Monday, 25 August 2014

The Runner

It may not appear so to the untrained eye, but there are a number of differences between international cricket and the elite sporting activity that Fantasy Bob indulges in throughout the summer.

Andrew Strauss denies Graham Smith a runner for cramp in 2009
- Smith had just scored 100 - Strauss said he was still able to run
One of these is the runner - someone to run between the wickets when a batsman is injured. Runners have been outlawed in international cricket since 2011, out of concern that the law was being abused.  Hard though it is for FB to envisage circumstances in which a professional sportsman might seek to take advantage of the law, there was concern that players were calling for a runner in circumstances where their injury was not life threatening - cramp at the end of an innings being the classic case.

However further down the food chain, where  cramp is a permanent condition and players are hardier and would only call for a runner when facing immediate amputation of a defective limb, the runner is still part of the game and a regular source of much confusion and entertainment.

FB is pleased that this is the case - for running was one of the skills of the game that he mastered at an early age. Indeed it was the only skill that he ever came close to mastering. Running in the field, running between the wickets, running in to bowl, running to the toilet - there seemed so many opportunities to show off his skills and team mates got tired of his endless showing off in the running department.  In the deep and distant past, so impressed were his colleagues with his prowess in the running department that FB was asked to run for injured team mates.

Sadly those days are a distant memory and while FB may still have mastery of running it is increasingly inclined towards the theoretical than the practical.

But it was not until this weekend that FB found himself on the other end of this particular stick.  He need a runner.

FB's skill at placing the field had deserted him and he found himself having to chase all manner of balls to far distant parts of the ground.  Usually he places an enthusiastic junior member beside him, who like a well trained labrador will sprint with youthful vigour after the speeding ball and return it with a pleading look in its eye and its tongue hanging out.  But junior members were occupied in other parts of the field stemming the flood of runs that was mounting against the team.  After several protracted chases FB's calf muscle decided, with remarkable common sense, that enough was enough and forced FB to sit out the final overs.

Tea has many restoring powers - it lifts the spirit and cleans the blood.  However it does not fix strained calf muscles.  So for the first time in his career FB found himself facing the prospect of batting with a runner.  He sat and contemplated the early overs of the innings, thinking to himself that this was an opportunity.  Surely without the distraction of having to sprint from end to end in his usual breathless manner a big score was in prospect.  He could see the scoreboard's gleaming figures - 50, 70, 80 and on to the unexplored uplands of three figures.   He could see the scorer running out of space in the book.

This would be something all the junior members would remember to tell their grandchildren - they were there when FB scored his ton.  There was therefore competition in the ranks of the juniors for the privilege of being FB's runner.  A foot race was held to identify the fleetest of foot.

The time came, and FB and the proud young man strode to the wicket.  FB could hear the applause already. The young man position himself at square leg.  FB tapped a mark on the wicket.  He took his guard, carefully scraping the line with his spike. He would be here for some time. He surveyed the field -
extra cover was surely placed a little to square for one of FB's power and subtlety.  He took his stance. The bowler turned at the end of his run up. The keeper crouched.  Silence.

FB's membership
successfully renewed
FB is not sure what happened next.  In his mind's eye he pushed the ball gently into to mid off and his runner set off for the single.  However the ball decided not play that game and thudded into his back pad.  The umpire was unsympathetic and the finger went up.  FB renewed his membership of the primary club.

Runners?  No help to FB.  Perhaps the ICC was right in getting rid of them.


  1. The outlawing of runners in international cricket has deprived the game of some of its greatest comical highlights. The resulting confusion among batsmen and fielders alike was always a joy to behold and gave the match commentators ample fodder for discussion and ridicule. FB was probably fortunate to avoid this fate - he may well be grateful for that LBW decision.

    1. You may be right - FB has never been the subject of ridicule........