Thumbs up in fight against fractures

Cricket Diary
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The Independent Online
Some conundrums are destined not to have solutions. Keeping the head on a pint of beer as it goes down the glass is one, though it is only slightly more vexatious than the problem of how to prevent batsmen from having fingers broken.

Research into both is ceaseless and unsuccessful. As foamless ales continue to be quaffed, so batsmen's digits still line up for fracturing. Nine players from seven counties so far this season have been rapped on the knuckles - in the literal sense that is.

Four are missing from the present round of Championship matches with finger injuries caused when batting. At least one other, wishing to remain anonymous in case the enemy starts aiming for the weak spot, is playing on with a break.

Those absent, in alphabetical order, rather than ranked by severity of injury, are: Jimmy Daley (Durham), Richard Harden (Somerset), Martyn Moxon (Yorkshire) and Robin Smith (Hampshire). Daley and Moxon, in particular, have been this way more often than they would like.

Harden, 30, who is in his benefit year, last broke a finger eight years ago and adopted the philosophical attitude of those confronted with an occupational hazard.

"It's annoying because I'd just got some runs in the Sunday League and felt I was getting back into some form," he said. "Now I've got the problem of trying to get back in the side again. But at least it should only stop me from playing for a fortnight. When it happened in 1988 it was more depressing because I was fighting for a contract then."

Like others, Harden takes preventative measures. He coats his gloves in a protective, pliable plastic known as polyform. If it gets chipped, he simply replaces it and he is convinced it has saved him from breaks before. But not this time. The ball hit his uncoated right index finger.

Other batsmen wear a plastic sleeve inside their gloves. It did not prevent 22-year-old Daley getting his third fracture in a year. Nothing is proof against a break, probably nothing ever will be, but the quest continues.

A new type of glove, designed and backed by a leading batsman (who is not prone to breakages), will be launched shortly. It may provide the final answer, but by the end of next week you can be sure that this week's quartet will not be alone in thinking that batting is all fingers and thumbs.

IF THE National Cricket Membership Scheme eventually has a voice similar to that of the Football Supporters' Association, it will be both respected and feared. So far it is neither, though the Test and County Cricket Board will doubtless not have been thrilled to hear about the organisation's official launch in London on Thursday.

The NCMS wants to be watchdog, pressure group and part of the establishment. Its immediate aim is to sign up as many members as the smallest county (Derbyshire with 3,250) and thence claim equal rights with a seat on the board. Failing that (and they probably will fail) it intends to lobby for the status quo or change as its members see fit.

Its co-ordinator, Richard Hill, said: "All the counties should have asked their members for an opinion when it was decided to change the first day of Championship matches to a Wednesday. They didn't. It's probably too late but we haven't entirely given up on that one yet."

More than 1,000 responses to the NCMS questionnaire have been received, another 3,000 are being sought so a party line can be developed on such issues as overseas players, a divisional championship and the number of knockout competitions. The NCMS, staying nicely afloat thanks to a couple of sizeable private donations, expects answers by August. From its members, that is, not the TCCB.

THE world champions, Sri Lanka (remember them), arrive in Britain today for two exhibition matches. Their presence may also lend weight to the campaign to get them more than one Test match against England in this country between now and 2005. The solitary contest is scheduled for 1998.

Ivan Corea, editor of Sri Lanka Today, and 100 MPs who have signed an early-day motion think this is unfair. The TCCB will not be moved mostly because, as its spokesman Richard Little said, the schedules cannot be moved.

"We have a problem with so many Test-playing nations now. Sri Lanka were very worthy world champions and have made great strides in Tests, but you are talking about two different types of cricket."

This hardly helps Sri Lanka to take even greater strides. Would it not be possible, as the former Sri Lankan captain Anura Tennekoon has suggested, to compromise by playing four Tests instead of five against South Africa in 1998 and then two against Sri Lanka?

AS THE almost runless Sherwin Campbell emerged from the nets the other day, a Durham member placed his arm round the West Indian's shoulders. "Divvent fret, bonny lad," muttered the consoling voice to an uncomprehending Campbell, "yer bound to be cahd. Aa've been here all me life and a'hm frozzen."

One-man stand

At last Ian Salisbury, who figures in many fantasy England teams in the hope he may soon reappear in the real one, has returned. The injured back which kept the Sussex leg spinner out until the rain-sodden fixture against Middlesex was not, however, caused by bowling. "It was to do with posture," he said. "The way I stand and the way I walk were both important factors." Deportment lessons at Lucy Clayton may yet be the answer to the prayers of cricketing romantics.