Prior to the appointment of Pat Cummins as Australia’s Test captain, I read all manner of reasons why this would be a disastrous move.
Some of those reasons included:
• They couldn’t captain while they were bowling
• They couldn’t captain while fielding at fine leg
• They’d underbowl themselves
• They’d overbowl themselves
• They’d need to be rested or replaced because of injury, then what would happen?
Interestingly, the majority of these comments seem to come from ex-batsmen, but what they were hiding was the real reason why they thought a fast bowler should not be allowed to captain the side.
Fear of payback!
That’s right. Batsmen are terrified fast-bowling captains are going to remember all the unreasonable things they’ve been forced to endure thanks to batting captains, which would lead them to seek retribution on the batsmen.
Some of these reasons for payback include the following.
A fast bowler develops the plan to get a batsman out, executes their part of the plan perfectly, only to see some gum-chewing batsman fail to take a straight forward catch.
And they don’t even bother to apologise, just keep talking and laughing with their fellow batsmen in the slips.
Bowling quick is really hard work, which is why most batsmen aren’t interested in taking this on. What’s not hard work is bending down and stopping a cricket ball, especially when it’s hit straight at you.
Once again, no apology offered and, in most cases, the fielder/batsman doesn’t even want to look at the furious fast bowler.
Not content with allowing at least one run, the fielder/batsman thinks they can run out a bloke who’s had enough time to safely make their ground, have a chat to the umpire, change their gloves and get on with the game.
Using all the skills they’ve learned from long hours of practice, they shy at the stumps from five metres away, miss by a considerable distance, then watch helplessly as their wayward throw is not backed up by another fielder/batsman, so the ball goes to the boundary – and all these runs are tacked onto the bowlers figures.
Once again, no apology offered, not even an apologetic beer after the day’s play has ended.
Fielding at fine leg
This is where things start to get really cruel.
It’s been a tradition (presumably set by batsmen), that fast bowlers will be ‘rested’ at fine leg. In the modern era, this means they can have a drink, wipe their brow, cop the abuse from the crowd if they’re not playing in Australia… and still be expected to chase down anything that comes within 70 metres of them.
And if the batting pair at the wicket are left and right handed, they’re expected to run anything up to 100 metres from fine leg to fine leg, rather than ask a closer fielder, usually a batsman, to drop back 30 metres and allow the bowler to come up to a position on the offside.
Not only do they probably get to make this run once an over, it can be every ball, if the batsmen hit six singles. Thanks for the rest, skipper!
This is where the cruelty level can go up several notches.
Batting captains love to muck around with their fields. Guys like Virat Kohli will make five or six changes an over, ever over, and nearly always the blokes involved in these changes are the quicks.
They have to move 20 paces to the left, 20 paces to the right often even further, only to be returned to where they were originally because the captain’s changed their mind – every ball.
The quicks often find themselves on the fence looking straight into the afternoon sun, then get abused by their batsman skipper when they miss a chance or don’t see a ball coming their way.
The final fielding indignity is when the shadows are creeping across the ground after a hot day in the field and the fast bowler thinks they’re going to get to stand in the shade.
Not a bit of it. The bowler is moved to a position, exactly one metre from the shadow or worse still, moved into a position well away from the shade and their position is taken by – yep, you guessed it, a batsman/fielder.
Occasionally the skipper will feel some remorse and attempt an explanation like ‘Davey’s feeling a bit hot and might have to bat later so I wanted to give him a spell in the shade’. That goes down remarkably well with the now completely shattered fast bowler.
And the most insidious, the night watchman
A fast bowler has just completed his 20th over in stifling heat and humidity, has helped get the opposition out and thinks he’s entitled to put his feet up because his job’s done for the day.
Not a chance. He gets the tap on the shoulder from the skipper saying ‘Mate, Marnus doesn’t want to bat this evening, so you pad up – just in case’.
So Marnus, who’s paid to bat, but doesn’t want to, gets to sit around in the lovely cool dressing room, while a fast bowler who’s worked their tail off and is paid to bowl, not bat, has to be ready to ‘protect the batting order’ against other rampaging opposition quicks. Yep, that’s fair.
For every slight against a fast bowler by a batsman/captain, there’s a payback by the bowling/captain.
Some of these can be very simple.
Making batsmen field on the side looking directly into the sun – without sunglasses.
Batsmen fielding in slips have to rotate into a deep fine leg position at least once every ten overs or fielding in close without a protector (the latter is also a useful way of deterring dropped catches – drop a catch, guess we’re you’re fielding?).
Bowlers getting first choice where they want to field.
Night watchmen are banned from the team, unless another batsman decides to volunteer.
Others can require more thought.
One beer for every misfield to the affected bowler, regardless whether it goes for runs. If it does, for each run conceded, it will cost the offending batsman a six pack.
The batsman who caused the overthrows has to chase the ball to the fence and has to run it back to the bowler, hand deliver it, then run back into position, all within the space of 60 seconds (we don’t want the over rates to blow out which the fast bowlers will be blamed for).
A dropped catch
The culprit gets to spend quality time at fine leg for the fast bowlers over… then at fine leg for the next over and repeat. Suitable team fines would be imposed post-match.
Another misfield/overthrow/missed catch payback is for fast bowlers to provide throwdown net practice for batsmen, who are not allowed to wear protectors.
I’m sure members of the Fast Bowlers Union are already in contact with Pat Cummins, suggesting he at least think about some payback. There’s no doubt Mitchell Starc would have reminded him of that missed chance by Alex Carey from his bowling, for example.
I’m also confident the batsmen have been made well aware of the payback options, which explains why Australia’s catching has been so outstanding in the series, with Josh Hazlewood, a fast bowler, leading by example.
I hope 2022 brings more great cricket, especially Test cricket, and we all stay safe and well to enjoy it.