It’s about time we got back to cricket. No more jellybeans, not another word on shoulder barging, beamers and crackling tension between ‘two evenly-matched’ sides. At several times during the past week or so, the media circus surrounding events other than the game itself has threatened to overshadow the actual business of bat and ball, which proves that we just never learn from history.
For history shows that the team that actually talks less and focuses more on cricket has more to show for itself. Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for a bit of aggression on the field, but I use the word to describe the attitude that the West Indies team of the 1970s and 80s displayed. When I faced the likes of Roberts, Holding, Marshall, Garner, and Croft, I never had an abusive word from any of them, but their on-field ruthlessness was chilling all the same, and their aggression never in doubt. They were champion fast bowlers, and champion men.
Today, a 21-year-old Alistair Cook who is barely a year in the game feels compelled to shoot his mouth off incessantly. And wet-behind-the-ears S. Sreesanth deliberately, childishly, peevishly, shoves Michael Vaughan and then runs two feet through the crease. I discount the beamer to Pietersen because it was an obvious accident for which he apologised.
The trouble is that these kids think this sort of behaviour is the norm, and it isn’t. Call me an old dingbat who keeps going back to the past, but I really wish we were back in the days when senior players rather than third umpires monitored a team’s on-field behaviour. To Sreesanth, such a senior might have said, “Look kid, just effing cut it out.” And no bother with reports and committees and hearings.
Within the England team, the policy of fighting mouth with mouth was put in place in the summer of 2005, when Michael Vaughan and Duncan Fletcher felt the need to fight the Australians’ intimidating body language with some of their own during the Ashes. Needless to say, I disagree. A captain can easily force his players to draw the line somewhere. Disobedience to his wishes simply means you don’t get picked. And this is the real pity, because no captain seems to want to enforce this policy.
The Indians played brilliantly at Trent Bridge, and it is a shame that all we remember of that Test are jellybeans and beamers.
At the Oval, if only the visitors carry on from where they left off, they have a very real chance of winning this series 2-0.
Obviously, England have their work cut out as well, and will be praying for Kevin Pietersen to recover from his mystery fever and Andrew Strauss to recover some kind of form, though I believe this series hinges on team performance rather than that of individuals.
India’s aggressive bowling and smart batting at Trent Bridge will likely pay richer dividends on the dry, bouncy Oval pitch. We’ve had a surprising weeklong bout of sunshine here, and all that the Indians need to capitalise on the conditions is to use their brains, not mouths.