Good evening everyone Maxie and I write down the rules of the game every now and then. It’s not because we play by the rules – although I really like the idea of Maxie playing Statto in Skinner and Baddiel’s Fantasy Football League – but because we play a small club cricket where coming and going can cause controversy .
For example, a few years ago, Maxie wrote an article about all-in pitches being called off-ball. The rules are not as simple as you might think. However, that doesn’t stop grumpy villagers from telling everyone they’re qualified experts and every other jerk. Sometimes it escalates into something very uncomfortable.
A similar flashpoint occurred at a race I was in last week. We play against a very well respected Kent cricket club – one of the oldest league clubs in the country. I only play for my kids’ school and my dad’s team – so it’s not a particularly big game – but it’s the first round of a local knockout game and both teams are desperate to win.
Our team has defied all odds to achieve a historic victory, while Oppo is eager to avoid the humiliation of losing to a bunch of amateurs who only play once or twice a year. Our team also included a lady who happened to be one of our best bowlers.
Our Nobles opponents hit the ball first, hitting about 170 over 15 overs. Yes they are good. They have a particularly impressive young South African. If only I had a little of his talent.
All is not lost, however, as we have a quality player in our squad: a former professional all-rounder with a hundred caps for Kent and Sussex. We’ve got some other hitters who can control and finish shots, rotate shots and be with him.
At one point, it took us 40 minutes to win the last three sets. It’s not easy, but our star players still get on their knees and push the envelope for fun. keep playing! I actually refereeed our innings, so I have a pretty good idea of what’s going on.
Unfortunately, as a referee, I was at the center of a controversy that essentially decided the outcome of the game. Our star hitter hits the ball hard and deep, but in the air, too far. The aforementioned young South African, unfortunately, defends as well as he shoots, reacting like an impala, sliding forward like a track champ, trying to get his fingers under the ball and catch the ball.
Cheers immediately sounded. His teammates, perhaps fearful of an embarrassing loss, ran to him cheering. I’m not sure if he’s catching the ball — the outfield is nicely manicured, but a bit wavy — but it looks to me like he’s catching it with a half-volley. Where’s the damn third referee when you need him?
Our star player looked at me suspiciously, then walked slowly back to the pavilion. I was skeptical about the effectiveness of the catch as he passed me – I wish I had just said “no out” out loud – there was something wrong with the batter agreeing to the catch. But since he doesn’t want to make trouble, our spell is gone. It’s like throwing in the towel.
However, after a few seconds of pause, I was determined not to let the sleeping dog scurry around. I was supposed to be the referee, but no one asked me what I thought about it – they just celebrated and thought the game was won. Of course I understand, but it’s kind of annoying.
Out of a sense of duty, I challenged the field team sooner or later. They were all 100% confident their players caught the ball. One of them was even a little annoyed and asked me rather provocatively “why would he cheat”?
My answer (which is true) is that I don’t think he’s cheating – I’m sure he thinks he catches the ball – but he can’t be sure he catches the ball. The fielder’s response was to tell me in no uncertain terms that a fielder always knows if he gets it, and that I should take his words as gospel.
I must say, I find this argument unconvincing. A player on the field doesn’t always know if he catches the ball. In my experience, he can only feel the ball touch his fingers. While running and sliding (or diving) forward, he can’t tell if any part of the ball touches the ground for a split second. In my experience, people only believe what they want to believe.
We often see professional cricketers on TV claiming their catches are not actually the number of catches. And I don’t think they’re cheating because they know they’re under massive surveillance and being watched by multiple Big Brother style HD super slow motion cameras.
Now I have to admit I’m not the best referee in the business. I have excellent eyesight, but I have a Knat’s attention span, get bored easily, hate staying up late, and have a penchant for forgetting rules at the most inopportune times.
When I was 16, I got the nickname “Clint” for touching our captain with the trigger finger at a critical moment in the game when the ball visibly flew a foot out of his leg. I just forgot about the law, thought it was a pretty compelling call, and held up my finger. To be honest, I hardly ever watched it either.
This time, however, I know what I saw, and I think I was right. what should I do? What should the opposition do? When in doubt, should hitters always make a decision?
I would especially like to hear from people who have encountered similar controversies. Our game ended with a rather heated exchange between the fielder and myself (with poor eyesight), but it was quickly forgotten. However, when accepting