Saturday, 25 July 2015

Ear, ear

Fantasy Bob returned from his recent Italian sojourn with an ear infection.  Not only was this uncomfortable but it reduced his hearing significantly.

He strained to hear the sweet nothings that Mrs FB is wont to whisper into his ears.  No more came her seductive call, 'Must you always leave your cricket bag exactly where I am going to trip over it?'

He felt isolated and alone, a latter day Beethoven, only without the symphonies.

He struggled on, and for the most part managed to cope with vigorous nodding and inane grinning. Many of his friends and colleagues did not notice the difference.

But it was on the cricket field that he faced a significant ethical dilemma - was it appropriate that he should take his usual turn umpiring in recent matches of his Carlton All Star 4th XI?   For the umpire's sense of hearing is important.

Umpiring nirvana - players just get in the way
and make things difficult 
Wrapped in anxiety FB spent sleepless nights examining the issues.  He found a solution which reduced the moral hazard.   He might just be able to discern an appeal, but even so he took the precaution of loudly uttering after every ball 'Not Out' - an outcome which increasingly mystified the opposition as they watched the ball speed along the ground to the boundary.   His call 'Wide Ball - Not Out' seemed to maximise their confusion.  The skipper took matters into his own hands.  At the end of the over he approached FB and appeared to ask him something with an animated gesture.  FB's response was sound.  He nodded vigorously and gave an inane grin.  That sorted things.

Readers will no doubt admire the elegance of FB's solution to his difficulty and suggest that this does not address the more significant hazard.  How could the Beethovenian FB detect any snick behind. FB puts his hand up (not his finger) - there was no way he could.  It is as well that FB's team mates are morally pure as the driven snow and ascribe to sporting values of the highest order. They will always walk when they nick it.  FB therefore felt confident that he was in the ethical clear.

However his problem got him thinking that cricket umpiring does present the highest demands on the official's senses.  Although rugby or football referees have to run madly from one end of the pitch to the other while retaining enough puff to blow the whistle, the acuity of their sight and vision is not subject to similarly severe examination.  Large rugby players colliding are usually fairly visible and the collision can be heard several streets away.

Erasmus seems to be a fellow sufferer with FB
But the cricket umpire has to detect the slightest deviation in flight as the ball passes the bat or the faintest snick.  It is a superhuman challenge.  In the typical lower league cricket environment the umpire's auditory test has also to contend with a cacophonous symphony of background noises - bongo drummers, the sound systems of frolicking barbecuers, screaming children abandoned by their parents, barking dogs abandoned by the screaming children, squealing tyres from emergency stops caused by the barking dogs, shrieking brakes and blaring horns from traffic backed up, the excited chorus of road rage, accelerating motor bikes, decelerating motorbikes.  No wonder Beethoven declined the opportunity to be a cricket umpire.

But FB is pleased to say that his infection has cleared.  Not only that but he has had his ears irrigated removing lumps of wax the approximate size of a cricket ball.  He now faces another ethical dilemma - is his newly restored super acute hearing fair to his team mates.  Surely there is a risk that he will now hear snicks from matches several miles away and reach a wrong decision.  He is overcome with anxiety - should he stand or not?


  1. Unable as he is to avail himself of the various electronic aids that umpires in televised matches benefit from these days, FB could just accede to a fixed ratio of appeals, randomly applied to provide an illusion of fairness. 1 in 5 should be ok. It always worked for me in my schooldays.

    1. Sad to say that due to inflationary actors in lower league cricket the tariff now seems to be 1 in 3.