In some parts of England, they talk about ‘schools cricket’ – note the plural. This is a bizarre, alien form of the game in which posh 15-year-olds play on immaculate grounds in exquisite locations having been expertly coached by former internationals. ‘School cricket’ (singular) is rather different.
In school cricket, everyone is useless and there is no gear. At best, the batsmen will be sharing a set of pads and if there are gloves, they’ll be those ones with the spiky rubber bits on the back. The game is played on a bobbly football field with cut grass left behind in clumps. Even if there were a boundary, no-one could reach it because of the bats and terrain.
We thought of school cricket while watching Ravindra Jadeja’s wickets from this series. To be clear, this isn’t a reflection on his ability. It’s more to do with his bowling style and the batsmen’s ability.
Jadeja trots up to the crease and delivers the ball round-arm at about 50mph. That is how you bowl in school cricket – slowly and round-arm. He is aiming at the stumps, because that is what you do in school cricket (there is no point having elaborate plans). The batsman then misses the ball, even though it doesn’t spin or do anything and finds that he has been bowled. Ravindra Jadeja then takes the bat off the batsman so that he can have a go at batting.
Okay, so the last bit doesn’t happen, but the rest of it is no different to school cricket. Basically, Jadeja is bowling slow, straight deliveries with a round-arm action and England’s finest batsmen are missing them. Why is this?
We’re told it’s because they are playing for the turn and this begs the question: “Why are you playing for the turn?”
This is a pretty decent question when Jadeja’s bowling, because he doesn’t really spin the ball a right lot. It’s not a bad question all round though. Is this really how professional batsmen approach spin bowling? We thought it was all about playing back and watching the turn or playing forward and negating the turn? Is just sort of guessing where the ball might end up and aiming for that particular patch of air a genuine gameplan?
This isn’t rhetoric. We’re actually asking. Do professional cricketers actually do this deliberately, expecting that they will succeed?