Notes from the pavilion for November 4th

Links of note from the past 24 hours:

‘Mollycoddled’ players can’t think for themselves

Laptops have become a mainstay of the coach’s armoury
© Cricinfo Ltd

There was a piece in the New Zealand press which I Surfered yesterday in which Nathan Astle revealed the “brain washing” he and his team-mates have been experiencing, or whatever the term is.

This is the much-trumpeted forum that as told in Nathan Astle’s just released autobiography includes a session in which each player has to leave the room while the rest of side break into groups and dream up adjectives to best describe him, and a few things they believe he should try to brush up on.Apparently the brainchild of a former Australian school teacher, the supposed aim is to improve the relationship-dynamics between the players, therefore imbuing the squad with a greater sense of trust and, as a consequence, helping to achieve more success on the playing field. That’s the aim, anyway.

And today John Morrison, the former New Zealand batsman, has joined in the debate – even arguing that in terms of “over analysis,” the New Zealand cricket team is heading in the same direction as the All Blacks. He raises some important points:

“I’m always worried when I go to a ground and see cricket coaches poring over laptops but the problem is, now if you say anything to the contrary you’re called old and out of touch.

So instead we’ve created this industry of extras around the team who have to justify their existence by taking any decisions or responsibilities away from the players.

“So we’ve got this mollycoddled generation of sportsmen who might be great athletes but who have lost all ability to think for themselves.

All this (for me, anyway) ties nicely into Giles Clarke’s comments the other day, in which he said “cricket is a business”. And it is. Cricket (and many other top-level sports) is no longer about the players, or even the sport itself. The game has become an incidental extra to the serious business of making money. Now, Morrison’s comments aren’t directly linked to this – but the constant over-use of technology, inspection and analysis isn’t helping anyone, and is another needless obsession away from the actual game itself. As he says, these players are all supreme athletes, but what do they have to show for it?

And what is the solution?

Technology of covering and following cricket

Technology has moved on massively even in the short time I’ve followed the game. Back then, in the familiar gloom of the 1990s, few people bothered with Sky. It required a “dish” which implied a small and unobtrusive space-age work of genius. In fact, they were the size of a small car and were concreted onto the sides of flats which almost collapsed under the weight. They were also bright white, or they were until the pigeons took aim.

All change. The dishes are now properly unobtrusive – digital, even – and are sucked onto the walls of every estate in Britain. And here is the BBC’s Test Match Special producer, Caroline, with their own version.

Caroline from the BBC with a satellite dish

I miss the old days sometimes. Ceefax, waiting for the colours to change (not out batsmen were in white, I think, and those dismissed turned green. Appropriately.) Can’t remember what blue meant. But there was a thrill in watching the screen, if the radio was knackered, waiting for it to change. And there was usually (but not always) a delay in updates if a wicket had fallen…so you’d sit there, sweaty palmed, and wait for the batsman to turn green.

This was all before Cricinfo came along. Now that we’re doing ball-by-ball commentary editorially – with more of a voice, colour, interesting facts etc – the response has been incredible. We even get emails from fishermen at sea…in the middle of the bloody sea, reading our website and following commentary. It’s ridiculous.

So I don’t miss the old days that much. There is too much cricket being played; the game is played at a new, frenetic pace (except when Collingwood’s batting); Zimbabwe are, well, whatever. But the coverage, and access of cricket news for the fans, is unprecedentedly broad. It’s pretty damn good.

What do you miss from the dark old black-and-white (or white and green) days and what modern marvels do you like the most?

I say, is that willow metal?

Kookaburra

This has been rumbling on for nearly a year and has finally reached a conclusion. The end of the graphite bat is nigh. I first mentioned this back in April last year yet it’s taken that long for the authorities to remove their thumbs from……well, it’s sorted now. In actual fact, Kookaburra have withdrawn the bat themselves “voluntarily”. More at Cricinfo, of course.

Ricky Ponting is the bat’s most high-profile user. Given his extraordinary form in the past year or two, it’ll be interesting to see if a change in bat brings a change of luck…I doubt it, somehow.

Bob Woolmer speaks about the use of technology

We initially were wary that a certain Bob Woolmer had emailed in – but sure enough, it was he, and he wrote a very interesting response on our new blog, Wicket to Wicket, about the use of technology in aiding umpiring. Check it out.

Cricinfo’s Wicket to Wicket part deux

Cricinfo’s new blog Wicket to Wicket, as mentioned yesterday, looks pretty promising. I like the idea of having a debate, and allowing the senior writers free-reign to offer their opinions. Looks like it will work pretty well. As ever, if you have any thoughts on it, leave a comment and I’ll pass them on. The debate this week is the use of technology and TV to aid umpiring, following the experiments in the recent Super(flous) Series (TM Dileep).

Ponting’s bat gets the ok

Ricky Ponting can use his metal-blade-of-a-bat which caused a bit of a hoo-har a few weeks back.

Are we seeing the end of the traditional noise of leather on willow, to be replaced by the rather less poetic sounding “Leather on Graphite”? Somehow lacks the romance conjured by the words leather and willow!

Mickey-Mouse cricket gets substitutes

ODI cricket might soon have substitute players brought on, ala Football and Rugby, as early as June. Not impressed, at all – this just dums down cricket even further, more mickey-mouse bullshit. More here

Also:

It may not seem like it, but international umpires make the right decision almost 95 per cent of the time. But in an attempt to avoid the odd mistake it has been proposed that, during the three one-day games and a Test match in Australia, the umpires be allowed to refer decisions they are unsure about to the third umpire.

How long before umpires are replaced completely?

Proposal for electronic chips in cricket balls

I heard today that the FA are trialling an Adidas ball with an embedded microchip inside. When the ball crosses the goal line, it immediately alerts the referee – so it got me thinking: why can’t we use this in cricket? Obviously, the technology of creating a cricket ball versus a football is vastly different – but surely the effort would be worthwhile in the end.

This would give umpires one less thing to worry about. These days, the pressure on them is astronomical – any questionable decision (and there appear to be dozens per game nowadays) is shown on The Big Screen, and x thousands cricket fans display their vocal opinion (of the umpire: not necessarily the decision…).

This technology, to the armchair pundit like me, sounds perfectly doable. And it could even be expanded upon. A microchip with collision-detection: this could do away with video evidence (or rather, the sole use of video evidence) for questionable catches, the chip emitting a signal to the 3rd umpire. So they could better decide whether a ball had carried or not.

We can’t escape the use of technology in Cricket. All the new “advances” – hawkeye, the red-line for LB’s, super-double-special-wicked-slowmo and so on. Let’s help the umpires instead of undermining the decisions they make. Perhaps I’ll ask Daryl Harper to comment…