I’m writing this in a Premier Inn on the outskirts of Derry before the second day of the interprovincial match. Thousands of elderly women are swarming into the breakfast room. Remember the episode of Father Ted with Eoin McLove? It’s a lot like that. I don’t know why they’re here. Presumably not for the three-dayer at Bready.
In the last two matches that I’ve played, I have been the subject of some fairly snide and unpleasant comments relating to my work for CricketEurope. (Fair enough, some might say.)
The principal cause of this antipathy, it seems, is something I am alleged to have said at Downpatrick, when I am supposed to have described a Knights batsman as a ‘walking wicket’. That batsman then went on to score a fairly impressive half-century. I was consequently told in no uncertain terms by one of his team-mates that journalists had no right to criticize ‘people who actually played cricket’.
Such hostility would be entirely justified – the batsman proving wrong a critic, the critic forced to eat humble pie – if the alleged offence was an actual offence, but it is not, simply because I never said such a thing. It was in fact another journalist who used the words ‘walking wicket’ and I know who it was, but that’s a different matter.
I recognize the irony/hypocrisy of this: the players get offended by alleged criticism, then a quasi-journalist gets equally offended by the same kind of misguided criticism. (If journalists can judge players, it follows – of course – the players can judge journalists.)
I also realize that in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter a damn, although I appreciate the fact that the Knights batsman in question – after again proving that he is far from the said epithet – graciously apologized for misattributing the quote.
Yet this non-storm in a teacup raises a few interesting points, and mainly this: who is entitled to an opinion? How good do you have to be at sport before you are ‘allowed’ to speak about it?
Now, it’s self-evident that I’m not good enough to play interprovincial cricket: anyone who has read this column, or looked at my stats, or ever seen me in action will understand that. But does that disqualify me from being able to assess how others are playing?
I don’t think so. Honestly, I think that being just about good enough to know just how bad you are is the perfect platform from which to judge others.
Recognizing and understanding mediocrity, perhaps because of experiencing it, should allow an individual to recognize excellence and other levels of ability to which he cannot aspire. The real trick is then to explain the gap.
We didn’t have a match this Saturday – we had not progressed to the second round of the Irish Cup – so I had the day off. I did, however, witness a most peculiar display of umpiring during our 2nd XI’s match against Downpatrick II, who were fielding only nine players.
I am told that I can only relate facts, to save myself from disciplinary action.
First, the match had been reduced before the start to 30 overs. Except only an hour of playing time had been lost, so the match should have been reduced by only seven overs.
The first ball that I saw was fired down leg, so far in fact that the batsman ignored it and the keeper barely got to it. The batsmen ran as well. Two wides then? No, nothing signalled, a run to the batsman.
There was then a skiff of rain, nothing more. Off went the players and the umpires, and when they came back on the match had been reduced to 29 overs. Except that you cannot – or should not – reduce a match that has already started without the implementation of Duckworth-Lewis, for which there is no regulation in that league section.
We then had a few more overs before the rain came again. This was only the second interruption and it was so brief that we did not have time to reach the covers, let alone push them onto the pitch. Another (incorrect) reduction in overs was threatened.
Yet before we knew it, the umpires had abandoned the match. When I asked why, I was told by one of them: “We can’t keep coming on and off like that”. He cited the agreement of both captains, but this was the umpires’ decision and the umpires went home. At least one of them was in his car and out the gates before our batsmen had left the pitch.
There was no rain for the next two hours. No other match in the NCU was abandoned on Saturday.
The next day I went to Bready, where there was no play. I think every other match in Ireland was completed. Maybe I am cursed.
Big match at the weekend, at home to Lisburn in a match that will do much to determine relegation from the Premier League. Does either side want to win?