[This is my Sunday newspaper column for Fairfax from 10th Jan, except this version has the ending on it.]
Late in the week, Australian cricket captain Steve Smith revealed that the nation was deprived of an opportunity to witness thrill-a-minute style play to achieve a result on the fifth day of the rain-harpooned third test against the West Indies.
From published comments he seemed inclined to believe this was due to a failure of nerve by the tourists and their captain Jason Holder in the face of a perfectly fair and reasonable offer.
An alternative point of view might be that the offer itself constituted a temporary loss of mind, marbles and plot by those who conceived this Baldrick-like cunning plan in the first place.
According to Smith, the basic idea was that the West Indies would declare early in the day’s play, the Australians would then declare their first innings at 0-0, and then – for want of a better term because there IS no better term – contrive a situation where the tourists would achieve a lead of 370 and declare, leaving the Aussies with 70 overs to chase down that total.
Basically, there were going to be more pre-arranged declarations than in any year’s worth of official business over at UN headquarters.
In case anyone understandably finds this scenario about as believable as a news story announcing that the common barramundi has developed wings, landing gear and in-flight movies, let’s hear it from Steve Smith himself, as quoted in a Fairfax report by Chris Barrett:
“I would have declared 0-0 and then bowled lob-ups for seven or eight overs or whatever it is.”
The captain took it to Australian coach Darren Lehmann, who, Smith said, “read through the rules (and) said you’re allowed to do that kind of thing.”
This suggests that either Lehmann has questionable speed-reading skills, or the ICC needs to get out the angle grinder, head to the toolshed and do a major rebore job on the official rulebook.
What apparently – and astoundingly – wasn’t addressed in any of this was that if this otherwise flawless master-plan had gone ahead what it would look like out on the field.
More specifically, what impression would be made on the media, cricket fans and the sporting world in general, while the Aussies tossed up lobs and lollipops, fell over each other, tripped over the ball, and performed whatever other gems of physical comedy were going to be involved in carrying their opponents to an previously agreed total in what was nominally a competitive test cricket match.
The likely prognosis would have been the exact opposite of many motion picture comedies featuring Ben Stiller – i.e. everybody would have been laughing their asses off.
It’s a shame that the legendary Harlem Globetrotters basketball clown Meadowlark Lemon died recently. From a career standpoint, he would have been perfectly positioned to advise on timing of the desired contrived score-line, as well as when to introduce the mandatory trick ball on a piece of elastic and throw a bucket of confetti over the on-field officials.