England and India too full of beans?
No wonder Marcus Trescothick didn’t want to return to international cricket just yet judging by the antics out in the middle during the second Test between England and India.
You don’t want to be fragile in any way if you’re going to have to deal with shoulder barging, vitriolic verbal assaults and most ludicrously of all, the throwing of jelly beans onto the crease by the close fielders.
Perhaps Tresco would have been tickled by the jelly beans if he was the batsman, possibly stooping down to pick one up, eating it, and saying thank you very much to the opposition.
Mike Gatting certainly wouldn’t have missed out on an early appetiser before tea.
However India’s Zaheer Khan was not amused. Paul Collingwood laughed it all off, saying Khan must have preferred the blue ones to the pink. Zaheer himself felt it was disrespectful and insulting.
So at what point does banter become a slur? When does a childish joke become an affront? Timing is everything in comedy, and in the case of the jelly beans, the joke went on too long. The Preamble to the Laws says it is against the Spirit of the Game to seek to distract an opponent (perhaps MCC will seek to add ‘with jelly beans or other candy’).
Respect for your opponents is also integral and the danger is that one person’s quip can soon become another person’s aspersion.
It’s one reason why there is so much trouble with racism in the wider world and the same debate can be applied here: is a comment or action only offensive when it is intended to insult? Or simply when the subject takes umbrage?
If Zaheer Khan felt disrespected by the continual tossing of jelly beans then who are we to say otherwise?
The view of most current players tends to be that ‘mental disintegration’ (as Steve Waugh termed it) is part and parcel of the game, that international cricket is a tough sport and if you can’t stand the heat then you know where to go.
When it comes to verbals, clever jibes are one thing, but we have also seen an unusually lengthy barrage of swear words spitting out of bowlers mouths in this Test.
Aggression is one thing, but this is ugly and inane, and sets a bad example to youngsters who don’t need a degree in lip-reading to fathom what is going on.
On the other hand, physical contact is plain as day, and Sree Santh’s shoulder barge on Michael Vaughan was totally unnecessary, unacceptable, and has been rightly punished.
His yard-long no ball was also outrageous and it is implausible that a professional could get it so wrong by accident.
The upshot of candy-gate is that one jelly bean would have been amusing, but there is always a point at which to stop and get on with the game.
If the aim was simply to distract the batsman then England must have thought they had won when Zaheer lost his rag and brandished his bat towards Kevin Pietersen.
Little did they know what was to come when he took the ball in his hand. A five-for later and India had their sweet revenge.