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Sue de Groot

Back to the future, starring David Morgan

Pink balls. The UDRS. The ICC president. Movie references. It's all happening here

Sue de Groot

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ICC President David Morgan speaks at the Welcome Reception for the 2009 Hong Kong Cricket Sixes
David Morgan: no time for the past © CCIL
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Where Tiger Woods will go down in history as the face of Tag Heuer watches ("Just 30 seconds can ruin your life"), ICC President David Morgan might be remembered as the obstetrician who dragged cricket, red-faced and screaming, into the modern world.

If you define the modern world as a place characterised by an aversion to paying attention for more than a few seconds, accompanied by a dependence on technology, then the day-night Test and the Decision Review System (DRS) might be exactly the instruments that are needed to ease the game out of the past and into the sphere of today's youth.

Ah, the youth of today. My vet's daughter, a mathematical prodigy, is 14 years old and loves cricket because she enjoys working out the statistical probabilities over five days. She may not be the audience Mr Morgan had in mind when he said, "I'd be surprised if we don't see day-night cricket within the next two years - surprised and disappointed."

Mr Morgan, a fan of the subjunctive clause, also said, "I don't think the game has ever been in the health it is in today - it's never been in better health," which would seem to contradict his earlier statements that waning attendance at Test matches has led to experimentation with the day-night form, played with a pink ball, no less. A pink ball. What next? Short pants?

Traditionalists, of which I confess I am one, have naturally revolted against this dastardly plan. But if you think that has caused a furore, it's nothing compared to the DRS, also a Morgan-backed plot. I keep getting the DRS confused with the DRC, which is silly, because they are polar opposites: one is a dangerous place with a flawed system of governance that removes all power and decision-making from the human individual, and the other is a country.

You'd think umpires would be unhappy about the possibility of being replaced by a blinking lens, but part of the motivation for it seems to be that some of the better umpires are sick of travelling, and apparently it will be okay to have umpires of the same nationality as a participating home team if they are supported by the DRC, I mean DRS. I can't help feeling that they've ignored the obvious question, though: if you allow the on-field officials' decision to be overturned by a machine, then why have umpires at all?

I have never met David Morgan. He's probably a very nice chap. I already like him for the reason that if he grew a small moustache he'd bear more than a passing resemblance to Uncle Monty, played by Richard Griffiths in the cult classic Withnail and I. But just as the DRS bears no resemblance to the DRC, Monty and Mr Morgan differ in at least one respect. Where Mr Morgan robustly embraces the future, Monty hated the inescapable slide of change.

 
 
I can think of one way to increase ticket sales without having to hand out Ritalin at the gate. Invite all the women who claim to have slept with Tiger Woods to declare themselves by sitting through all five days. There won't be a seat to be had for the rest of us, not for love or money
 

"Ah my boys, my boys, we're at the end of an age," he said. "And here we are… perhaps the last island of beauty in the world."

Monty was, of course, talking about cricket, perhaps the last sport that demands the same patience, commitment and absorption from its watchers as it does from its players. And its umpires. Yet Morgan and Co want to turn it into a TV game played as though there's no tomorrow.

There is one small ray of hope. Where the futuristic DRS might fall down is in decisions involving the action of bowlers; that is, unless it can be programmed to recognise all possible permutations of the bowling action and won't automatically dismiss the tactics of someone like, say, Muttiah Muralitharan (mysteriously a staunch advocate of the DRS), as illegal. Faced with such unorthodoxy, how will the system cope? Perhaps it will break down entirely, its last contribution to cricket a mechanical call for a human in a white coat to come to its aid. Mr Morgan will be there, urging his brainchild to make a decision, while the DRS, just like rogue computer HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, will reply: "I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that," and then die. Perhaps they'll call it the e-bowler virus.

To look on the bright side, change might not be so bad. People can get used to anything, so they say; even a pink cricket ball and no raised fingers on the field. If, however, attendance at Test matches were to suddenly escalate, perhaps the first of these frightening moves towards progress might be averted. I can think of one way to increase ticket sales without having to hand out Ritalin at the gate. Invite all the women who claim to have slept with Tiger Woods to declare themselves by sitting through all five days. There won't be a seat to be had for the rest of us, not for love or money.

RSS FeedSue de Groot is a Johannesburg-based journalist, columnist and television scriptwriter

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Sue de Groot is a Johannesburg-based journalist, columnist and television scriptwriter. Formerly managing editor of men's magazine Directions, features writer for Femina and assistant editor of Cosmopolitan, she is now features editor of Food & Home Entertaining. She wrote the "Wicket Maiden" column for the Wisden Cricketer SA until that magazine's sad demise, and tries to restrict herself to writing about life's six highest pleasures: food, gardening, books, films, cats and cricket.

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Sue de Groot Sue de Groot is a Johannesburg-based journalist, columnist and television scriptwriter. Formerly managing editor of men's magazine Directions, features writer for Femina and assistant editor of Cosmopolitan, she is now features editor of Food & Home Entertaining. She wrote the "Wicket Maiden" column for the Wisden Cricketer SA until that magazine's sad demise, and tries to restrict herself to writing about life's six highest pleasures: food, gardening, books, films, cats and cricket.
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