November 5, 2013

What if Sachin pulls a hamstring in Kolkata?

The Confectionery Stall's advanced-level cricket examination goes boldly where no cricket quiz has done


Answer as many questions, as often as possible. You must complete the exam within 14 days. Anyone who takes longer than the prescribed fortnight will be deducted 2% of their final mark. All answers will be adjudged wrong. The highest mark will win a place on the ICC's Panel Of Elite Umpires. You may cheat. Fear not the infernal breath of failure. Show your working, or I will hunt you down and cuff you to a fence. Your result in this exam will legally supersede your worst exam result from school. Do not answer in German. Keep your feet firmly secured to the floor at all times. Please operate in 1-, 2- or 3-D. Do not look back. Pencils are illegal, unless shaped exactly like a cricket stump. On completion of the exam, shout "Howzat" at yourself, then swap papers with whoever is sitting next to you. If no one is sitting next to you, approach the person nearest to wherever you happen to be, sit next to them, tell them all about yourself, then tell them your answers and ask them what they think of them, in as threatening a manner as you think appropriate.

SECTION A: The ODI Identity Crisis

Question 1. How should the ICC reduce the dominance of the batsmen in ODIs on flat pitches, as has been seen in the recent India v Australia six-smashing scoreboard-splattering slug-out?

(a) An independent pitchjudicator should be appointed for each match. If he (or she) adjudges the playing surface to excessively favour the batting side, the pitchjudicator (or pitchjudicatrix) will shave a centimetre off the edges of all the players' bats.

(b) Entitle the bowlers to bark at the batsmen twice an over at the point of delivery. The distraction will upset the batsman's timing, resulting in fewer runs being scored.

(c) Allow ball-tampering, under strict regulation. Umpires will be entitled to pick at the seam if they feel the bowling side is struggling. If the run rate exceeds 8 per over at any stage during the innings, one side of the ball will be mechanically sanded. If the run rate exceeds 10 per over, the other side will be professionally polished and coated with an impact-resistant resin to ensure unplayable swing. If the run rate exceeds 12 per over, the ball will be replaced with a small cantaloupe melon.

(d) Count catches made by members of the crowd as legitimate dismissals. This will encourage classical strokeplay, along the ground.

(e) Increase gravity at ODI grounds. Fewer sixes will be scored.

(f) Plough the pitch every ten overs.

(g) Send some How To Bowl Yorkers DVDs around the cricketing world.

(h) Politely request international bowlers to stop bunging down easily clonkable full tosses.

(i) Each team should be entitled to prepare one end of the pitch. This would not only nullify home advantage, it would also provide a greater challenge for today's pampered batsmen.

2. How should the ICC reduce the dominance of the ball in ODIs featuring good bowling attacks, as seen in the first two matches of the Pakistan v South Africa ODI series?

(a) Whilst the run rate is below 4 runs per over, all appeals should be ruled "not out".

(b) Put the square on a hydraulic base. Whilst bowlers are dominating, the square will be raised, meaning that the ball will speed downhill towards the boundary. If the batsmen then become too dominant, the pitch will be lowered to below ground level, meaning that all boundaries have to be forced uphill.

(c) Count the score in base 8, instead of base 10. Thus, a disappointing score of 210 will become a respectable 322.

(d) Politely request international batsman to listen to Professor Ethel Smetherick's classic bluegrass-influenced 1972 funk-rock thesis-album How To Safely Accumulate Runs Against Spin Bowling (featuring Funkadelic legend Eddie Hazel on an electric cricket-bat-guitar).

(e) Call any ball that spins more than 6°, swings discernibly, or travels at more than 80mph a no-ball. Any bowler who bowls three such no-balls in a spell will be barred from bowling for the rest of the innings.

(f) Allow no more than two fielders outside the 30-yard circle until the score is over 250; if five wickets have fallen for less than 150, allow only two fielders in front of square.

(g) Make all fielders wear gloves made of frying pans.

(h) Allow the batsmen to apply fast-drying concrete to the pitch in between deliveries.

SECTION B: The Ashes

3. Is Shane Warne justified in criticising Alastair Cook's captaincy?

(a) No. The most important aspect of a modern captain's job is not on-field tactics, but the fostering and maintenance of the kind of team spirit that saw England through their awkward moments at Trent Bridge and Durham. On the pitch, if a captain gives the ball to good bowlers, they will probably at some point take some wickets, regardless of where the fielders are standing. England have good bowlers. Even if their fielders are sometimes standing considerably further from the bat than they might be.

(b) Yes. Any captain who plonks nine fielders on the boundary with the opposition No. 10 on strike deserves a proper telling off. I don't care what the result is. It is (a) tactically nonsensical, (b) an act of cricketing cowardice, and (c) a bit rude towards his own bowlers, the paying spectators and the concept of cricket.

(c) No. Cook won the Ashes 3-0. Clarke lost the Ashes 3-0. If Clarke had captained England, therefore, they would have lost 3-0. You cannot fight mathematics.

(d) Yes. England might have got away with their cautious approach last summer, but, like the lost, underfed dog of a sausage impersonator, it could well come back to bite them at some point. They have been a successful side whilst playing with a degree of tactical negativity. They would probably be more successful playing without it.

(e) No.

(f) Yes.

(g) Maybe.

(h) No. The last time an English leader tried to skipper his team with a devil-may-care flamboyance was when King Harold overconfidently tried to header the Normans' arrows back across the battlefield at Hastings in 1066. One slight misjudgement later, he was an eyeball kebab with a corpse attached to it, and England had become French. A lesson painfully learned.

England might have got away with their cautious approach last summer, but, like the lost, underfed dog of a sausage impersonator, it could well come back to bite them at some point

(i) Yes. If Sebastian Vettel in his Red Bull F1 car took on a retired donkey in a 30-lap race around the Nurburgring, and won by only 1.3 seconds with an average speed of 3.6 miles per hour, people would rightly question his performance, and the applause for his victory would be at best muted. This is not to suggest that England are the cricketing equivalent of Vettel, nor that Australia are tantamount to that fume-spluttering donkey, but the point stands.

4. Who will win the Ashes?

(a) England. Their batting is only vulnerable when the ball swings. Australian conditions will suit them better than playing at home. Their bowling attack is more proven and less injured. They only need to draw the series. They have experience without being old. Australia have become a team accustomed to defeat, and were soundly beaten by an England team that was nowhere near its best, and will inevitably improve.

(b) Australia. England's curious passivity and eczematically scratchy form allowed the Aussies to establish near parity in the latter half of last summer's series, despite being significantly inferior on paper and in a position to be properly squished. Only Bell's batting saved England's oddly undercooked bacon. With home support, individual confidences boosted, and fired by a renewed sense of baggy greenery, Clarke's men will battle past an England team that has already achieved its goals.

(c) England. They might not be a truly great side (and, with the skewed Test calendar as it is, will not have the chance to prove themselves as one for at least two years), but, with match-turning bowlers and a long batting line-up, they are extremely hard to beat. (Unless you are South Africa or Pakistan in the right conditions.) (Neither of which Australia are.)


5. What will happen if Sachin pulls a hamstring in Kolkata?

(a) He will be forced to hobble through his 200th Test in Mumbai. Or allowed to play on a special moped.

(b) Hamstring transplant. He will be fitted with Ajinkya Rahane's hamstring. The young batsman-in-waiting will be presented with an autographed thigh-pad as compensation.

(c) A magic youth-restoring serum injection will be hastily blasted into the great man's leg. However, as he is a small man, it will effect his entire body. He will effectively become 16 again. And set his sights on Test No. 400, in the year 2037.

(d) An additional one-off Test against the new Vatican City cricket team will be rapidly organised. If necessary, India's tour of South Africa will be delayed. Or reduced to a game of Graham Gooch Cricket on an early-1990s Amiga 1200.

(e) A snap IPL will be called to distract everyone from the ordeal.

(f) Cricket will end.

6. If Rohit Sharma had been written off as a Test batsman based on his disappointing performances in ODI cricket, despite an excellent first-class record, can he now also be written off as a Test batsman because he has proved himself a one-day biff specialist who will inevitably struggle to hit seven sixes in 18 balls in the five-day game? Discuss with reference to whatever you want.


Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on BBC Radio 4, and a writer