Sports Letters: Putting on a brave face

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The Independent Online
Sir: As all of those of us who have watched or played cricket will know, the swing of a cricket ball is affected by atmospheric conditions, whatever scientists may say.

Congratulations, then, to the TCCB and Mr Dexter for having the courage to cite facial hair and post- match appearance as influencing the behaviour of bat and ball.

If only this perspicacity had been evident prior to the Indian tour, then the team would have returned unvanquished, but it is perhaps the case that this wisdom is the result of the absorption of the Hindu philosophy of the interrelatedness of all things.

The selectors saved us from some embarrassment by omitting from the party all blond, curly-haired batsmen. In this decision the selectors have been vindicated; none of the match- winning batsmen in the recent series - Azharuddin, Tendulkar and Kambli - had any blond, curly hair.

Also omitted was Russell, whose moustache would have made him a sitting target for the Indian bowlers, and handicapped his performance behind the wickets. The dogged batting performance of the replacement wicketkeepers proved that this was another decision oozing with insight.

How does the hair theory stand up to analysis? I do not have access to the ratings computer but perhaps a few observations might be allowed.

John Emburey has always been, to my recollection, clean-shaven. He has averaged 60 for England over the last six years, admittedly as a bowler. The failure of our other bowlers is entirely due to sartorial deficiency. Cynics will say that it is the failure to bowl line and length that is the problem. There may be some truth in this, but the discipline of wearing a suit, collar and tie forces the adoption of correct bowling techniques. Frank Tyson's success in Australia was due only to his wearing a smart sports jacket.

As for the batsmen, well, pour scorn, if you must, but I have always found that the best preparation to face spin bowling is to adopt the following routine. Shave carefully in the morning. Dry the face thoroughly, as moisture encourages movement of the ball. Apply after-shave to one side of the face only - this will confuse the bowler. Have a suit ready to change into during the luncheon interval.

I will be on the look-out for batsmen to fill the gaps in the England line-up. The following credentials are listed in order of importance.

He must possess a six months' supply of razor blades; he must believe that physical fitness is more important than natural ability, and demonstrate this by having a history of injuries sustained whilst training; he must be willing to sacrifice his England place should a place on a higher- paid 'rebel' tour become available; he must not exhibit (preferably not possess) a sense of humour; he must be older than the player he replaces; in order to get into the Test team, he must be a better player in one-day than in three-day cricket; he must not have blond, curly hair.

Batting ability is optional.

Yours faithfully,

K PHILLIPS

Kingsley, Hampshire

11 March

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