In an article, which one could be easily pardoned for assuming was written from a pedastal placed at 35,000 ft above sea level, former England Test cricketer and former England captain, Michael Atherton — he of sand-in-pocket fame — writes that Sree Santh should be banned for The Oval Test match for the beamer that he bowled in the ill-tempered match at Nottingham.
Now why is it that these former bad boys of cricket consistently sprout a halo on their heads the moment they give up their bats for either a pen or a microphone? Is there an automatic passage of rites that makes them do this? Or is it a necessary condition of employment? Is it written into their contracts that they will submit articles (or spew their nonsense on air) from a pedestal placed at 35,000 ft?
Atherton starts the article with the oldest slant in the writing industry when it comes to comic relief in an otherwise serious article. He says, “One name, though, should be missing from the scorecard, that of Shanthakumaran Sreesanth. Not to save the printing industry some ink, but to send out the message that the beamer has no place in cricket.” That article opener made me lose my respect for the article as well as its writer right there! Making fun of someones’ name is the oldest trick in the book — and the most puerile one too — Atherton! Kids lose this trick when they are about 10 years old! My advice to Atherton — and I feel compelled to do so, really, for it seems that his sub-editor let that through to the print run — would be “If you can’t think of anything really funny to write or say… Just don’t.”
The next pragraph in the article convinced me that this was a concerted attack, meant to put the Indians off their game; sensationalism of this ilk could, apart from selling newspapers, easily deflect attention away from Jellygate. In going down this road, Atherton has only shown — to me at least — that he has lost his sense of objectivity.
Atherton thunders that the person responsible for placing these Jelly beans has had a swift reminder that Test cricket, “especially involving India“, is a serious business.
Wrong Athers. Test cricket is serious business regardless of who it involves. It has no place for jelly beans. It has no place for sand in the pocket either! A former England captain should know that Test cricket is serious business. Period. It has nothing to do with the geography, intensity, religion, quality, colour or the seriousness of the opposition. A Test match should be played seriously even if it is between Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. I am surprised Atherton hasn’t learned this basic tenet despite his many years of experience as a top-flight cricketer.
However, while cricket does not admit jelly beans or sand-in-pocket, it has admitted — though not condoned — the presence of beamers from day-dot. Can we get that right please, Atherton?
The beamer is a terrible ball. Of that there is no doubt. It has the capacity to decapitate. But there are two aspects about the beamer that are important to note. (a) Whether we like it or not, it does happen. (b) It is incredibly impossible to prove that it was deliberately bowled.
The use of beamers is governed by Law 42.6 of cricket. The offending bowler is no-balled and issued with a warning. A repeat incurs a ban, as was the case with Waqar Younis in the 2003 Cricket World Cup.
Typically a beamer is quite hard to bowl because the ball is usually released very early on in the action.
Furthermore, the propensity to bowl beamers increases with sweaty palms and hyperhidrotic bodies — people who sweat profusely. One look at the number of sweat bands Sree Santh wears is enough to suggest that he is perhaps hyperhidrotic. Ditto Brett Lee. Little wonder that Brett Lee and Sree Santh have been recent beamer offenders. Even the great Wasim Akram had a propensity to bowl beamers.
The fact that Atherton appears to have ignored these simple facts as he penned his article suggests to me that he was probably fuelled by his own sense of disappointment at the loss at Nottingham; that he was possibly blinded by his passion for an England win. After all, England had almost won the previous game. After all, England are in danger of losing ground on their admirable home-turf win-record.
If more proof were needed that Athers was fuelled by a deep sense of anger and disappointment at Englands’ loss, it was immediately available in the article. He dismisses Jellygate with a nonchalant wave of his hand. He condones the silly jelly episode by suggesting that it was only a “puerile prank gone wrong; harmless, silly and unlikely to be repeated“.
How does Atherton know that it was only a puerile prank? How does he know that it was unlikely to be repeated? More gallingly, how does he know that Sree Santh’s beamer will be repeated? Does he know that a ball that took off from a jelly bean planted at length would do any less damage than a beamer? And yet, he has been quick to dismiss the jelly bean prank as “harmless, silly and unlikely to be repeated“. Should this man be allowed to write and speak?
The most offending line in Atherton’s article, however, is the one that immediately follows his summary pardon of the English team.
He writes, quite alarmingly that the jelly belly affair was not particularly smart either “since it has alerted everyone to the method used by England to try to induce some extra swing“.
Is he admitting to a theory that has been doing the rounds for many years now? The theory that England’s bowlers have always used performance-altering and illegal substances to alter the swing of the ball? Is that the admission that Atherton has implicitly made? Nathan Bracken was the first to suggest that England bowlers use mints and jelly beans to gain extra reverse swing. Simon Jones and the entire England establishment came down on Bracken like a tonne of bricks and rubbished his outpouring as nothing but sour grapes as a result of The Ashes loss.
With the definitiveness of Athertons’ recent admission (“it has alerted everyone to the method”), there is clearly more to it than meets the eye!
In the presence of such evidence surrounding the presence of jelly beans on the pitch — albeit circumstantial — Atherton’s ability to ignore, pardon and accept this clear breach of the spirit and the laws of the game is beffudling at best and galling, at worst. In the light of this, his persecution of Sree Santh, against whom there is absolutely no evidence of premeditation, shows nothing but the depth of immaturity and a galling sense of imbalance in Atherton.
Using substances such as vaseline, sand, bottle tops, mints and jelly to obtain extra swing goes against the spirit of the game. These are wrongs. There are no two ways about this. Can we get this right please Atherton? The fact that Atherton thinks that England’s jelly tactics in Nottingham was wrong because it merely “alerted” the authorities to something that is perhaps common practice shows Atherton is very very poor light.
One could pursue an angle whereby it could be shown that Atherton, by using his position in high office, has painted himself as an opportunistic and callous individual who is able to turn a blind eye to the misdemeanors of his own tribe while pursuing a vitriolic agenda against a member of an opposing tribe against whom the evidence is absolutely non-existant at best — and at worst, there is some evidence to support pathology around propensity to sweat profusely.
With his inherent ability to turn his eye to a blatant crime, the question I ask is whether or not Atherton should be allowed to wield either the pen or the microphone? I believe there is enough evidence to suggest a state of imbalance, if not at the very least, inordinate bias.
Atherton then thumps the table with this tripe. “But I have no doubt that Sreesanth’s rancorous spell, which included the beamer and the no-ball, was the most glaring example in the match of something that ran completely counter to the spirit of the game. Forget the jellybeans and inane chatter.”
Perhaps Sree Santh’s spell was indeed rancorous, spiteful and venenous, although we have no way of proving premeditated rancour. It was certainly ugly. Pietersen was not impressed with the beamer. No batsman will ever be. Pietersen admitted openly to being shaken and imbalanced by the beamer. It was a terrible passage in play. It did not look pretty at all. Of that I have no doubt. But how did all of this translate into Atherton having “no doubt” that it was the most glaring example of something that ran against the spirit of the game? Where is the evidence? Where is the proof? The evidence that England did something against the spirit of the game was there for everyone to see — jelly beans. The evidence that Sree Santh did something against the spirit of the game was there for everyone to see — shoulder-barging. Where is the evidence of premeditation in the ugly beamer that Sree Santh churned? Nothing. If anything, there is evidence to the counter — the inordinately large surface area of the sweat bands on his body; enough at least to suggest a hyperhidrotic state.
A mother can forgive any misdemeanor by her own child, but would readily spew sanctimony spurred by juices of mistrust when it comes to her neighbours’ child.
Nothing proves this more than Athertons’ tripe.