Simon Williamson

Don't make cricket wimpy

2012-05-25 08:25

Simon Williamson

One of my favourite cricket memories is of the West Indies giant Curtly Ambrose losing it with Australia’s Steve Waugh at Trinidad in 1995. Waugh missed the second ball of Ambrose’s over and dodged the next.

Ambrose, for some reason, took exception to this and marched down the pitch to Waugh, giving him a few cents worth of abuse before being restrained and going back to his mark – he then ran in and unleashing a snorter of a bouncer which smacked the splice of Waugh’s bat. Ambrose’s point? If you stay here, you will hurt.
 
At Trent Bridge, England, in 1998, Allan Donald was bowling to England’s Mike Atherton. Atherton gloved one through to Boucher which was given not out, and kicked off one of the most absorbing periods of Test cricket in the modern era. Donald completely lost his temper and threw everything at the former England captain who ballsed out the spell.

Cricket’s most vicious attack

When Donald Bradman was turning bowling attacks into mincemeat in the 1930s, England captain Douglas Jardine unleashed cricket’s most vicious attack on a batting side in the recorded history of the sport. Using what he called “leg theory” (which most of us refer to as Bodyline), he told his bowlers, in particular a chap called Harold Larwood, to hurl thunderbolts down the pitch and aim at the Australian batters bodies. Remember, this was in a day when batsmen didn’t wear helmets. It was unbridled aggression.
 
Vivian Richards of the West Indies never batted with a helmet, and didn’t duck either. If you attacked him, he attacked back. Dennis Lillee snarled at batsmen. Neil Adcock broke a few teeth. Wasim Akram broke toes. Some West Indian players picked parts of Mike Gating’s nose off the ball after his face was re-arranged by a Malcolm Marshall bouncer in 1986. Cricket is a sport for tough people.
 
Which is why I was surprised to see Kevin Pietersen get fined on Wednesday. His offence? He criticised a commentator on the social network Twitter. The entire contents of what Pietersen said? “Can somebody PLEASE tell me how Nick Knight has worked his way into the commentary box for Home Tests?? RIDICULOUS!!”.
 
Of all the things Pietersen should ever be fined for, this is incredibly lame. Cricketers over the years have been an extraordinarily blunt brand of people. Think of Javed Miandad, Saurav Ganguly, Heath Streak – at one point all of them told their national cricket boards, or someone senior to them, where to get off. Daryl Cullinan refused to play. Ian Botham stormed out of his county in protests at the sacking of Viv Richards. Arjuna Ranatunga, during a long-running feud with Shane Warne told the tweaker that Australia had no culture. This is a sport which breeds an opinionated bunch of players.

Harmless opinion

But those in charge decided to punish a bloke in the modern game for tweeting his distaste for a commentator within 140 characters. And let’s be honest, a few commentators out there could use some constructive criticism (cough Danny Morrison cough).
 
I understand that there are corporate deals involved, and Sky, the broadcaster of cricket in England, probably doesn’t want its commentary team criticised by the players. I also get that the bulk of the England Cricket Board’s income is its commercial rights deal with Sky.
 
But if the modern day commercialisation of the game lashes players for expressing a fairly harmless opinion, then there has been a very severe change in the way cricket, particularly Test cricket, is carried out. And it hurts a sport full of personalities, a sport with a history of tough nuts and wits.
 
Anyone who remembers Franklyn Stephenson hurtling thunderbolts at Peter Kirsten, or Shane Warne repeatedly outfox England, or Kepler Wessels’s revenge smack at Kapil Dev’s shins should be surprised at the limpness of the Pietersen decision.
 
Especially those of us who remember Zimbabwe’s Eddo Brandes, who said in reply to an opposing bowler calling him fat, “it’s because every time I f*** your wife she gives me a biscuit”.
 
Please, I beg you, don’t take that away.


Simon Williamson is a freelance writer.

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Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.


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