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SATURDAY’S CHILD: Forks, spades and soppers


TONY DEYAL

SATURDAY’S CHILD: Forks, spades and soppers

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IN TRINIDAD, in the old days, if you blocked someone’s view of an event, you would invariably be asked, “What happen? Youh father is a glass maker?” My way of dealing with this comment about my transparency or lack of it was to reply rudely, “Nah, but my mother is a brick wall.”

I was reminded of that typically “Trini” response when I looked at the way the different parties involved in the saga of what espncricinfo.com deemed a “farce” and reported as, “The farce in Port of Spain ended in bright sunshine with no play possible, just like the earlier three days. Called off at 9:30 a.m. on the fifth day, this was the third-shortest non-abandoned Test ever.”

One commentator has said, “Cricket has always found bizarre ways of seeing itself delayed.” For example, three grey monkeys temporarily stopped the Haryana vs England XI, tour match at Ahmedabad in 2012. Hal Hainsworth included in his ten of the oddest “hold-ups” this story: “Daryll Cullinan was responsible for one of the more bizarre hold-ups in play when, playing in a Castle Cup match, he flambéed Roger Telemachus for a six over deep mid-wicket and the ball sailed into a spectator’s barbecue to find itself lodged between the coals and some gently grilling calamari. When the ball was discovered, it took ten minutes to cool down sufficiently for the umpires to attempt to remove the grease and seafood from its slow-cooked leather. Remarkably, after the de-greasing, play was resumed with the same ball, and only after Telemachus proved that it was impossible to grip was it eventually changed.”

At Lord’s in 1944, a game was stopped for a while when it was believed that a German “doodlebug” bomb would land on the ground. In Brisbane, in an Australia vs England ODI in 1983 “one of the more famous interruptions to a cricket match in history” occurred when a pig was let loose on the outfield . . . “it had ‘Botham’ and ‘Eddie’ painted onto each of its sides, referring to the corpulent frames of England’s Ian Botham and Eddie Hemmings. The fans smuggled the piglet in by, amazingly, convincing the stewards that it was to be their lunch.” 

In 2010, good (instead of bad) light stopped play in a match between Lancashire and Nottinghamshire, a sandstorm temporarily halted a match in Sharjah between India and Australia, and unruly, bottle-throwing Indian fans caused Sri Lanka to win a game by default.

This was a problem also in a West Indies versus England match at the Queen’s Park Oval on January 30, 1960. The original Reuters report said, “Rioting and bottle-throwing ended the day’s play in the second Test between English and the West Indies, at Port of Spain, Trinidad. From the packed popular end of the ground a crowd swept onto the pitch fighting and shouting, after one of the West Indies batsmen, Singh, had been run out making the West Indian score 98 runs for 8 wickets. Governor of Trinidad Sir Edward Beetham joined the policemen who were trying to keep the mob off the pitch. Escorted by police the English team left the field, when Pullar, England opening bat, was hit on the shoulder by a bottle.

After fighting among themselves, the rioters turned on the radio commentators box and were only brought under control after the fire brigade, with the help of mounted police, turned their hoses on the demonstrators . . . . When the troublemakers had been tamed by the police 30 injured people were taken to hospital, another 60 were treated on the ground. The police made ten arrests.”

In some ways that was bad but the present situation where only part of the five days scheduled play was possible has longer and more serious consequences. Most of all, it was avoidable. As cricinfo.com says, “This was the first Test played in August in Trinidad, which is the rainy season . . . the ground staff was economical with covering the ground when it rained, leaving the bowlers’ run-up exposed. There was no super sopper available either. As a result the field didn’t recover from the rain on day one, and only 22 overs – all in the first session of the Test – were bowled.” Another article, headlined Authorities Exposed By Lack Of Covers blamed foolish logistical planning paired with inadequate drainage infrastructure”. The revelation that the Queen’s Park Cricket Club (QPCC), which owns and operates the venue, had finally resorted to pitchforks as a last ditch attempt to get the outfield fit for play led to the comment that they were forking around and were a bunch of forkups.

What was most interesting is that only the Indian journalists seemed concerned enough to seek answers which they did not get. They ran into a brick wall that was not my mum. In fact, play was halted after the first session of the game on Thursday August 18. The QPCC crowd, headed by the local representative of Transparency International, Deryck Murray, held their 125th annual celebration two days after, on August 20th. Unfortunately, it was a fancy dinner and not a supper sopper. Despite the fact that there had been no rain and no play since that time, there seemed to be no questions asked and no explanation by Murray, who is normally quite outspoken about everything else under the sun, or rain, for that matter.

What is even more interesting is that the West Indies Cricket Board, which for the first time decided to play a Test match in Trinidad and Tobago during August, has asked for an explanation, and the two organisations which together should be accountable, the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board and the QPCC, are “investigating” the issue. What is even more comic is that Vinode Mamchan, a Trinidad Guardian reporter, wrote that his paper understood (without saying from whom) that the “problem at the Oval has to do with algae on the outfield due to poor irrigation and this led to poor drainage at the Mecca of local cricket.” I think the media is responsible. They all belong to Algae Zeera.

• Tony Deyal was last seen saying that algae vary in size and colour from seaweed to giant kelp but since they are mostly female they can be covered up with a device called an algae-bra.

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