John­son: Mod­ern game is just too loud!

The Cricket Paper - - FRONT PAGE - MARTIN JOHN­SON

We all know about the ever in­creas­ing work­loads placed upon an Eng­land crick­eter, with the ac­com­pa­ny­ing wear and tear on an­kles, backs, knees and all the other bits em­ployed for whack­ing sixes, bowl­ing bounc­ers, and mak­ing div­ing stops, but if I was putting money on the body part most likely to pack up first un­der the strain of it all it would be the ton­sils.

Years ago, there was no real dan­ger of them ever wear­ing out. When you were bat­ting, for ex­am­ple, the oc­ca­sional shout of “no!”, or “look for two” gave them a bit of ex­er­cise, as did, when you were in the field, odd snip­pets of con­ver­sa­tion with your part­ner in the slips. The most pop­u­lar of which were: “What do you fancy tonight? In­dian or Chi­nese?” And: “Cor, have you seen that girl in the yel­low dress just to the left of the sightscreen?”

Nowa­days, though, the talk­ing never stops. Jonny Bairstow, for ex­am­ple, clearly has it writ­ten in his cen­tral con­tract that ev­ery de­liv­ery that the bats­man fails to hit back over the pavil­ion for six is to be greeted by: “Well bowled Adil!” (Or Moeen. Or Gareth. Or Joe!) Or oc­ca­sion­ally a stran­gled “Oooohhh!”– by way of let­ting the bats­man know that he was ex­tremely for­tu­nate to sur­vive the ball that was last seen bounc­ing down an es­ca­la­tor at St John’s Wood tube sta­tion.

Not that Bairstow is alone in the re­quire­ment to act as cheer­leader when Eng­land are in the field. It doesn’t mat­ter whether you are at mid-on, short leg, or deep mid­wicket, a con­stant di­a­logue is re­quired of ev­ery­one, which quite of­ten – es­pe­cially when the bat­ting side is pum­melling you to all parts – in­volves shout­ing: “Keep go­ing lads!” What­ever that means.

In which case, I have news for the ICC’s fear­less team of ball-tam­per­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tors. The real rea­son for field­ers suck­ing sweets has noth­ing to do with at­tempt­ing to get some re­verse swing. They are in fact throat lozenges, just in case the old lar­ynx has been so badly dam­aged shout­ing: “Keep go­ing lads!” that there’s noth­ing left of it to shout: “Owzat!” five times an over.

This wasn’t a prob­lem years ago, when most of the field­ers kept out of it while the bowler turned to the um­pire and said some­thing along the lines of: “Ex­cuse me old chap. But how would that be?” Take a look, when you have a

Gor­don’s team-mates rarely joined in, know­ing a Parsons ap­peal didn’t nec­es­sar­ily rely on the pads be­ing in the same post code as the stumps

mo­ment, at the news­reel footage of the great­est bowl­ing feat in Eng­land Test his­tory. And you’ll find that for ev­ery lbw or catch amongst his 19 wick­ets in the match against Aus­tralia, Jim Laker’s ap­peal was so quiet it wouldn’t even have reg­is­tered – had they had them then – on a stump mi­cro­phone.

These days, on the other hand, ap­peal­ing has be­come so loud and chore­ographed that some­time soon they’ll turn it into a West End Mu­si­cal. Owzat! star­ring Stu­art Broad, Monty Pane­sar, and the Eng­land Phil­har­monic Slip Cor­don. “Blew My Mind” (Daily Tele­graph). “Blew My Eardrums” (Cricinfo).

For the mod­ern crick­eter, there are sev­eral dif­fer­ent ways of ap­peal­ing, and not one of them ful­fils the def­i­ni­tion found in the laws of cricket. Which is: “A ver­bal query, usu­ally in the form of ‘how’s that?’, to the um­pire.”

May I sug­gest that this is now sub­ject to an up­date. “A se­ries of bod­ily gy­ra­tions, not dis­sim­i­lar to the New Zealand rugby haka, or find­ing that your trousers have been set on fire, ac­com­pa­nied by a se­ries of noises some­where be­tween some­one hav­ing their toe­nails re­moved with­out anaes­thetic, or the mat­ing call of the Arc­tic wolf. Prefer­ably, but not nec­es­sar­ily, in the di­rec­tion of the um­pire.”

Talk­ing of which, one sub­tle vari­a­tion which has crept into ap­peal­ing is to re­move the um­pire from the equa­tion al­to­gether. Bowler bowls, bats­man misses, wick­et­keeper takes, and the en­tire field­ing side then em­barks on an orgy of hug­ging and high fiv­ing. Fi­nally, upon the real­i­sa­tion that the bats­man is still in his crease, and the fin­ger has re­mained un­raised, all 11 play­ers stare at the of­fi­cial in­volved as though the man has com­pletely lost the plot.

At this point, the spec­ta­tor or tele­vi­sion viewer fully ex­pects the field­ing cap­tain to call for DRS to right this ter­ri­ble wrong, only to find that, with a col­lec­tive shrug of the shoul­ders, his play­ers all go back to their po­si­tions for the next ball. The at­tempted con hasn’t worked, and they know full well that a re­view would be a wasted one.

Test cricket has seen some an­i­mated ap­peals down the years, such as Viv Richards man­ag­ing to get Eng­land’s Rob Bai­ley given out caught be­hind off his thigh pad in An­tigua in1990 by charg­ing all the way from first slip to mid-off via mid­wicket and mid-on. With a se­ries of whoops, and giv­ing a pass­able imi­ta­tion of a he­li­copter blade with his right arm.

How­ever, Viv’s “lit­tle jig” as he called it at the time was pos­i­tively Jim Laker like in its po­lite­ness com­pared to some of the great ap­peal­ers in county cricket. Der­byshire’s Danish fast bowler Ole Mortensen, for in­stance, whose lbw ap­peals earned him the nick­name “Erik Blood­axe”, and the mas­ter him­self, Le­ices­ter­shire’s Gor­don Parsons.

Gor­don would be­gin his ap­peal mid­way through his fol­low through, be­fore some­how man­ag­ing to twist his body to­wards the um­pire with­out, de­spite the fact that he was now trav­el­ling back­wards, any de­crease in ei­ther speed or deci­bel level. If any­thing, he picked up even more pace and vol­ume as he trav­elled through the slips, down to third man, and it was only when he ended up in one of the mem­bers’ deckchairs did he con­sider the mat­ter to be re­solved in the bats­man’s favour.

Gor­don’s team-mates rarely joined in, on the grounds that a Parsons ap­peal didn’t nec­es­sar­ily rely on the pads be­ing in the same post code as the stumps, but nowa­days they all go up. In­clud­ing the bloke at deep mid­wicket.

Which is why, in or­der to pro­tect our play­ers from the de­mands of the mod­ern game, we need to change the post­match re­cov­ery treat­ment from a mus­cle rub and an ice bath to an an­ti­sep­tic gar­gle and a packet of Strep­sils.

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