Allrounder desperate to appear in World Cup February 28, 2007

Fingers optional as Oram pursues dream

Many people like to claim they'd give an arm and a leg to play in a World Cup. Oram means it literally
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Oram winces as he realises the gravity of his muffed catch © Getty Images
Many people like to claim they'd give an arm and a leg to play in a World Cup. Few would ever carry out such a threat, however, because - on reflection - the loss of so many limbs might render them a little lop-sided and ineffectual.

The loss of a single digit, on the other hand ... well that needn't be such a hinderance, as Jacob Oram is suddenly very keen to demonstrate. After breaking his left ring finger in a freak fielding accident he's so desperate to take part in New Zealand's campaign that he is willing to do away with it altogether.

"If it means cutting the finger off, if that's the worse-case scenario, if that's the last resort, I'll do that, there's no way I'm missing this," Oram told NZPA. "We've got a couple of techniques in terms of taping and a couple of guards which are a lot thinner so they can fit into a batting glove. I'm confident it'll be fine."

Desperate times, desperate measures. Oram had been in the form of his life prior to his injury, clubbing 86, 101 not out and 54 not out in consecutive CB Series matches against England and Australia. But in the opening game of the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy two weeks later, he wrecked his hopes in the most innocuous of fashions, by jamming his finger beneath the ball while claiming a simple spooned catch off Mitchell Johnson at mid-on.

Even as he celebrated he was wincing in recognition of what he had just done, but happily for Oram there have been at least two successful precedents, should he go through with his threat and lop his finger off. In 2002, the Australian Rules footballer, Daniel Chick, made the headlines by visiting his surgeon after suffering a chronic dislocation while playing for the Victorian side, Hawthorn. Four seasons later he is still going strong, and has just completed his most successful year yet in 2006.

And only last October in the world of Rugby Union, the Fiji and ACT Brumbies flanker, Jone Tawake, decided that his right ring finger was surplus to requirements as he too pursued his dream of playing in this year's World Cup. "It was a big decision," said Tawake, without any intended understatement. "I thought about my rugby future, especially with my history of injuries, and I couldn't afford to have any more time off."

That's all very well for games played with big oval balls, and dominated by players with leg speed and upper-body strength, but what of the more subtle sport of cricket? Well, for Oram - a right-arm seamer and a left-handed batsman - the main issue would arise when his turn came to bat.

In theory, the loss of a left, bottom-hand, finger might actually aid a batsman, for it would make them more dependent on their top hand, and consequently, more "correct". But for Oram, whose signature shot is a fierce whip-pull over midwicket for six, it might prove more difficult to overcome the sudden imbalance.

Waqar Younis managed to become one of the greatest fast bowlers in history despite having just four fingers and a stump on his left hand. Waqar, however, lost his finger in a canal during a childhood accident, rather than in a doctor's surgery mere days before a World Cup.

"It might cause more of an imbalance in the mind!" said Nasser Hussain, the former England captain. Hussain's career was also regularly interrupted by cracks in his "poppadom" fingers, but for all that, he admitted to Cricinfo that such drastic measures were never something that he even remotely contemplated.

"I can honestly say I have never, ever, ever considered chopping off a finger to play a game of cricket," said Hussain. "That would be pushing the 'I'm desperate to play for England' line a little too far. Just think of the effect it would have in the field - a catch goes up, and whoops, it's gone straight through the fingers! I'm really hoping it's something that Oram has said in jest."

Even so, Waqar Younis managed to become one of the greatest fast bowlers in history despite having just four fingers and a stump on his left hand. Waqar, however, lost his finger in a canal during a childhood accident, rather than in a doctor's surgery mere days before a World Cup.

A better role model for Oram might be Ireland's captain, Trent Johnston, who has broken the same finger in his right hand so often that he has been told by doctors that it is "worthless". Johnston will nevertheless be playing on through the pain next month. With a cortisone injection and a well-positioned splint, Oram will doubtless be doing likewise.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo