As a fan of Just a Minute, I was delighted to read that ESPNcricinfo's recently launched Cricket Monthly includes a feature that pays homage to this greatest of radio panel games. In "Just a Thousand Words Or So" a cricket journalist is given a one-word subject and has ten paragraphs to tell us something about that subject without deviation, hesitation or excessive punctuation.
Admittedly, this isn't quite as challenging as the radio version. From a single word, such as "momentum" or "bouncer" or "trousers" any cricket journalist worthy of the name can spin out several hundred more words in the time that it takes David Gower to welcome us back from an ad break. As we speak, millions of fingers are tapping out millions more cricket words, and even these paragraphs complaining about the number of words in cricket are assembled from yet more words. Let's face it, cricket is suffering from a word surplus.
Sometimes the words are assembled in long, winding, snaking sentences, packed with clauses and sub-clauses, often containing digressions into Greek philosophy, or the Declaration of American Independence, or the Battle of Waterloo, before beginning the long and weary trek back to the point, via mixed metaphors, out-of-context historical references and excursive anecdotes about Somerset's 1979 Gillette Cup semi-final, cheese-making in Colombia, and Don Bradman's mother.
Sometimes the words are delivered in short bursts. Like this. Or like this. These short sentences might be related to one another. Stalin never played cricket. But he had a moustache. Years later Rod Marsh grew a moustache. Or they might not. Potatoes. Moeen Ali. Global warming. Maybe a longer sentence might be thrown in, to break things up a bit. But it doesn't last. Sometimes it can get a bit monosyllabic. See.
There are a lot of words written about football too, but most of these are quite short words, usually in large type, followed by exclamation marks. There is just something about cricket that inspires its journalists to unleash their inner Tolstoy.
It may seem there is no way to stem this word-spew from Mount Cricket, but that doesn't mean we can't try. As Socrates once said, "Give a man a laptop and he can annoy the world, but remove his space bar and he'll probably give up." We can't get rid of all the words in cricket overnight, so we will have to do it one word at a time, starting with these:
This appalling word offers us the horrific image of two international cricketers entwined in some bizarre mutation. If Dr Frankenstein had come up with this word he would have strangled it immediately. The originator probably chortled as he was tapping it out for the first time, but as soon as it was on the screen, the full horror dawned on him. This is a tongue-twister conceived in hell. Let's cast it out now while we still can.
Michael Vaughan uses this word frequently.
A puerile invitation to lower your standards of behaviour so as not to let a bully look bad, it should more accurately be written as "man down".
And Ravi Shastri is out in the middle for the toss
Separately these words are fine. Arrange them in any other way and there's no problem. But combine them in this particular order and they are the cause of widespread perturbation and dread, not to mention hamstring injuries, twisted knees, and bruised thumbs as millions scramble for the mute button at the same time. As Vic Marks said to George Washington at the Battle of Waterloo, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and that Ravi Shastri's shouting is really quite unpleasant."
Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here
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