Almanac Cricket: Blind, Deaf and Clueless. The Season Starts.

All cricketers look forward to the start of the season. Hopes are high. You’ve had a few practise matches and maybe this year you will win that flag, bowling average, or that best clubman award you have promised yourself for years.


The collision of our hopes with the season can be painful. It was for me and a few others on Saturday. In the first over a ball kept low, what’s new at Fawkner Park, and I sent a player on his way LBW. The batsman was both disappointed and disgusted with his luck and he is probably still pointing out his delivery was the only shooter for the day!!


I had a terrible start as well. Being a competent umpire requires you to avoid mistakes and you cannot make a quicker one than on the first ball of the season.


Now anyone reading this that does not know why a well-pitched up ball, or a ball that keeps low, is more likely to be a wide than a ball that bounces normally, does not know what, under the Laws of Cricket, constitutes a wide. A short ball has to be very wide indeed to be a Wide. I was probably the only person on the field that has had, for ten years, a clear understanding of what constitutes a wide, but you still have to call them. The first ball of the match was not the widest ball of the day but it was a clear wide. I hope this match is not won by one run.


Umpire should know the Laws and apply them. The players do not have to know the Laws but, as happened a bit later in the match, they should know the way the Mercantile Cricket Association (Merks) expects them to behave, the ‘Merk vibe’ of which we are all proud.


There is a Law that covers the bowling of high full tosses, dangerous deliveries that I over call to hell. In the Merks there are few bowlers fit enough,and good enough, to bowl enough bumpers to require the application of the Laws that covers this part of the game. Indeed, I have only seen a bowler warned for intimidation once, in thirty years. However high full tosses abound, especially in the lower grades where they are more dangerous.


On Saturday we had a high full toss, a delivery that passed the batsman at about waist level. Now the Law has a few requirements that are couched in quite specific language. It uses the word ‘waist’ without defining it. Now I have studied anatomy and I have an idea of ‘waist’.  The Law uses the words, ‘any delivery, other than a slow paced one’, and this is a phrase that few cricketers have heard of.


The opening bowler, from the other end, bowled a slow looping leggie, a variation that worked well all day. It was a ‘highish’ full toss that the batsman, Mark from Burnley, took an ungainly swipe at, only managing to top edge it and was caught. He was given out caught but he immediately looked to me as the senior (far too senior) umpire as he thought he should not have been given out. I motioned him on his way and without any ado Mark walked off.


His team mates thought he had been given the rough end of the stick but Mark, being a senior barrister, immediately thought that a look at the Law was in order. Now I remember a Rupole of the Bailey episode where Judge Bullingham evicted someone for bringing into the court a Law book. Could I report Mark for looking up Law 42 6. (b) (I) and (II)?


There is a reason that the Merks have umpires running out their ears and Mark’s behaviour is an example of what is the Merk vibe. In most, (all?) competitions around the globe the umpires would have copped a serve, the player reported, etc., etc.. Mark accepted the decision (defeat and victory dual imposters) in a spirit that is a credit not only to himself and his club, but a credit to the whole association.


It goes without saying that later, Stuart, his captain, walked immediately on a caught behind appeal. They talk about ‘trigger finger’ umpires. I appreciate captains that play the game the way the Laws require them to behave. Stuart was on his way before I could give him out.


Why would you want to umpire in any other competition?


Mark behaved so I did send a message to the fence to look up the phrase, ‘any delivery, other than a slow paced one’. Why should I spoil his day? I must admit that this sort of dismissal is common and, if the batsman given out whinges and moans, I leave him to stew in his indignation and don’t bother to explain why he is out. He can spend the rest of the day sulking. I don’t care.


Pebbles, Stuart and the rest of the blokes down along the Yarra there at Burnley are not intellectual cricket Law giants. They don’t know the Laws backwards but they do know what is expected to keep the tradition of civility strong in Fawkner Park.


 The other team, South Yarra, of Gideon Haigh fame, are also a decent bunch of blokes. Phil, who fielded at square leg all day, only started to appeal for LBW after the first drinks break!!  He pointed out after the day’s play that he only appealed twice and one of those was given out. He thought a strike rate of fifty percent was not too shabby.


This comment made me think; a strike rate of fifty percent????. Gee there was a LBW appeal, late in the day, at my end, that was very close, should I have given it? I wonder what my strike rate was on Saturday!

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