The Light Roller: Ben Stokes' self-inflicted injury tells us a lot about the lonely pressure of individuals in a team sport

Diary of a cricket obsessive

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The Independent Online

In a non-contact sport, sometimes players' only physical release causes damage to themselves

Sportsmen get injured. Cricketers bust knees while bowling, crack ribs while batting and fracture hands in pursuit of combat victory against steel lockers.

England's build-up to the World T20 has been so shambolic that it is tempting to believe the tournament itself can only see things improve. But the self-inflicted injury suffered by Ben Stokes says more about cricket than about England.

There is, after all, no other sport in which the individual faces such pressure in a team context without (unless they are a fast bowler) an outlet for releasing their frustration physically against the opposition. There are no tackles, no scrums, and little argy-bargy.

For batsmen going through a bad trot, there is the certain knowledge that poor dismissals will eventually lead to them being dropped: and there may be little the player feels he or she can do about it.

No wonder then, that from club ground to the international arena, cricket is littered with tales of punched walls and smashed windows, of hurled chairs and bats wrapped around trees.  It's not big and it's not clever but it is almost certainly inevitable.

 

The body of evidence for a T20-inspired spin resurgence is only skin-deep

If England are going to charge to T20 glory in Bangladesh over the coming weeks it is unlikely that Stokes would, in any case, have been the key to success.

Recent experiences in the Caribbean have done nothing to diminish the notion that spin is the dominant factor in the shortest form of the game. It is striking that in the current ICC player rankings for international T20s, nine of the top ten bowlers are spinners. Against the West Indies, Stephen Parry, James Tredwell and Ravi Bopara's medium-pace all had their moments.

The success of slow-bowling often leads pundits to assert that the T20 format has led to a resurgence in the art. Yet it is notable that most of the top T20 proponents are short-form specialists. Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree, currently numbers one and two, have yet to set the test world alight (Narine has taken twenty test wickets at over 40 each, while Badree has played more T20 internationals (15) than first class matches (12)). Of the ICC’s top ten bowlers, only Saeed Ajmal and Shakib Al Hasan are test match regulars.

It is this division of the game and its players into a variety of format specialisms that most imperils its future.

 

As millions tune in to the World T20, there will be no breaking Brad

In the hurly-burly of the office, as deadlines come and go, as news breaks and as front pages are held, it is sometimes tempting to think that the chance of personal international honours has rolled inexorably into the distance.  Keen readers (mum, dad) will know that this is a perennially troubling sore-point for the Light Roller.

The retirement of innumerable greats in the last twelve months has magnified those feelings of what might (dreamily) have been. The continued excellence of a few elder statesmen - Misbah, Mahela to name just two - has been the only counterwieght.

Now, the realisation that 43-year-old Brad Hogg is going to be a serious force at the World T20 has changed everything. Nigh on a decade of opportunity now stretches ahead of me, the forging of a decent amatuer then professional career surely all that stands in the way of the selectors' nod.

To the nets!

 

A cock and balls story

In case you missed it, spare a thought for Daniel Worrall, suspended Down Under (metaphorically) for scratching the image of a penis into a pitch that was under preparation for a Grade final.

It is not clear whether he has been penalised for the quality of his art or for tampering with the balls.

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