).

Posted by Sundar on (November 15, 2012, 5:29 GMT)

LOL... sure England major weakness is their mindset... ROFL for your 4 point strategy...

Posted by Sam on (November 15, 2012, 1:27 GMT)

This almost made me cry: "...England’s reserve buttock masseur turned up to the team Halloween party wearing a Saeed Ajmal mask, he was sent home for making Ian Bell cry..."

Posted by Jerry on (November 15, 2012, 1:15 GMT)

Simply outstanding - it's rare I meet a sports writer who is funnier than I am, but you might well be that person.

Posted by Gautam on (November 14, 2012, 21:18 GMT)

Hilarious! The gags just kept coming!! Looking forward to more from you.

Posted by Unmesh on (November 14, 2012, 20:49 GMT)

If I am not mistaken, I think the word in the title should be "tapestry" ('r' missing in the spelling). A very amusing article though, especially England's four-point strategy against spin. Although it is meant to be funny, the 3rd point (sweep, sweep and sweep again) is England's actual plan against spin bowling. In a recent interview, Murali Kartik said that England batsmen don't mind getting out trying to sweep! They prefer this mode of dismissal than coming down the track and getting stumped. Apparently, getting out to a sweep shot is less embarrassing than getting stumped. I have a 5th point which would actually help England: 5. Select Mike Gatting in playing 11.

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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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