Acceptable in the noughties – part 2

Are standards of behaviour in the club game slipping?

The League I play in certainly think so. For the 2009 season, they have introduced a football-style disciplinary system, with “yellow card” cautions and “red card” 8-day automatic suspensions and points deductions for more serious offences. This in addition to the regular disciplinary process.

After 5 rounds of matches (100 matches at 1st XI, where independent panel umpires are appointed), there have already been 3 red cards. It would be interesting to hear from a panel umpire whether this reflects better or worse behaviour than last season.

I don’t know the details of any of the offences, but I would not be surprised if they all relate to “abusive language / disparaging remarks to an umpire” – the umpire’s decision is no longer considered final, apparently.

This attitude seems to start early. I umpired a pick-up game at our Colts’ practice night, and almost every decision was debated.

Where does it come from? Probably not the First Class game, where open dissent at umpires decisions is (rightly) punished. Professional football? Popular culture?

Does it matter? Yes, as demonstrated in amateur football, where the numbers of referees continues to fall; yes, because when I finally stop playing, it is very unlikely that I (or, I expect, any of my contemporaries) would consider joining the League panel of umpires.

Competitive cricket without independent umpires? I don’t think the game would survive.

Throwing a curveball – why not bowl one?

I nearly got to watch a live baseball game at the weekend…until persistent rain caused the game to be called.

But I was thinking about what baseball pitchers do with a baseball – and it’s a lot more than just hurling it through at 100 mph. They use spin-swerve to get the pitch off straight, and curveballs add over-spin to add dip to the mix.

It’s the same effect as David Beckham uses to get the ball up and over the defensive wall, and curving into the top corner.

So it works in baseball, and football (and golf, and tennis); some descriptions of the finger spinners arm ball sound like spin-swerve, and Shane Warne’s “ball of the century” to Mike Gatting surely had a bucket load of spin-swerve on it. But I don’t think I have ever heard a cricket commentator talking about any one using spin-swerve at medium pace or above, and the only coaching book where I have seen it described is Alan Wilkins “The Bowler’s Art” (a fascinating technical read, by the way).

Now, it possibly is easier for a pitcher to generate spin-swerve when he pitches than for a bowler to do the same, but is anyone trying? Reverse swing was invented to compensate for the lack of conventional swing with a shiny ball. Apparently, SF Barnes used spin-swerve in the early years of the 20th century, to capture 189 wickets in 27 Tests, so it could certainly be done in the days when there was no second new ball.

So why does no one add spin-swerve to the fast and medium-pacer armoury?

Acceptable in the noughties – sledging good, smoking bad?

How attitudes have changed.

Two incidents from a game last weekend – one sledge, one health related.

The sledge was actually quite tame, by the standards of what often passes between teams these days, but it certainly wasn’t respectful of the opposition – the sort of thing that you might share with a batting partner, perhaps, but not for the whole fielding side to hear. But the “culprit” genuinely did not see that he had done anything wrong. He saw it not as disrespectful, rather a challenge – let’s see if you can stop me slapping the ball to all parts. And he saw nothing wrong with making that challenge verbally.

After the game, one of our other younger players was clearly non-plussed by the opposing team, many of whom spent the time waiting to bat smoking. The fact that one of the team was even smoking when he was scoring clearly caused even greater consternation! Clearly, for this young player, smoking at a cricket match was more shocking than any amount of sledging, humorous or abusive.