It’s a common criticism of modern cricket that there are too many disruptions; too many conferences and unscheduled drinks breaks. On Sky, David Lloyd has taken to drawing attention to them with an impassioned: “Get on with the gaaaame.”
You can hear the frustration in his voice when he says this and it’s become an irritating catchphrase. Perhaps this is deliberate because at heart it’s not really Lloyd who’s the cause of the irritation.
But there’s more
We knew all of this. We knew stoppages in play were an issue. What we didn’t realise until Saturday was the frequency with which England send messages from dressing room to pitch. These skittering little errands don’t always result in a stoppage. Often it all takes place while the bowler is walking back to its mark, but it’s still annoying.
We go and see a live England match once or twice a year, so it’s not like we were ignorant of the fact that this happened. The difference on Saturday was the frequency. It honestly seemed like one of the team’s high-vis messengers was out there ferrying a helmet, a bottle, some medication or whatever pretty much every other ball.
England station two pitch invaders in camping chairs beneath the balcony, constantly primed for action. When a wicket falls, they both run out carrying bags of bidons. Two balls later, one of them will be out there again, often carrying a single bottle as if the liquid has simply run straight through a bowler’s sieve-like digestive system.
They’re not really there to deliver water, of course. They’re there to deliver something much more valuable – information. The umpires seem to turn something of a blind eye so long as it doesn’t actually slow things down at all. And it doesn’t, for the most part. It is sly and quick, but still infuriating because it gives the impression of a team being micromanaged.
Does it matter?
The regular fall of wickets in that evening session perhaps meant that the interlopers’ tabards were even more highly visible than normal, but that really just highlighted how often this is happening anyway. Maybe we’re assuming too much about what was going on, but it didn’t smack of players being allowed to think for themselves, which was a major criticism of the side at the end of what we’re knowingly going to refer to as the previous era.
We can only guess what is being said – and perhaps the whole problem was exacerbated on this occasion by the captain needing updates about Stuart Broad’s trip to hospital and James Anderson’s lurgy-induced time off the field – but it surely didn’t need to happen as often as it did.
If they really are giving the bowlers advice and new directives are being issued every two or three balls, then there is simply no room for a bowler to test his own theories. This would make the leather-flingers little more than gristly conduits for those who are poring over the data back in the dressing room.