Let’s chuck the coin toss

Sportstar - - LAST WORD - SURESH MENON

We can have many al­ter­na­tives to the coin flip in sport by now. How about an arm wrestling bout? Or spin the bot­tle?

In the Ashes se­ries of 1905, the English cap­tain Stan­ley Jack­son won six tosses (five Tests and a club game) in a row. Dis­gusted, his Aus­tralian coun­ter­part Joe Dar­ling was “stripped to the waist at the Scar­bor­ough Fes­ti­val when his team sug­gested a wres­tle for choice of in­nings,” as Ray Robin­son writes in his book on Aus­tralian cap­tains.

Dar­ling, built like a wrestler, was nick­named “Paddy” ow­ing to a sup­posed re­sem­blance to the Aus­tralian boxer Frank “Paddy” Slavin.

Jack­son, a fu­ture gov­er­nor of Ben­gal, knew both his cricket and his diplo­macy and sug­gested that he might send the bet­ter built Ge­orge Hirst to act as cap­tain (and wres­tle), where­upon, writes Robin­son, “Joe con­cluded that Aus­tralia’s chance of bat­ting first would be as good with a coin as a cross­but­tock.”

Thus was imag­i­na­tion and orig­i­nal­ity stubbed out.

Rock, pa­per, scis­sors

More re­cently, his­tory re­peated it­self, and once again imag­i­na­tion and orig­i­nal­ity were stubbed out. It hap­pened in a Women’s Su­per League foot­ball match in Eng­land be­tween Manch­ester City and Read­ing. There was no sug­ges­tion that the op­pos­ing cap­tains should wres­tle to de­cide who should kick off. But the ref­eree, who had left his coin in the dress­ing room, im­pro­vised, ask­ing the cap­tains to play the chil­dren’s game of rock, pa­per, scis­sors to make the call.

Rather than re­ward his orig­i­nal­ity and award him foot­ball’s ver­sion of the Vic­to­ria Cross for grace un­der pres­sure, the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion sus­pended the ref­eree — David Mcna­mara is his name — “for not act­ing in the best in­ter­ests of the game.” This is un­fair, for he had done the ex­act op­po­site, act­ing in the best in­ter­ests of the game, en­sur­ing there would be no hold­up or flare­up.

And he did get City’s cap­tain Steph Houghton and Read­ing’s Kirsty Pearce to play a game of rock, pa­per, scis­sors. Peace, where there might have been dis­cord, if not a walk­out.

Sports should be fun

We some­times take sports too se­ri­ously, for­get­ting that fun is an im­por­tant el­e­ment, and if a ref­eree wants to con­trib­ute to the fun, so be it. Some years ago, at an A­league foot­ball match in Aus­tralia, the ref­eree got the cap­tains to pull Christ­mas crack­ers in lieu of a toss. He wasn’t banned or sus­pended or shot at dawn. Some folks do recog­nise the fun el­e­ment.

If it weren’t such a cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment­wor­thy crime, we would have had many al­ter­na­tives to the coin flip in sport by now. How about an arm wrestling bout? Or spin the bot­tle? A star­ing con­test be­tween cap­tains per­haps, or a pick­the­high­est­card from a deck. The pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less.

My wife once ac­cu­rately guessed the num­ber of ten­nis balls stuffed into a locked car at a shop­ping mall in Ban­ga­lore, and as a re­sult, the two of us, our son, my wife’s mother, her sis­ter, her brother­in­law, nephew and the nephew’s two friends from uni­ver­sity were all given a free hol­i­day in Goa.

Surely that same tech­nique can be used to de­cide who kicks a ball first or which end of the ground is cho­sen. It worked for us!

THE HINDU PHOTO LI­BRARY

Luck with the coin: English cap­tain Stan­ley Jack­son won six tosses (five Tests and a club game) in a row against Aus­tralia in 1905.

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