On the Front Foot: Long Room, short fuse as MCC pays lip service to sledging

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The Independent Online

In an admirable attempt to clean up the game, the MCC and the England and Wales Cricket Board last week began to put their feet down.

Their aim is to stop misbehaviour in junior cricket. So alarmed have the two august bodies become about sledging among 14-year-olds that last week they launched "Play Hard, Play Fair and Stay in the Game" with the clear implication that those who do not observe new strictures will be out of the game.

It was perhaps unfortunate, therefore, that on the very day they were airing their concerns one of the game's top prizes should reward sledging. At the England Cricketer of the Year awards on Tuesday, Jimmy Anderson received the Twelfth Man moment-of-the-year gong for his verbal spat with Mitchell Johnson during the Ashes series at Perth last winter.

All right, Johnson might have started it but Anderson finished it. And it had been only a few days before the awards that Anderson provoked the wrath of Yorkshire for his unceremonious behaviour. Never could anyone have supposed that sledging would be so honoured in the Long Room at Lord's.

It was probably not what MCC had in mind when they agreed they would enter the 21st century. Teenage players, it seems, are running wild and a new code of conduct has been circulated to clubs and officials.

The ECB's head of non-first-class cricket said: "There is no place for bad behaviour in cricket." But it seems there is.

No more Tests of stamina

What a convivial occasion the awards dinner was. It rightly celebrated but did not glorify the Ashes victory, and proceedings were superbly orchestrated by Nasser Hussain.

The Cricketer of the Year was Jonathan Trott but maybe the star of the evening was Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman. Under gentle probing from Hussain, Clarke admitted that the ECB had made scheduling mistakes, had expected too much from players and were determined to get it right. No more seven-Test summers then.

Opinion still split on 50 overs

By common consent, the recent World Cup saved 50-over cricket. Or gave it a stay of execution. That has now been recognised by Cricket Australia's plan to ditch the split-innings trial they have been running domestically.

Although the recommendation has yet to be formally adopted, it is a clear sign that too much tinkering has made the game too artificial. Indeed, the Australian board intends to continue reducing the restrictions on the number of overs a bowler can bowl and increasing the number of bouncers.

The most pertinent fact is that it will continue to play 50-over cricket because that is the format to be used in the 2015 World Cup. Whereas in England they continue to mess about dangerously with a 40-over competition while insisting their primary aim is to win the World Cup. Some hope.

Some initial thoughts

The latest entries for the apposite phrases using cricketers' initials competition are as follows: Ken Fisher rolls back the years for Denis (D C S) Compton and comes up with Don't Criticise Sweeping Compton.

Chris Sladen returns to the Sri Lankans, whose manifold initials suggested it in the first place. Left-arm spinner H M R K B Herath is How Many Runs Kindly Bestowed, a tad unfair since he is Kevin Pietersen's latest nemesis. Or there's B A W Mendis, Barely A Wicket.

Keep them coming.

s.brenkley@independent.co.uk

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