Cricket is a sport like no other when it comes to polarising topics.
Perhaps it’s the fact that the ball is not in play for a large portion of any given match, but cricket tends to throw up “one or the other” viewpoints at a rapid rate.
Cricket is the ultimate Rorschach test for fans – two people can be sitting side by side in the stands watching the same inkblot out on the pitch and seeing two very different events taking place.
And in 2023 it’s been a red-letter year for split opinions – you’re either in one camp or the other when it comes to issues like the Bairstow brouhaha, pitch preparations or whether David Warner deserves a Test farewell or not.
Non-cricket nuffies are bemused by the fierceness of debate over what appears to be an inconsequential topic like whether Pat Cummins or Mitchell Starc should bat eighth for the Australian Test team.
The answer is of course Cummins even though his average (16.3) is lower than Starc’s 21.41 and the left-handed has a highest score of 99 compared to the skipper’s 63. Cummins can hang around with the recognises batters much longer than Starc, who is very hit and miss.
Here are some other cricket conundrums which have no grey area – you’re either in one camp or the other and no further debate will be entered into.
Bairstow stumping fair enough or not in spirit of cricket? This was largely split down England versus Australian lines but it was out, whether Bairstow liked it or not or thought so or not. And after the footage emerged of him repeatedly trying similar tactics that match and earlier in his career, his persistent protests about it are nothing more than pigheadedness.
Bazball – a revolution or, as Nathan Lyon puts it, a load of shit? There’s no doubt England have benefited from adopting Brendon McCullum’a high-octane approach but there’s more smoke and mirrors than magic in this philosophy.
DRS: It’s accepted for clear-cut decisions like run-outs but there are still doubters about murkier verdicts like “umpire’s call” for LBWs. If it’s going to clip the stumps it’s going to knock the bails off so give it out. The current system is actually very good but there are too many incorrect reviews available to international teams.
Nightwatchman – worthwhile or not? Statistically they get in the way but many captains swear by them and they’ve become more in vogue in modern times.
Mankads: Is it dirty pool for a bowler to run out a non-striker? No more so than backing up too far. The crease is there for a reason – if you need clarification on that, refer all questions to Mr J Bairstow of Yorkshire.
Pitch preparation – home nation tells curator what they want or they should let groundstaff do their best? No touring team expects too many favours when it comes to the surface rolled out for a match. But outright pitch doctoring is a different kettle of fish and India, in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series and the World Cup semi-final switch, took it too far on multiple occasions this year.
Council prepares your pitch or the old bloke at the club who’s been doing it for decades? At club level a similar debate rages. One association will swear by a policy of paying for local council staff to prepare the turf pitch while the neighbouring region will rely on each club being in charge of rolling the wicket. The council method leads to more neutral surfaces but if it rains after lunchtime on a Friday, the chances of getting on aren’t too crash hot.
Bring your afternoon tea or home team put on a spread? Another one on the grassroots front, is it better to rely on the host club to put on the food for the break in play or is it better for the players to fend for themselves? This tradition was always a lottery but it seems to have died out in the post-pandemic era.
Warner a legend deserving of a farewell of a has been getting in the way: Anyone who is a regular reader on The Roar will know my thoughts on this matter – the selectors have not only missed a chance to get the next long-term opener into the team before a bunch of other veterans retire, they’ve set a poor precedent for when the next established star has an extended form slump.
Ponting or Smith? There is no debate about Australia’s greatest batter or all time but the Best Since Bradman has been an ongoing topic pretty much since The Don called it a day 75 years ago. Ricky Ponting had a greater body of work over Tests and ODIs but Smith has a superior average. In Tests, it’s Smith, overall it’s Ponting.
Lara or Tendulkar? And as for the international modern-day Bradman clones, these two had similarly superb careers which ran parallel to each other’s a generation ago. As great as Sachin Tendulkar was, Brian Lara was better.
Stuart Broad – prat or agent provocateur? Deep down, most Aussies know that his antics would have been perfectly acceptable if he was part of the team wearing green caps during Ashes battles. But it’s something that is not uttered out loud.
Give your teammate out LBW (only if it’s plumb) or never do it (even if it’s plumb)? Another one from clubland. When you have to umpire in the lower grades and your teammate gets rapped on the pad right in front, do you send them on their way because that’s the right thing to do and hope the other team follows the same policy or do you give it a long look before sternly shaking your head because you know the other team is not going to follow the same policy? And then make sure your teammate shouts you a drink after the game.
Murali’s action: He chucked it. The combination of the bent arm and the wrist movement was not just an optical illusion but an unfair advantage.
Too many Blues in Test team or not enough? If you’re from NSW, you see it as the state’s right to have at least half of the national side being a Blueblood but for the rest of the country, it’s an ongoing source of contention.
And the most contentious of them all …. Bodyline? You wanna talk spirit of cricket, hey England. Where was it when Douglas Jardins decided the only way to get Bradman out was to knock his block off and pepper every other Australian player with short-pitched bowling. Ninety years later the stench still lingers. Although he did get the desired result. After 15 straight winless Tests in Australia, the Poms might give it another try the next time they’re Down Under.