Mindless red tape is admission of guilt

Amol Rajan

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Lymington Cricket Club has been playing at its ground in Hampshire for nearly 200 years. Village cricket is England's greatest achievement and, as Lymington evolved from a sleepy dwelling to a market town with ferry link to the Isle of Wight, its cricketing denizens have been the beating heart of the community.

But now their future is imperilled. The local council has voted to move the club to the outskirts of the town unless it erects a £50,000 net around the boundary to stop passers-by and members of the adjacent tennis club being hit. Naturally the small club hasn't got a spare £50,000 knocking around, so eviction seems likely.

Amazingly, not a single person has ever been hit by a cricket ball emanating from the cut strip in Lymington. It's the mere possibility that council-wallahs want to guard against. Councillor Penny Jackman said: "The plain and frightening reality is cricket balls have been landing at great speed a matter of inches from unsuspecting people."

Howzat! The council claims this isn't a case of "mindless bureaucracy"; but that should be interpreted as an admission of guilt. Call it elf 'n' safety or otherwise, this is a victory for illiberalism and a crushing defeat for common sense, never mind village cricket.

Over the past 15 years, the intrusion of officialdom into our lives has grown unbearable. To think that public servants are employed to compile reports and recommendations on such matters is a matter of national shame. And all to criminalise a course of human action – smashing a bowler for six – which is the very pinnacle of civilisation.

There is no rhyming couplet more satisfying to the human ear than the THWACK! of willow on leather followed by the CRACK! of leather on car windscreen – except, perhaps, when the CRACK! is on the clubhouse of the adjacent tennis club. I made it a habit at my old club, Sinjuns CC in Wandsworth, of aiming for the motor owned by the opposition captain; and if I were ever invited to play down at Lymington, I would aim straight for the pompous puritans of the tennis club who, despite never having been hit by a cricket ball, have confronted Lymington CC with a bleak future.

Tennis is an inferior sport played by inferior people. Rather than stopping batsmen at Lymington hitting local tennis players, we should be encouraging them.

I am happy to make a formal submission to the council about this matter.