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The Light Roller

Wait till India have to tour England with their non-fast bowlers

Our correspondent hatches a foolproof plan to exact revenge for subcontinental dustbowls

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
"Overcast skies, seaming conditions - gives me the creeps"  •  AFP

"Overcast skies, seaming conditions - gives me the creeps"  •  AFP

"No, you've got a problem playing spin!"
The Light Roller has taken to starting all conversations this way recently - even if it's in response to a passing pleasantry from a family member (in which case the point stands, since the Rollers all love a flat pitch). Sure, it sounds defensive, but if we've learned anything over the years of watching England donning their clown shoes on dustbowls, it's that cricket is very much a mental game. The disintegration usually starts up top long before there's a first puff of dust from the deck.
Unlike Sri Lanka, where England (or at least Joe Root) managed to avoid being spooked, India very quickly cottoned on to the old adage about character being destiny. Just as the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz has no brain, and the Tin Man no heart, English batsmen have no technique against the twirly stuff. It never hurts to remind them of that fact - an approach Sunil Gavaskar seemed to enthusiastically embrace on TV commentary.
Of course, a few little explosions on a first-day surface might help give those inner demons a nudge, and England were practically spun and done from the moment the Chennai groundsman lost his watering can after the first Test. Even Root, who had been playing spin in his plimsolls for the preceding month, found his innate Englishness impossible to overcome (although at least a top score of 40 from seven innings meant we didn't have to start having the "conversion" chat once again).
Never mind that often it was the ball not spinning that caused so much damage. That just proves the diabolical lengths these foreigners go to - coming up with deliveries that look like they are designed to go around corners in the manner of a heat-seeking missile, only to mooch straight on through the yawning gap you've quite deliberately left in your forward defensive.
Ever since dear old Bernie Bosanquet came up with the googly, the English establishment has been suspicious of using such underhand means to take wickets. More than a century on, this moralistic stance has been extended to the point where England all but refuse to produce any spinners of their own. If you can't win wherever you go in the world with a steady diet of right-arm seam, well, that's not for us, thanks.
Fortunately for the English sense of propriety, there will be a chance to teach India a lesson or two in return when they come over to Blighty this summer. And just as England can't play spin, everyone knows India haven't got any fast bowlers to worry about… right?


Far be it from us to judge, since arranging our sock drawer is a struggle, never mind a T20 tournament in a pandemic - but you can't help feel that if the organisers of the Pakistan Super League had put as much thought into biosecurity as they did for plugging a certain brand of tea on the TV coverage (the beverage of choice for commentators, cameramen, ground staff and assorted random fans), things might have gone better. Even Sri Lanka Cricket, with its famously low bar for administrative excellence - see Briefings passim - managed to pull off hosting the Lanka Premier League, having seemingly sketched out the idea on the back of a packet of face masks a few weeks in advance. Given how long it has taken to get top-level international and franchise cricket back into Pakistan, allowing all and sundry to leave their bubbles to go for a coffee looks a fairly big oversight; and having your competition postponed due to Covid twice within a year is only "world-beating" in the Boris Johnson sense.


"Always leave them wanting more." That's what they say in show business. In cricket, supply and demand can be a bit more complex - although, let's be honest, who doesn't love a good un-retirement? Shahid Afridi has made a post-playing career out of them, and it seems Chris Gayle is going to take a similar approach (particularly after the recent revelation that rather than being a 41-year-old, Afridi is actually - shock, horror - way older). Anyway, Gayle returned to the West Indies fold against Sri Lanka declaring himself ready to fill "whatever role they want me to play". For good measure, he added: "If it's opening, I'm ready, No. 3, No. 5 - I'm pretty much flexible. I will still be the best No. 5 in the world, best No. 3 in the world." The words of a born showman… and after scoring 29 runs from 37 balls in three innings, West Indies might agree he certainly left them wanting more than that.

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick