May 10, 2014

Time to embrace the puppy treatment

It's not too long before we see the first mass fight on a cricket field. Smacks need to be delivered to bottoms before that day comes

"How dare you speak to me in language so civil? This is unacceptable" © BCCI

Let's be honest; many of us secretly enjoy a bit of aggro. I'm the kind of coward who would run away from a food fight, but I have to admit that an obscure dusty corner of my cerebellum begins to hum at the sight of two people squaring up.

It's our genetic heritage. If your diet revolves around woolly mammoth, then a certain amount of aggression, along with a sharpened stick, is de rigeur. And if, having dragged the woolly mammoth carcass all the way back to your cave, some Neanderthal calls you a sissy and tries to steal your dinner, then you need the ability to get angry in a hurry. You might even need to throw something wooden in his direction.

Still, just because something is in our nature, that doesn't make it immutable. Left to develop naturally, our teeth would rot, leading to blood poisoning. Do we shrug our shoulders and say, "Hey, that's just how humans are?" Confronted with someone defecating in the street, would we smile knowingly to our companion and say, "Humans, eh?"

It may be natural for young persons full of fizzy sports drink to want to shout at each other and generally carry on. In itself, this is not a problem. The problem occurs when people who should know better give them permission.

Wednesday's game offered a perfect example. During Mumbai's innings Mitchell Starc bowled a bouncer and Kieron Pollard swayed out of the way. This was exciting, skilful cricket, but it wasn't enough for Mitchell. He felt the need to show off his rhetorical skills, expounding on one or two salient points regarding Kieron's masculinity, then proceeding to labour those points, with a few f-words thrown in, just like Cicero would have done.

What was the commentators' reaction? Did they yawn audibly? Did they invite Starc to seal his yap, to cease flapping his gums, and to get on with the matter in hand?

Nope. There was a certain amount of chortling, and an invitation from Commentator A to Commentator B to translate Starc's oratory.

One ball later, Pollard threw his bat and hissy fits went off like fireworks. Commentator A said something about this not being the sort of thing you want to see on a cricket field, and then invited Commentator C to give his opinion:

"Not a great sight for the game, but it just shows that both sides mean business tonight, they both want to win."

There you have it. To show that you want to win a game of cricket, just call your opponent names, or threaten to hit him with your bat. The logical implication, which will not be lost on ten-year-olds everywhere, is that if you don't behave like a petulant moron on the field of play, your coach may question your will to win.

I'm sure that when we see the first mass fight on a cricket field, there will be an ex-pro on hand in the commentary box to mumble something about how the brawling imbeciles are showing their passion for the game.

Maybe this stuff has always gone on, but the difference now is that we can see it all in glorious high definition from 157 camera angles. There are cameras in the stumps, cameras on the umpire's head, cameras attached to Danny Morrison's tonsils (the operation of the DannyCam being the reason why he has to open his mouth so widely and so frequently). Under such intense scrutiny cricket can no longer muddle along with an opaque code in which it's okay for a bloke to scream obscenities at another bloke as long as he doesn't cross some wobbly, ill-defined line in the obscenity sand.

Football can accommodate a certain amount of mindless thuggery because the outbreaks of violence are obscured by the constant action. But cricket is mostly standing around. It's already a stop-start sport. If it has to halt every other ball for the umpire to untangle the batsman from the bowler, it will become unwatchable. And cricket really doesn't need to find new ways of becoming unwatchable.

So sadly, we have no choice but to start treating cricketers like puppies. I will explain. A puppy will naturally urinate on your carpet. Your neighbour, who, for the purposes of this example, should have an Australian accent, may tell you this is just part of being a puppy. You may agree. You may have sympathy for the natural instincts of the puppy. Nevertheless, the fact remains that your carpet is starting to smell.

The puppy referee's suggestion of a 50% cut in doggy treats does not seem to arrest the situation, so sooner or later it will become necessary to administer a smack on the bottom followed by a prolonged period out in the backyard. The puppy will not be happy with this situation, but he will eventually begin to associate the act of carpet desecration with a sore behind and will adjust his behaviour accordingly. Result: one well-behaved puppy and one living room that doesn't stink.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here