Monday, 28 May 2012


Fantasy Bob was interested to see from the highlights of yesterday's Test at Trent Bridge that groundstaff were called into the middle to repair bowlers' footholds.  Fantasy Bob expects indignant correspondence will follow questioning the priority apparently being given to pot holes in the Trent Bridge area, when those on Edinburgh's roads are recognised as among the world leaders and remain unrepaired.

Commentators did not see fit to observe on this facet of the incident.  Instead, most of the commentary was about the delay to play which, when added to a series of DRS referrals immediately preceding, meant that only 6 deliveries took place in a 16 minute period.  Given the fact that last week Darren Sammy had been fined 80% of his match fee from the First Test for slow over rate, this sequence of events has a touch of irony about them.

There are many ways other than extended pot hole repair that play can be slowed up.  Drinks breaks are now mandatory but they didn't feature until recently.  Even in lower league cricket and on the coldest of days drinks are demanded by the fielding side as they huddle together for warmth.  In Test cricket the physiotherapist is on the field as often as the players.  Batsmen change gloves, bats, and possibly wives; helmets are brought on and off.  And so on and so forth. In rugby the physio can mend a player while play goes on.  It might be interesting for the crowd if this rule was applied in cricket - particularly if the injured player was the batsman facing.  On the whole FB thinks that DRS are a good thing, but they also take the momentum out of play.  In the IPL the strategic time out is a further drag and no doubt this, or something like it, will come into other forms of cricket.  Fantasy Bob understands that physicists have the view that the expansion of the universe following the big bang is slowing down - are these increasing delays in getting on with a cricket match a symptom of this process?

Confirmation may come from the fact that some of these delaying factors are also present in lower league cricket.  While Fantasy Bob has not experienced the 16 minute over on the field, on some occasions he feels he has come pretty close to it.  Endless adjustments to the field, which put a fielder exactly where the ball immediately before was hit are a factor.  Juniors who enjoy a leisurely stroll between overs and end up in a position approximately 50 metres from where they were previously stationed by the skipper are another factor. This of course is startlingly accurate compared to some senior players and may indicate the use of sat nav.

Lost balls can be a delaying factor. Many grounds are surrounded by dense vegetation of various sorts into which batsmen will insist on launching the ball. Long pauses can follow. In golf there is a rule stating how long the search for a ball can last. Not in cricket, and given the expense of cricket balls the club treasurer would prefer the search to continue indefinitely. At a ground with a particular jungle like surround, at the bottom of a steep slope just beyond the boundary, FB once 3 lost balls in one over. An expensive over in all senses of the word. In some grounds, the outfield itself is so thick that the ball can disappear on its way to the boundary.  Treasurers demand the aerial route be taken.

Fantasy Bob has also found that the arrival of mobile phones can be a source of further delays on proceedings which did not happen in technologically more primitive times.  He has observed a newly married bowler can a phone call just as he started their run up. The heightened sensitivity of his new marital status means that he feels he must take the call. (FB will pass over how anyone managed to enter the filed of play with the phone on their person.) It is, inevitably, from his loved one inquiring why dinkums is not at home and available to escort little wifey to IKEA. An extended conversation may take place between ball 2 and 3 of the over. After ball 4 there is another call. The conversation, at least as far as the rest of the players can judge is slightly more tetchy with extended reassurance that the failure to offer support on the long planned expedition to IKEA should not be taken as a signal of a decline in affection. Ball 5, as a consequence, is dug in and takes the batsman by surprise. Another phone call immediately comes - it is from a neighbour asking why the bowler's CD collection seems to be being thrown through the window into the front garden along with suits and shoes and other stuff.. Invariably in these circumstances the skipper has to think twice about asking his bowler to finish his spell before leaving.

Once the newly wed couple embark on the childbearing trail the drama is heightened since the possibility of labour beginning will invariably coincide with the soon-to-be-father's bowling spell. This is why all cricketers should understand some basic biology and, when they decide to have a family, should plan their bedroom action accordingly.  The risk of having to be summoned to the labour ward just as they close on the first half century of the season can be minimised. FB suggests this training should form part of all recognised coaching courses which, after all, offer much wisdom about other aspects of timing. After all, having to choose between these priorities is likely to be too much for most cricketers and there is every possibility that a rash shot would be played to the disadvantage of the team's position. 

Pot hole repairs therefore seem unremarkable by comparison with what happens in real life cricket.


  1. I heard a while ago a top umpire relating how, when standing in an important match, he was handed a mobile phone by an incoming batsman, for safe keeping. His bafflement was clear but perhaps he shouldn't have been so surprised. Cricket has always been a leisurely game, stopping, as FB has pointed out, for just about everything. We should really rejoice in this blissful escape from the frantic pace of modern life (and the IKEA shopping run).

  2. Ah yes this was Dickie Bird being wound up by Botham and Alan Lamb. The phone was duly put in Dickie's pocket - after some protest. A few minutes later it rang and Dickie's reaction was something to behold. What laughs. Boys will be boys.

    1. Grateful to FB for filling in the blanks here - advancing age results in memory loss at this end. I wonder if this incident is captured on Youtube.