There is something special about tuning in to Test match cricket in England. It matters not whether it the coverage in by radio or television, whether you listening or listening and watching, a Test match in England is always a special experience.
For one, the matches start early in the morning, Guyana time. And play ends just after midday. It has always been such a lovely way to spend your morning, either sitting in front of your radio or in front of the silly-box watching Test match cricket.
The English grass always seem so lush and green. The outfields are lush and green and always immaculately kept. The players used to wear cardigans to keep warm and sometimes they were so cold that the fielders used to put their hands into their pockets – for warmth, not to play pocket billiards.
English pitches are not the best in the world. But they always have something for the bowlers even when they are slow. The second Test match between England and the West Indies which concluded yesterday was no exception. The pitch was slow during the 1st innings but there was always some movement which could be had once the effort was put in. The pitch offered more assistance to the bowlers in the second innings but the effort still had to be made.
The conditions are often suitable, during the English summer for swing bowling. And it always makes a game so more exciting when the ball is swinging around. And the home team tends to take advantage of the conditions, except when Vivian Richards used to pulverize English bowlers in the 1970s.
The weather can be both lovely and lousy. And sometimes at the same time. But that makes the matches even more interesting. If one day was not washed out from the just-concluded match, it would have been so less exciting.
The commentary is perhaps the most interesting. Who can forget that delightful old man who once said that Ramadin and Valentine have bowled more maidens than there are in the ground? Who can forget Reds Pereira and Tony Cozier, and now Michael Holding and Ian Bishop?
Among my favourite English commentators were Tom Graveney, Christopher Martin Jenkins, Ray Illingworth and the inimitable – simply the best of them all, the incomparable John Arlott. His death in 1999 represented a great loss to the game.
Commentators sometimes said the craziest things. And England takes the cake when it comes to this. One English commentator once said that the crowd was so small that he could count them all on his fingers. Then he added, “There are only about 30 persons in the ground.”
Another time, another commentator remarked that the bowler bowled so slow that if he wished, he could run after the ball and retrieve it before it got to the batsman. Or something to that effect.
Despite West Indies losing yesterday, the match was gripping down to the end. I do confess to harbouring hopes that the West Indies would have been able to survive to the end. But they did not and it all made for a gripping Test match.
And then a wicked thought crossed my mind. What if the West Indies did not lose? What if Observation Reports could have been produced which alleged that the scorers tallied the runs but not all may have been valid runs.
What is the official scorer decided that despite what the scorecard read, he would give the match to the West Indies because he was only dealing with valid runs and it is he not the umpire who determines the valid number of runs.
That wicked thought had me thinking, “What if cricket turned into politics?” Most would hope that the opposite would happen: that politics would turn into cricket.
Cricket is the gentleman’s game. People normally do not contest the outcome of a cricket match. But the review rule, like the recount rule in politics, allows for a bad decision to be sent upstairs for review. Each team only has 3 reviews. After that, there is no review. It is a pity there is no such limitations when it comes to reviewing political disputes.
The problem with politics is that the review process has many layers and a decision at one level can be taken to a higher level and then an even higher level. Imagine if that were the case in cricket.
“Cricket lovely cricket! At Lords where I saw it! Cricket lovely Cricket. At Lords where I saw it.” When will we be able to sing the same about politics?