Tag Archives: the ashes

Spite, sledging and stress- Thoughts on the First Test

Australia, at least temporarily, looked like the dominating side of yesteryear when it finished off England in the early evening on Sunday. Not just in the sense that the victory was comprehensive. Australia won big, but it also won ugly. The world-beating side of the golden era commencing in the late 90s and finishing a few years ago but was universally respected, but most definitely not liked. Visits to the match referee were a common occurrence for dissent, sledging and other acts of miscreancy. This was a side which pushed the envelope. And so as Michael Clarke dished it out to Jimmy Anderson in the dying light on Sunday, it was a case then of everything changes, yet everything stays the same. Clarke, in his abuse could so easily have been a fired up Ricky Ponting, or Matthew Hayden tossing obscenities from the slip cordon. This was not to say England were without sin. Indeed, what saw Clarke hauled before the match referee and forced to dip into his change purse was not so much the sledge itself, but his misfortune at having it captured by the stump microphone and broadcast to millions of viewers. Much more unseemly, at least when viewed in hindsight, were David Warner’s remarks about Jonathan Trott’s performance at the crease.

The sad story of Jonathan Trott, of course, has in the end come to overshadow Australia’s unexpected victory. Trott, having made a rather unconvincing 10 and 9 in two knocks, returned home to much surprise on Tuesday evening, with what was euphemistically described by England medical staff as a stress related illness (read depression and or anxiety). It, perhaps all makes sense now; many remarked upon Trott’s constant taking and retaking of his guard as obsessive-compulsive. Now, it seems that perhaps this was symptomatic not of the pop culture definition of OCD; someone who is perhaps habitual or a little neurotic, but rather of the actual debilitating, soul destroying clinical definition of said condition. Clearly, Trott’s condition was affecting his cricket; he looked a far cry from the batsman who was central to England’s destruction of Australia last time England visited. Whether or not his condition had all that much to do with his cricketing performance, at least in terms of cause and effect, would be to speculate emptily. For all we know, Trott could very well have suffered from such conditions since before he even picked up a cricket bat. It is just as likely the lack of runs followed the depression as that the depression followed a lack of runs. The England medical staff and coach Andy Flower acknowledged that it has been a long running issue for Trott. The way having been cleared by other players who acknowledged their own suffering, most notably Marcus Trescothick, hopefully Trott shall now receive the help and understanding he needs. As Michael Clarke demonstrated on Sunday, it can become very easy to forget it’s just a game of cricket.

Originally written for theinfinitive.com.au

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In defence of Dar

Not as easy as it looks: Umpire Simon Fry signals a wide during a match at the MCG- photo taken by the author

Not as easy as it looks: Umpire Simon Fry signals a wide during a match at the MCG- photo taken by the author

Well, I’m back from an enjoyable holiday, and I thought I’d dive straight into an issue of pressing national importance. The Ashes, naturally. Like former PM John Howard, I am a cricket tragic, and, similarly likewise, a tragic cricketer. So naturally, the first Ashes test match presently taking place in Nottingham has been my centre of attention. It was with interest that I awoke to news on Saturday morning of the controversy surrounding the non dismissal of English batsmen Stuart Broad, having edged the ball, I was informed ‘to first slip’; I quickly came to learn that this meant first slip via the wicketkeeper’s gloves and thigh, and so immediately this seemingly horrific error became all the more understandable. I must admit, my greatest sympathy was for Pakistani umpire Aleem Dar, three times ICC umpire of the year, who doubtless would have had a sleepless night as a result. Having umpired some cricket myself, I can sympathise with the difficulty involved. One is expected to have the skill and composure of a neurosurgeon, and to some involved, exhibit an even higher degree of perfection than the said neurosurgeon, matters of life and death paling in significance to a game of cricket. But, beyond examining the minutiae of this particular situation, greater questions about ethics and indeed about human nature itself are raised.

In a more narrow sense, the vexed issue of cricketing ethics was again brought to the fore. To the outsider, this is a bizarre game with an even stranger code of ethics, whereby, for example, a bowler preventing a batsman from gaining an advantage by backing up too far is considered the cheat should he mankad him. Under this rather ambiguous, unwritten, and quite fluid code of ethics, many were quick to condemn Broad for, at face value merely accepting the decision of the umpire. I would instead condemn not Broad, but the culture which his actions reflected. In this increasingly professional era, except for numerous exceptions, batsmen simply do not walk. In a societal sense, it reflects the fact that many people will do whatever they can get away with, and only express contrition if they should actually get caught. The other issue the situation raises is the double standards that every single one of us apply, whereby we expect perfection of others, but blanch at the thought of looking in the mirror and examining our own faults. And so, much criticism was directed at Umpire Dar, yet every single batsmen dismissed in the match prior to him, and every bowler hit for four, had just like him, made a mistake.

As I final observation, I think it is worth noting that my most noteworthy observation from playing and umpiring the game is that the cricket field serves as a crucible. Out in the heat and dust, you see the true nature of a person. The bowler, rising star Ashton Agar revealed himself as an individual mature beyond his age in response to what would have been his bitter disappointment at the non dismissal. As to the actions of others, I shall leave that up to you to interpret.