It's tough to be a captain, umpire

Published : Jun 23, 2001 00:00 IST


JUNE 4: The captaincy in the second Test at Old Trafford is so unimaginative that I wonder if Lord Condon, with his desire for a spy in every dressing room, a ban on mobile phones during a match also kills off the daring captain. For heaven's sake, Waqar Younis bats on so long that England almost save the game; he hardly needs more than 300 runs to win the game as the final score shows; and a year ago no-one will say a word if he declares an hour earlier and England win. But now, it's - literally - a whole new ball game. What captain dare leave an easy target in case someone claims that he is in league with the bookmakers? He must also look at every field setting and ask himself: "If I put two short legs in place and leave a tempting gap at mid-on - will someone think I am giving the batsman a few extra runs because some bookie asks me to?" So all those nasty ideas that begin when Hansie Cronje first admits to his guilty begin to develop anew. Why does Martin Crowe open the New Zealand bowling in the 1992 World Cup with the off-spin of Dipak Patel. Not to help a bookmaker but to surprise the opening batsmen. But if he does it tomorrow he may arouse all sorts of problems. It is just the same at the toss. When Mohammed Azharuddin puts England in at Lord's in 1991 no-one blinks and when Graham Gooch takes advantage to make 333 we simply think that Azhar is not a very bright captain. But looking back, as I review every strange occurence in 20 years around cricket, I wonder. Does Azhar put England in because, as he says at the time, he believes there is enough overhead to help his bowlers, or is there some other reason? No-one knows and no-one every will. But the outcome of all the accusations, suspicions and allegations is that a cricketer - and particularly a captain - must be very careful indeed when making unorthodox decisions.

June 5: The scientist who puts together the television's latest gimmick - the technology that judges lbws - says he will have no trouble inventing a system for detecting no-balls. Dr. Paul Hawkins says that a bleep can be made to sound every time a bowler's foot goes over the line and the batsman will have just as much time as now to decide whether to play a big shot. It's only a new use of the technology tennis uses for years. "It will be almost instantaneous," says Dr. Hawkins who invents Hawkeye which, in two and a half seconds, gives a ruling on lbws. Hawkeye is an off-shoot of a method the Army uses to track bullets. As an alternative Dr. Hawkins suggests that the third umpire be given a TV close-up of the crease and signals no-balls from the pavilion. Both David Shepherd and Ed Nicholls, two of the nicest guys in the game, will cheer the new invention. They know just how badly things go wrong at Old Trafford and that sensitive man Shep will be in tears I imagine. He's a great encouragement to me early in my life within cricket and I feel sad that this great umpire makes so many errors in such a short time. In a statement - that goes through the Lord's spin doctors - Shep says: "I accept the mistakes. . .and I am looking forward to continuing umpiring." But enjoying his role? Not with the TV cameras even more intent on picking out his mistakes.

June 6: The Hutton family can now lay claim to a part of cricket history as grandson Ben edges close to a one-day international spot in the near future. His 79 allowed Middlesex to beat the Australians at Lord's which puts him alongside his father Richard, an England and Yorkshire all-rounder, and the immortal Len who dies ten years ago. Ben, the family's first left-hander, developes more slowly than his father, who is a strong batsman with a preference for the front foot, and a quickish bowler who exploits the Headingley pitch where swing and seam often get unexpected aid. Richard goes on to be editor of The Cricketer and is now trying for a place on the Yorkshire committee. The great Len is a Yorkshire batsman in his teens, the record holder with 364 against Australia at the Oval in 1938 and the model for all the aspiring young professionals after the war. "What will Leonard do in these circumstances?" is a frequent question in those days whenever a batsman comes up against a new bowler or a new tactic. It seems it will not be long before one or two of the modern players will be asking: "What can I do about this new boy Hutton?"

June 7: As everyone knows Geoff Boycott is a strong-minded man with belief in his own opinions and a very forceful way of expressing those ideas. So it comes as a surprise when he is asked by talkSport, his radio station, to cover golf. Of course, like many other sportsmen, Boycott plays a mean game of golf himself and is happy to discuss this difficult game with all and sundry so there is no need to worry about his expertise. But the voice? What may be suitable for the cricket commentary box is not in order for the golf course out in the open and often close up and personal along side the men on the tee. But Boycott, the supreme professional, manages very well indeed and his new world among the golf reporters is treated to the sight of him whispering. Can you believe it?

June 8: "Getting publicity in the local media is very difficult," complains a Sussex official during the second Test. "We have Brighton football club just down the road and they get all the space on radio, television and in the papers." Lancashire's chief executive Jim Cumbes sighs. "Just imagine our problems then with Manchester United less than half a mile from out front door," he laughs.

June 9: The news cricket waits an eternity to hear comes through this morning when what a politician will call "Nasser Hussain's office" or "a spokesman for the England captain" or "sources close to Hussain" reveal that his son is born, weighing 8st 2lb. Surely, some mistake. Right. Jacob Hussain is a big lad and as a grandson of Jo Hussain, from Chennai in the days when it is Madras, naturally muscular and well developed. But of course "Nasser Hussain's office" makes a typo and in reality the little lad is 8lb 2oz. Both mother and child are doing well and looking forward to father taking up his day job again; a much needed return if the recent England results are any indication.

June 10: So far the arrangements for the triangular tournament run smoothly and that is a credit to the much-abused ECB. At the same time however, several county committees have to meet this week to put the finishing touches to their security arrangements after Pakistanis invaded Edgbaston and delay the finish and there is a small punch-up at the end of the second game at Cardiff. The Board find Urdu-speaking announcers for their public address systems, Waqar Younis agreeds to address the crowd in their own language and some of the counties draft in more police and stewards; but all these decisions are gestures which ignore the basic problem. "English grounds are not built to keep spectators off the grass," says Brian Bolus, chairman of the England Management Committee. "In fact there is a belief the counties must encourage spectators to use the ground during intervals. We have no fences, no barbed wire and very little security. Many people want to keep it that way. It's a traditional thing." The flashpoint is likely to come at Headingley on June 17 when England and Pakistan may need victory for a place in the final. There will be talks between Yorkshire and the police on new security plans. The ground is a focus for race problems in the past but Yorkshire hope that the dismantling of the Western Terrace - they invite the former Prime Minister and cricket nut John Major to open the new edifice - will answer that problem.

More stories from this issue

Sign in to unlock all user benefits
  • Get notified on top games and events
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign up / manage to our newsletters with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early bird access to discounts & offers to our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment