Dear readers, you might think you are safe in taking the view that it unlikely that the F in FB could ever have stood for Funky. But, in the distant dark ages before John Travolta and Saturday Night Fever raised the bar for everyone, Fantasy Bob could strut his stuff on the disco floor with the best of them. Thankfully, this was in the days long before digital cameras on every gizmo so there is no evidence either of the moves or the white jeans and shirt open to the belly button.
When you believe in things
And every cricketer has done it haven't we? Scored well last week, so must wear the same shirt (preferably unwashed), the same socks (ditto), listen to the same music, take the same route to the ground. Anything to help you with the things that you don't understand - like how to play spin bowling.FB is certainly not immune to this primitive, pre-scientific thinking. He has his own little rituals at the crease which derive from distant memories of success. Watch him - his guard has to be marked in the same way between balls; he will go round behind the stumps after a run. Steve Waugh has a hankie in his pocket - well so does FB. Does it make any difference? Of course it does.
You might have thought that the top pros would be free of this nonsense. But they turn out to be the worst. Tendulkar is just one of the many who puts his pads on in a defined order - left one first. Just like Jack Hobbs. This is very common and from the records of those two it looks pretty effective. (FB would adopt this ritual too - but he can never remember which pad he put on first last time out so it's a bit of a lottery.) Will Tendulkar change the sequence if he gets a duck? No chance. As the psychologists among you know, the intermittent reinforcement schedule is the most powerful reward pattern that there is. Tendulkar's reinforcements - 14,000 of them in Tests - are considerably less intermittent than others so they ingrain the superstition.
Other players have their rituals at the crease - think Trott whose extended pre-stance ritual is of Wagnerian length; think Jayasuriya who has to touch every bit of his kit before settling; think Alan Knott who had to touch the bails as part of taking guard. Other players must carry particular objects - Steve Waugh's red handkershief has already been mentioned - it was given to him by his grandfather shortly before his death; Ganguly always carries a photo of Guruji while batting; Sir Leonard Hutton always carried a five shilling coin (aka a crown) given to him by his grandfather’s friend with an advice never to part with it. Denis Compton used to carry a silver four-leaf clover with him. Another interesting superstition was Mike Atherton's refusal to give an interview if he was not out at the close of play.
|McKenzie pulling the bat|
down from the ceiling
But the cricketer who takes the biscuit for superstition is Neil McKenzie, former South African opener who played 60 Tests between 2000 and 2009 with a batting average of 37.39. Among his many devices to control the fates were that toilets had to be flushed and the seats closed before he would leave the dressing room and he had to tape his bat to the dressing room ceiling before his innings. McKenzie was interviewed a couple of years ago and said that now he has a wife and child he doesn't have time to think about toilets and taping bats to ceilings. Or maybe someone read Stevie Wonder's lyrics out to him. Worth repeating regularly throughout the season:
When you believe in things
That you don't understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition ain't the way