Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Test Match Special wants every boy to show house spirit

Marking Test Match Special's 50th birthday back in 2007 I said:

Though Brian Johnston died a national treasure and did seem in an exceptionally happy mood in his last few summers, he could be Blimpish and sometimes made the commentary box sound like the staff room of an undistinguished private school.

Today there is a keen new master on the staff. Simon Mann has no time for slackers. Everyone must show the right spirit. Those who don't must be made an example of.

Back in the 1970s it was Fred Trueman who fulfilled this role and it was the number of no balls that shocked him. No professional should bowl them, we were told. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Various ways of punishing bowlers who sinned were proposed. As I recall, the most popular was making the penalty ten runs rather than one.

This would have damaged the game, because of the risk that young tearaway fast bowlers would be turned into medium pacers to make sure they didn't give away runs.

And were no balls so terrible? We accept that an Olympic long jumper will sometimes overstep the board. Why is it so terrible for a fast bowler to overstep the crease?

The best fast bowling I have ever seen from an Englishman, Bob Willis's 8 for 43 at Headingley in 1981, happened after his captain Mike Brearley told him not to worry about no balls and to concentrate on bowling fast.

These days it is slow over rates that outrage the Test Match Special team. Again penalty runs are advocated and there is talk of making sides field one short. 

Already captains can be suspended, which led to what Vic Marks called "confirmation that the world is indeed prey to nitpicking jobsworths capable only of reading the manual rather than delivering common sense"as Jason Holder was banned for the third and final test last winter after leading the West Indies to an unassailable two-nil lead over England.

As if anyone in the Caribbean cared about the over rate after that.

And during the second test against Pakistan a few days ago Test Match Special went into meltdown because time was lost to rain and bad light.

This is England. It happens from time to time. You can ask the umpires to be a bit more sceptical about what constitutes dangerous conditions, but there is no need to make a nonsense of the game by changing to a different ball if it gets dark.

What these cures from the TMS team have in is that they would be harmful to cricket than the original disease.

That team should spend a bit less time giving their opinions and a bit more describing the cricket that is taking place in front of them.

But I get the impression that some of them would be happier watching schools cricket where everyone shows house spirit.

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