Friday, 21 September 2012
It is all very well for top level cricketers such as Clegg and Pietersen to issue filmed apologies and to make a bit of a meal of it. This leaves lower league cricketers uncertain as to when they can apologise and how best to do so. For it is unlikely that they will face concerns about their abandonment of election promises or their propensity to tweet suggestions to South African bowlers about how to dismiss their skipper. Opposition players have all too readily worked out how to dismiss Fantasy Bob's team. Any player therefore tweeting suggestions would simply be wasting tweeting time. Not necessarily something to apologise about.
But for cricketers who are uncertain, here are the situations in which apologies are appropriate and indeed obligatory.
The run out - the call of 'Yes...No...Sorry' has an inbuilt apology and needs no further explanation. It is infinitely adaptable to a wide variety of situations. Sometimes it is reversed so that it runs 'No...Yes... Sorry.' But it is rarely that the sorry comes first. Cricketers finding a batting partner inclined to use sorry as his first call might well spend the afternoon firmly in their crease. On many occasions, the basic structure of this call can be interrupted by other comments, observations about the futility and absurdity of life or the dubious parentage of the batting partner. It is often developed by creative players into a full dialogue; 'yes' and 'no' can sound between them with astonishing rapidity leading to a cry of 'sorry' in perfect unison. Musicologists suspect that Gustav Mahler arranged a version of this for soloists and choir, but the manuscript appears to have been lost.
The LBW - it is a scene that is repeated week after week. A lower league umpire will startle from his reverie at the call of 'Howzat'. He has no idea what has just taken place but in a spirit of sportsmanship he will raise his finger. His team mate 22 yards distant will look incredulously at him - point at his thigh, point at his foot outside the leg stump, point at a mark on the wicket further outside the leg stump, look heaven-wards and trudge off. At the innings end the umpire returns to the dressing a room and breezily says to his victim, 'Sorry, buddy. You had to go. Plum as plum.' His victim demonstrates considerable restraint before asking whether it was the fact that the ball pitched outside leg stump or caused a nasty bruise on his hip bone about 2 feet above stump height that rendered that particular ball plum. Apologies in these circumstances may never be fully accepted. Batters become obsessed with which of their team mates is likely to be umpiring when they bat and many a lower league batting order is mystifying to the observer until this factor is taken into account.
The drop - Lower league cricketers are not unfeeling. They know that not all chances will be taken. When a player has dived six feet to his left and stuck out his hand in an heroic attempt to hold on to a ball travelling at the speed of sound 2 feet above ground only to see it fall to the ground, the may have some sympathy. Unless they are the bowler. A bowler expects every connection of bat on ball to deliver a catch. 'Catch it' he will scream on every delivery. A complete pointless instruction. Players are generally aware of that part of the game so the instruction is otiose. They know what they are meant to do. Unfortunately there can be a gap between intention and execution and having some lunatic scream 'Catch it', just as you cup your hands in the path of the ball is the surest way for you not to catch it. This has been scientifically proved. But in such situations, there are different schools of thought about how to behave. Some will wait to the end of the over and approach the bowler personally with a remorseful apology. They may offer some explanation which will boost the bowler's ego - spinning too hard for me or too much pace are the most obvious. Some will think it inappropriate to talk directly to the bowler but will communicate an apology to the skipper thus making him share the guilt. A better skipper would have placed such a hopeless fielder nowhere near where a catch would go. Others will stand on the spot of the crime and beat their breast and fall to lamentations and self recriminations. Generally the bowler finds that the last option is most pleasing, and many will encourage self immolation or hari kiri.
Fantasy Bob hopes cricketers find this guidance helpful. A good apology can make a game. It will certainly set up an enjoyable drink in the bar at the end of play.