The Press Tent: Brainfade edition
Brain fades all round
India and Australia are currently in the middle of an excellent Test series. This is great news for everyone, but especially snide and snarky online cricket columns.
Because there are few things more certain to provide #content than these two battling to reach a non-existent moral high ground built on cognitive dissonance and bluster that, even if it did exist, would long since in any case have been colonised by England.
This being an Australia overseas tour, there has been the usual dark talk of doctored pitches. Once you realise that “doctored” is simply Australian for “foreign” it becomes altogether less sinister.
This traditional Aussie whinge began long before the first ball of the series and continued throughout the brilliant first Test and even after their victory.
Against all the odds, though, Australia’s defeat on a Bangalore Bunsen has seen the doctored pitch whinge subside to a kind of monotonous background whine.
There is a greater need now: to deflect attention from the fact their captain Steve Smith cheated, admitted to cheating and apologised for cheating.
The method Australia has adopted is to instead complain about Virat Kohli giving it a bit of mouth, just like Australians absolutely never would.
Smith’s crime was relatively minor but still blatant. Prompted by batting partner Peter Handscomb, Smith – in a moment he later described as a ‘brain fade’ – looked up to the balcony for advice on whether to review an lbw decision.
This is very much not permitted. But Smith and Handscomb have both held their hands up and this really shouldn’t be troubling anyone much during a Test series for the ages. Handscomb’s claim not to know the rules is a slightly concerning thing for an actual Test cricketer to say, but he is far from the first player to reach the highest level unsure of one rule or another. There seems little reason not to take him at his word.
Luckily, though, neither side is in the mood for trying to move forward with some quiet dignity.
A furious Sunil Gavaskar, for example, saw Smith’s escape from punishment as evidence not of the triviality of the offence, but instead as proof that other nations get preferential treatment from the ICC.
“It can’t be that some countries get favourable treatment and some countries do not get favourable treatment. Tomorrow, for example, if something similar is done by an Indian player… he also should not be pulled up at all.
“I would actually love to see Virat Kohli, if he is given out … and he looks at the Indian dressing room, gets some sort of feedback from them… Let’s see what the match referee and the ICC decide then.”
Quite right. It’s high time India started to get a fair deal from the ICC. This is the cricket equivalent of the deeply sad men, including at least one Ashes-winning former England captain, who spent Wednesday asking “When’s International Men’s Day?”
@MichaelVaughan 19th November
— Mayank Rathi (@mayankrathi27) March 8, 2017
The catalyst for an extended shitstorm was Kohli’s post-match interview in which he did everything but call Smith a cheat – “I don’t want to mention the word but it falls in that bracket” – and suggested that far from a one-off ‘brain fade’ this was a more widespread Aussie tactic. “I would never do something like that on a cricket field,” declared India’s captain after spending three days on a cricket field swearing at every Australian in sight.
This was always going to get the Australians’ backs up. Australians are cricket’s self-appointed moral arbiters. It is the Australian’s birthright to determine the precise location of The Line; they and they alone make the call on whether that line is being butted against or crossed and it’s pure coincidence that anything done by Australians is butting and anything done by everyone else – EVEN IF IT IS SOMETHING AUSTRALIANS ROUTINELY DO – is a step too far.
This prompted an absolute harrumph of a Cricket Australia statement in which James Sutherland called criticising the Australia captain for cheating “outrageous”. The BCCI responded in kind with a statement evoking the “true spirit of cricket” – a surefire guarantor of guff – before basically dobbing Smith in to the teacher and describing Kohli’s immature and questionable behaviour as “mature” and “exemplary”.
As a result of this pair of one-eyed official statements in the wake of “the Bangalore bloodbath” (Australia’s Daily Telegraph), the two boards are now in a “full blown war of words” (Times of India) after the BCCI “slammed” Cricket Australia (Hindustan Times), with Australia left “gobsmacked” and “privately stunned” that nothing has been done to silence Virat Kohli’s “non-stop verbals while taking an antagonist approach in the field” (ABC).
“The spirit of the game notion has been pronounced dead in the game many times before,” lamented the Telegraph’s Ben Horne, clutching his pearls, “But Kohli — a law unto himself — would appear to have killed it off once again with his behaviour some of the worst by an international captain since villainous Sri Lankan leader Arjuna Ranatunga.”
Meanwhile, a brilliant Test series is 1-1 with two to play and the BCCI and CA have issued a joint statement in an attempt to put the issue to bed.
I like big bats and I cannot lie
Talk of #BigBatGuff has made the pages of the Press Tent before and major news come out of the ICC this week, as they seek to soothe the wounded pride of bitter, paunchy former Test players who didn’t hit as many sixes as the gym-sculpted T20 supermen of today.
It can’t possibly be that these supreme athletes are hitting more boundaries because of their greater fitness, strength and intent. No, it must be those big bats. Force = mass x acceleration is just meaningless nerd talk. Come on, we’ve all seen that picture of Barry Richards holding one of your modern big bats significantly closer to the camera than one of his old tiny bats.
Having decided that the laws of cricket can trump the laws of physics, the MCC have ruled there will now be a limit on these out-of-control monster bats. Edges must now be no more than 40mm, with the overall depth of the bat no more than 67mm.
MCC bod John Stephenson said: “We believe the maximum dimensions we have set will help redress the balance between bat and ball, while still allowing the explosive, big hitting we all enjoy.”
The Press Tent believes the maximum dimensions will make zero difference to the balance between bat and ball, while still allowing commentators and pundits to claim this pointless Bear Patrol of a law is working perfectly the first time someone gets caught in the deep after the new regulations come into effect in October.
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