Alex Bowden blogs at King Cricket
English cricket has been left reeling today following the revelation that not everything that ever happens necessarily carries meaning with regard to Alastair Cook's one-day captaincy going into the World Cup. Sir Ian Botham felt moved to comment: "Unbelievable. I simply wouldn't have thought it possible."
The incident took place in South Africa, where a group of players are currently attending a fast bowling camp in Potchefstroom. Derbyshire's Mark Footitt is one in attendance, and midway through a training session he bowled what many onlookers perceived to be the perfect reverse-swinging yorker.
An hour later, lead fast bowling coach Kevin Shine was asked what impact this delivery might have on Cook's one-day captaincy going into the World Cup. Shine responded: "Well, no impact really. I don't think Mark's likely to get picked no matter what happens on this camp."
It took a good few moments for the meaning of his words to sink in. Indeed, even Shine himself at first seemed oblivious to the ramifications. But players, coaches and the few journalists who were in attendance were soon exchanging puzzled looks, trying to dissect what had just happened.
Word spread rapidly and during the fifth one-day international in Sri Lanka, Sky's commentators could talk of little else.
"Is it possible that something could have happened which will have no impact whatsoever on Alastair Cook's captaincy going into the World Cup?" asked Nick Knight, directing the question at himself. "I've had a bit of a think about this and, on balance, I'm sure that it might be possible," he responded with typically qualified conviction. "Should be four. Is four," he then added.
For his part, Ian Ward tried to put events in context. "We're watching his batting like hawks, but then even when he isn't playing, we're watching who replaces him and asking whether they are a better bet. Moeen Ali opening - that obviously has the potential to weaken Cook's position. Hales opening - the same. Runs for James Taylor at three and we ask why we need Cook the batsman. Runs for Eoin Morgan at six and we ask why we need Cook the captain."
Speaking on the BBC's Test Match Special, Russel Arnold offered an outsider's perspective. "I think the lesson here for England is that it's not all about one person. Sometimes a batting line-up can hinge on as many as two people, one of whom might even be right-handed. Sometimes it's even possible for neither of those two influential individuals to also be the captain."
Botham has been left scratching his head. "I don't get it. I just don't get it. Just when you think you know everything about this sport, something crops up that completely throws you. I've been banging on about getting youngsters into the side in place of Cook for months now. But how am I meant to bang on about it in relation to a Derbyshire cricketer's perfect yorker? It almost makes you think that you should spend some time banging on about something else. But I won't. I'll just let this unfortunate event pass by and then get back on with what I do best."
Asked for his opinion on the matter, Cook himself ventured: "Who's Mark Footitt? Is this a Kevin Pietersen thing?"