Sani­tis­ing sport can of­ten take the fun out of a game

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - Mar­cus Army­tage

So, ba­si­cally – as my youngest likes to be­gin ev­ery sen­tence these days – the long­est school hol­i­day in the his­tory of, well, skool is about to come to an end and, quite frankly, next week’s so­cially dis­tanced drop-off can­not come a mo­ment too soon.

Let us hope that the only U-turn on this is the one I will be mak­ing in the school car park when, if I have my way, the ve­hi­cle will still be mov­ing as I chuck them out, so far gone are the cosy feel­ings of fam­ily to­geth­er­ness at the start of lock­down.

One can see how, on a larger scale, civil wars are more com­mon than those be­tween next-door na­tions. We have now en­tered the stage when it is like hav­ing three Faf de Klerks for off­spring, all go­ing out of their way to be an­noy­ingly nig­gling and pro­vok­ing some­one else to start a fight, not just with their sib­lings but their par­ents. At school they can be some­one else’s prob­lem for a day.

So what have we learnt dur­ing the last 5½ months apart from the fact that if you shut 10 sci­en­tists in a gov­ern­ment com­mit­tee room they will come up with 11 dif­fer­ent opin­ions and that Prof Chris Whitty, chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer for Eng­land, is so sto­ically cau­tious that were he cap­tain of the na­tion’s cricket team he would never en­force a fol­low-on?

Sport, or the rem­nants of it, re­mains our fam­ily sal­va­tion though such is the grip that the Depart­ment for Dig­i­tal, Cul­ture, Me­dia and Sport has on sport’s rul­ing bod­ies one de­spairs at some of the point­less reg­u­la­tions sports have ei­ther ac­cepted or put for­ward to en­able them to get back.

I am think­ing of the manda­tory wear­ing of face-masks in the pa­rade ring at the races or what I saw when I dropped in on my son’s first cricket match of the sea­son for his lo­cal vil­lage in July.

When I ar­rived the op­po­si­tion needed three runs to win with nine wick­ets in hand – a cou­ple of shots, at most, from vic­tory.

But, at the end of the over the field­ers were re­quired to leave the pitch to “hand-sani­tise”. My chil­dren have a sin­gle word for that: “Whatthe?”

They gath­ered in a hud­dle round the hand­sani­tiser which was passed from man to man. If any­one was go­ing to catch some­thing – his side were cer­tainly not go­ing to catch a cricket ball – that was the mo­ment. They all had a lit­tle squirt, rubbed their hands and re­turned for what was ac­tu­ally only one ball the fol­low­ing over but had car­ried out their manda­tory obli­ga­tion to hand-sani­tise ev­ery six overs. Why not ev­ery 10, who came up with six? But hav­ing lost a sum­mer term of com­pet­i­tive sport, their schools are, at least, at­tempt­ing some sort of catch-up. All three schools are plan­ning to play cricket, ten­nis, ath­let­ics and sum­mer sports un­til half-term be­fore switch­ing to rugby or, if full-body con­tact is out, foot­ball and net­ball. Un­til then, how­ever, com­pe­ti­tion will be lim­ited to year groups or house matches rather than in­ter­school. My son’s en­thu­si­asm for cricket, I feel, has waned since the hand-sani­tis­ing in­ci­dent; no self-re­spect­ing teenage boy has washed his hands that of­ten in a week let alone in­side 30 overs.

But his eyes lit up when he learnt that un­til mid-Oc­to­ber he will be bowl­ing medium-fast at some tail-end wet bobs un­sure of how to ac­tu­ally hold a bat in a house match, es­sen­tially bowl­ing at rab­bits in head­lights. So, ba­si­cally, if that does not rekin­dle his fire for cricket so damp­ened by the pan­demic, then noth­ing will.

Clean break: Stop­ping ev­ery few overs to sani­tise wears thin

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