I became as hard as whipcord, but with a brain like cotton wool. (Derek Raymond)
The visitors are batting second and are around 40 runs away from chasing down around 250 with plenty of wickets in hand. The game is in the bag. A right-hand-left hand batting combo need a sight screen moving. It’s a nickel and dime situation normally dealt with immediately; a couple of fielders get the screen moved, and on we go.
But once again, the psychopathy of a league cricketer determines that a polite request can become a potential heated incident. As fortune would not have it on this occasion, there is a perfect storm of no fielder being near and a posse from the batting side enjoying a stroll, which happened to find itself next to the screen.
The captain of the fielding team shouts a polite request to the posse paraphrased as follows: “Guys, would a couple of you mind moving the screens.” No response. The captain, moving a tad nearer to the posse, tries again – still no response. The head honcho of the posse then crosses the boundary rope and in a ‘this-town’s-not-big-enough-for-both-of-us’ posture declares: “Come and fu*king make me.”
At that point I had a vision of Mrs Umps asking me to pass her a ball of wool for her latest handicraft project while I’m watching Match of the Day and me saying ‘come and fu*king make me’ before I am impaled by a single point needle while Mrs Umps is telling the ambulance service ‘there is a lot of blood….but take as long as you need to, I appreciate how busy you guys are’.
It took a few seconds for the fielders to digest the situation which gave me a enough time to hot foot it over to the posse and tell the head honcho that if he wanted to play further games this and next season, he should move the screen and apologise to to the fielding captain, which he did, saying they were only ‘having a larf’.
While noting the absurd reaction and comment of the head honcho, the fielding captain could easily have calmed the situation by instructing a couple of fielders to move the screens. By choosing not to, the captain agreed to enter the potential conflict with the danger of the situation ‘unravelling’.
Captaincy is a crucial part of a cricket match’s dynamics. I have noticed that the captains who take what might be described as a poor decision by the umpire (never from myself, of course) on the chin and carry on with the game, tend to lead teams that are more successful. A case in point happened in 2016 in a game I remember well. I turned down a marginal LBW decision from the skipper. The batter went on to make another 40-plus runs so it could have been costly. But instead of throwing his toys out of the cot, the decision stimulated the captain to rally his troops who bowled and fielded better in the latter part of the innings and comfortably chased down the target. The message is clear, think before you act – especially where you are minded to react.
The shock element was not so much that the sight screen incident took place, rather that it took place in the context of the match where the head honcho’s team are winning by a mile (and win they did). The issue here is what turns a perfectly decent guy outside the boundary rope (7.24 commuter train to his work as an insurance underwriter) into one with concerning personality issues as soon as his right foot lands inside the playing area of a cricket ground.