Thank God for the internet, huh? In times of yore, if one’s story was suppressed by mainstream media outlets, the options were pretty limited: you could print your own pamphlets (costly), wear a be-sloganed sandwich-board around London town (and risk being deemed a crackpot) or simply keep schtum. Well not any more!
Cricket Tragics have been in contact with a certain member of Hyde Heath cricket club who has had his story suppressed for nearly 3 years now. It was never published on the official HHCC website due to behind-the-scenes political double-dealings, but now, at last, the truth will out! Cricket Tragics spearheads the fight for freedom!
Reproduced below is the letter that has caused all the trouble.
I would like to report what I believe is a first in the normally not-very-cutthroat world of village cricket.
Early this season, I turned out as is my wont for the village of Hyde Heath in a friendly match against the normally very friendly local village of Chartridge. We lost the toss and the opposition elected to bat on a track which our groundsman had covered with our newly-acquired plastic sheeting (aka “covers”) at 7.30 that morning, displaying a meteorological prescience which would have shamed Bill Fish.
It rained “halberds” as the French say until just before the scheduled start time of 2.00 but we were able to remove our covers and start play on time on a wicket which was dry and bouncy.
Being the first match of the season, there was a certain inevitability that our opening duo who are unplayable by mid-August, should display some rustiness, characterised by an apparent inability to land the ball in the batsman’s half of the wicket. This tactic, apparently intentional, elicited from the opposing batsmen a degree of aggression quite out of keeping with a so-called friendly match.
The bowlers continued to bowl very short, the batsmen repeatedly dispatched the ball to all corners of the lush early season outfield and the score was well into the 20s after only 15 minutes or so. Dissent began to grow in the Hyde Heath camp. Our captain was known to have imbibed injudiciously the previous evening, our 11th man’s fielding revealed that he had never visited a cricket field before, our keeper was taking the ball on the second bounce and our widely acclaimed team spirit was beginning to falter. Matters came to a head when 2nd slip, our self-appointed senior pro, provocatively challenged the captain to “get a grip of his bowlers”.
At this point your humble correspondent, having witnessed proceedings from the vantage point of first slip, reached a trial conclusion: the wicket was too long. Nature has blessed me with a natural one-yard stride and I was able to ascertain by dint of measured pacing that the pitch was not one, not even three but a full 4.5 yards longer than it should be, an excess in excess of 20%!
Imagine: a cold April day, an over-wintered bowler no longer in the first flush of youth seeking to build up to a full 63mph and finding that he is unable to land the ball anywhere near the opposing batsman and then discovering that our Chairman, an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist with apparent aspirations to be a pitch inspector, abetted by our normally competent groundsman, had conspired to create a Frankenstein monster of a pitch fully 26.5 yards long.
The bald facts of the case are that we re-measured the pitch, re-drew the creases, allowed the visitors the benefit of their good fortune and hung on for a draw. The deeper and alarming truth is that two teams of professed enthusiasts of the summer game plus two seasoned umpires failed to spot the travesty.
Is this an indictment of the falling standards which beset our society more widely; or was something more sinister at work, perhaps some form of mass hypnosis? Ball-tampering is one thing, but pitch-tampering! How would Darrell Hair have addressed such a threat? The longer-term ramifications are still unclear, but one feels that our beloved game is in peril. This matter is a long way from over.
20 September 2006
Name withheld by the editors of Cricket Tragics