This, that and the other. Mostly the other
Martin Ledbetter, a nondescript ODI fan, spoke yesterday of the unbounded joy and sense of achievement he feels holding up the right plastic placard after a batsman has hit a four or a six. Mr Ledbetter, who otherwise works as a banker in Canary Wharf, admitted that the brightly coloured placards with the large white numbers printed on them are the main reason he goes to watch cricket.
"It's a power trip like none other, mate," Mr Ledbetter said between overs during a recently concluded limited-overs encounter between England and Sri Lanka. "Imagine the scenario. A batsman hits a four. What are you going to do?" he asked rhetorically, before reaching down between his legs and pulling a placard out from under his seat.
"Take a guess at what number I have here," he said, showing this correspondent only the back of the placard in his hand. "It's a four, silly!" he squealed happily as he turned the piece of plastic around to display what was, indeed, the number four.
"That's the power of choice, my friend," he explained. "I could have pulled out a six, but I didn't, did I?"
"Go on, answer him, it'll make him happy," said Ledbetter's wife, Belinda, seated next to him. "He could have held up the number six after a four was struck, but…" she said in a practiced, singsong, childlike voice before trailing off, appearing to cue her husband to finish the sentence.
"…I didn't, did I?" Mr Ledbetter brayed joyously, ripping his tie off his neck and throwing it into the air.
"Well…?" said Mrs Ledbetter, rolling her eyes meaningfully.
"No," this correspondent at this point felt compelled to answer. "No, you didn't. You held up a four."
"You bet your life I did," Mr. Ledbetter said, with a strange, faraway look in his eye. "You bet your life I did," he said again, voice faltering, before he appeared to collapse into his seat and hug himself as he rocked back and forth, sobbing quietly.
"There, there, Martin," said Mrs Ledbetter, giving him a couple of pats on his shoulder. "Another boundary will be along soon enough." Mr. Ledbetter nodded as he turned away, sniffling, and appeared to gesture to us not to look at him anymore.
"It's just the comedown after the giddy high of waving the same placard as everyone else to describe the obvious," explained Mrs Ledbetter. "He'll be okay soon," she added uncertainly.
She confirmed that all the placard-waving had helped make her husband a happier, "more involved" person. "He's had a hard time of it lately, what with all the unfair finger-pointing and the silly blame games that were afoot after the banking crisis recently," she explained. "He's been made to feel bad about his bonus, and he was down on himself for a while there, but put a couple of those plastic boards in his hand and he's happy as a clam.
"In fact, on the advice of our marriage counsellor, we've even started incorporating placard-waving to improve the way we communicate with each other. In bed, for example, Martin gets to wave placards that echo his commentary favourites, like "Yes!" or "That's a DLF Maximum!" or "It's huuuuuge!", and I wave ones that say "Yawn" or "Oh, had we started? I didn't realise", or, if the outlook seems especially bleak, a series of images depicting Jonathan Trott taking guard. This way we get the painfully obvious messages across without having to verbally communicate, or even see each other, what with the placards hiding our faces. It does make a difference."
"Oh, I do wish someone would hit another boundary soon," she added in a rush, scanning the field while casting nervous glances at her husband, who had since taken to lying on the floor with his thumb in his mouth.
Her prayers were answered a couple of overs later when Craig Kieswetter sent one into the stands. "It's a six, honey!" Mrs Ledbetter shouted at her husband through the roar of the crowd.
But Mr Ledbetter was already on his feet, waving the "Six" placard and high-fiving and sharing knowing looks with the other placard-wavers around him. "Where's the camera, do you see the camera?" he jabbered, a thin film of spittle starting to foam around his mouth. "Sometimes the TV camera comes along, and if you're lucky, if you're really lucky, people in the stadium and your loved ones at home can see you do the right thing.
"Being able to wave the same placard as everyone else at the ground is one of the most liberating experiences of my life," he explained as the crowd settled down again. "It makes me feel like a part of a consensus," he said, real tears of joy forming in his eyes. "Nay," he paused dramatically, "It makes me feel like part of a community."
R Rajkumar plans to introduce into the world at large a placard with the image of an upraised non-index finger, to be directed at the BCCI, for when an umpiring blunder is allowed to pass due to the lack of the DRS
Tell us what you think. Send us your feedback
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.