Johnson: Modern game is just too loud!
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.