Lutters’ summer lines – part six

IT’S been a week of two halves in cricketing terms, beginning with a relatively dull draw between England and Sri Lanka, apart from the Matt Prior smashed window incident of course.

Is anyone really buying that “freak accident” excuse? Really? To be honest, the pitch was too good for any side to get out twice on it, and when the English weather also got involved, there was going to be only one result.

I was talking to a couple of very experienced umpires who described the ECB pitch scoring system as “anti-bowler”, or words to that effect. If a pitch is a “road”, therefore a batting paradise, it gets top marks. If a pitch is a “minefield”, and therefore a bowler’s paradise, it gets poor marks. Why should the mark scheme, standardised by the ECB, be so batsman-biased?

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Let’s be honest, people watch sport to see a contest, none more primal than boxing, to take an example out of the air. But if one fighter annihilates the other within a round or two, the audience (the ones who generate the income) gets upset due to the total lack of a contest on show.

It’s the same in cricket, if there isn’t a proper contest between bat and ball, no-one will want to watch because it will be boring to see one side pile on loads of runs or skittle the other side out for nothing. Surely the best pitch marks should be given to pitches that offer some encouragement to both batsman and bowler, i.e. the pitches that create a fair contest.

Cricket Australia have recently asked the groundsmen at their Test grounds to leave more grass on them so that games see more results (wins and losses, rather than endless draws) and as a result get the crowds to come back. At the end of the day, the people who fund these sports are the spectators – a fact that many sports are beginning to forget.

Anyway, enough of that. On to the more interesting part of the cricketing week and a question for you all: When is a total ban from cricket not a total ban from cricket?

In Pakistan’s fast bowler Mohammad Amir’s mind is the answer. The 19 year-old has been banned for five years by the ICC for alleged spot-fixing last summer, just in case you weren’t sure. He got less of a ban than the other two players, his captain Salman Butt and fellow fast bowler Mohammad Asif because of his age and perceived naivety. He is in the country awaiting a criminal trial and decided to turn out for Surrey League side Addington 1743 in what he thought was a friendly on a private ground, or so he claims, but was in fact a league game, namely one that he’s definitely not allowed to participate in.

The ICC Anti-Corruption Code states: “No Player or Player Support Personnel who has been declared Ineligible may, during the period of Ineligibility, play, coach or otherwise participate or be involved in any capacity in any International Match or any other kind of match, function, event or activity (other than authorised anti-corruption education or rehabilitation programs) that is authorised, organised, sanctioned, recognised or supported in any way by the ICC, a National Cricket Federation or any member of a National Cricket Federation.”

Okay, so it’s a pompous way of saying “you are banned from cricket, so you can’t play for a bit”, but Amir’s defence is that he thought it had nothing to do with the ECB, so he was okay to play. My old maths teacher would have called him a “wally” frankly, and there’s only so long that he can hide behind the “he’s young and naïve” excuse.

He got 60 opening the batting and 4-9 off 7 overs as his side won the game. I imagine that Addington 1743 may be docked a few points, and Amir may find himself with a longer ban or a lighter wallet.

There’s also been the refusal this week of India to allow the Decision Referral System to be used during their Test series with England later this summer. This system has been complained about by India in the past, although it was used during the World Cup there. I really don’t understand why. It makes decisions far more reliable and doesn’t hold the game up hugely – in fact the decision making process has become a “cliff-hanger” part of the game. As I’ve said many times before, if the technology’s there, why not use it?