Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Round the Wicket?

Right, a quick warning- this is going to involve cricket. Also questions about the subversion of accepted norms. But mostly cricket.

Hopefully, anybody reading beyond that first paragraph will know that cricket is played on a long straight strip of grass twenty-two yards long, with a set of wickets at either end. The current batter stands at one end (along with a wicket keeper, slips, and various other fielders to talk to), while the non-striker, the umpire and the bowler are at various points at the other end. The bowler runs up to one side of the wicket and bowls. But which side?

In cricketing terminology, if you bowl so that your bowling arm is closest to the wickets as you bowl, you are said to be bowling over the wicket. Bowling from the other side is bowling round. Generally, a right handed bowler bowling to a right handed batter will bowl over the wicket.

That's where things have become interesting recently. A number of off spinners (they move the ball back into the right hander) in particular have started bowling around the wicket. Jeetan Patel of New Zeeland seemed to start the trend, but now Muralitharin of Sri Lanka does it extensively, as does England's Grahame Swann. In fact, today Swanny spent almost all the day bowling around the wicket at assorted South Africans.

Which is where we get to our first thought about nonconformity. Things start because people want to do something a bit different, but if they're successful they quickly take over to such an extent that they stop doing normal things as well. You could think of the way poetry has abandoned meter if you want, or the way fashions in music show up and go, or even the way that the odd surprising vampire in fiction has turned into millions of them. I'd rather complain about Murali getting predictable, despite being potentially the most dangerous bowler in the world.

My second thought is this: What looks like a radical idea now has often been tried several times before. Off spinners in the nineteen-fifties often bowled around the wicket, and Jim Laker took several of his nineteen in the 1956 oval test that way. Equally, current 'mystery' spinner Ajantha Mendis is doing little that Jack Iverson or even Warwick Armstrong didn't beat him to, while vampire stories have been around since before Pope Gregory I included a couple in his dialogues.

So, the next time you're thinking about doing something new, consider this: is it new, or are you just following in a long tradition?


Lauren said...

So I'm not a big cricket fan, but have actually "played" it before (when I was in Australia). I like the Cricket tie-in although will have to take your word for the changes in the spinners' bowl. But it is true that many "new" things are just back again. Most new things do come from non-conformity and then the conformists dash upon these new ideas which then seem tried. I think that is why looking at techniques used in the past is a good idea, you never know what old thing will be the next big one. Very interesting post :) Hope you had a nice New Years.

Christina said...

I wonder if Wii has a cricket game. I know they have bowling and I fail that terribly, but it's still fun.

stu said...

Lauren, it was more busy than anything.

Christina, I happen to know that Wii does have a cricket game, and though I haven't played it, I'm told that it's a vast improvement on most others, on the basis that you aren't just pressing a button to make a complicated physical action work perfectly.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I have never seen cricket, but I've always felt a pull toward it. It's like baseball in America, my favorite sport.Yes?

stu said...

Broadly. You should try former Kent and England player Ed Smith's book 'Playing Hardball' if you want a proper comparison of the two.