Notes by the Editor, 2002

To bore or not to bore



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What confuses the issue is that cricket has always been more than entertainment alone. It is a game of tactics and psychological pressures, on the individual and the team. There are situations in which tactics are in opposition to entertainment; captains will argue that winning (or not losing)comes before crowd-pleasing. England's victories in Pakistan and Sri Lanka in 2000-01 were not always pretty to watch. They resulted from attritional passages of play intended to wear down their opponents' resolve. But if England's cricket was not always fun, it was intriguing and, in retrospect, intelligent. Being boring paid dividends, as Steve Waugh acknowledged in a back-handed way when he spun England's winter strength into a spring insult. Nasser Hussain rose to the bait at Edgbaston: England tried to play a game they were inexperienced at, went one down and never recovered. Back on the subcontinent last winter, England put attrition ahead of attractiveness, made few friends but made up lost ground after losing the First Test to India.

In order to frustrate the supremely gifted Sachin Tendulkar, Ashley Giles bowled his left-arm spin down a leg-side line and to a leg-side field until Tendulkar became so bored (or insulted) that he chanced his arm against the odds, failed and was stumped for the first time in 89 Tests. The Englishmen danced about in unashamed delight but the Bangalore weather gods rained on their parade. The game, almost deservedly so, was drawn. Whether England's tactics were within the letter of the Law, let alone the spirit, is debatable. Obviously the umpires chose to think so, despite the ICC's most recent playing condition that "For bowlers whom umpires consider to be bowling down the leg side as a negative tactic, the strict limited-overs wide interpretation shall be applied."

This condition, or more expressly that particular wording, took effect from September 2001; too late to bring Pakistan to book for employing similar leg-side tactics against England's batsmen at Old Trafford last June. Mind you, even if the new regulation had come in, any oversight by the umpires would have been lost in the furore over dismissals shown by television to result from no-balls.

© John Wisden & Co