Columnists 5.2.2018 12:26 pm

An open letter to the ICC and their peckish umpires

Screw those two runs! It's lunch time!. (Photo by Christiaan Kotze/Gallo Images)

Screw those two runs! It's lunch time!. (Photo by Christiaan Kotze/Gallo Images)

Seriously, what is all the fuss about being inflexible about the lunch break in the 2nd ODI between the Proteas and India?

Dear International Cricket Council and match officials,

Professional sport can be so ruthless that it sometimes freaks me out.

Why must everything be so sharp, clinical and all about winning?

And why must we forsake sacred traditions like lunch during a cricket match just for the sake of “common sense”?

I’m therefore so grateful that you guys stood your ground during Sunday’s second ODI between the Proteas and India at SuperSport Park in Centurion, that even with the Indians only needing two more runs to win, umpires Adrian Holdstock and Aleem Dar took the players off for the mandatory 40-minute break.

I couldn’t believe how outspoken some of the television commentators were about the decision.

Seriously, Mike Haysman was a decent first-class cricketer and is a very astute commentator but he never played international cricket.

What on earth does he know about the finer points of elite-level cricket?

And that bloody Michael Holding!

He called the umpires’ course of action “ridiculous”.

He was a legendary fast bowler for the West Indies but the man last played international cricket in 1987.

The world and the game has moved on since then and as a cricketer who plied his trade in the so-called golden era of traditionalism, he really should know how sacred lunch is!

Holding talks about these “illogical” decisions further driving fans away from the game and making it unattractive to watch.

But where is the humanity in all of this?

By the time India needed just two runs to win from 31 overs, the umpires had extended the session by 15 minutes already and 51.2 overs had already been bowled.

That’s one hell of a long session to stand as an umpire.

It would’ve been inhumane to them to make an exception to the lunch rule and allow India to score those required two runs.

What if Kagiso Rabada or Tabraiz Shamsi – of whoever would’ve bowled that over – had bowled a maiden?

It would’ve meant another three to five minutes of extreme hunger pains.

I was so relieved when the umpires could go off and replenish their energy and it was also great to see how your wonderfully transparent match referee, Andy Pycroft, didn’t intervene.

Wasn’t it also shocking how at least 80% of the 13 000-strong crowd just left the stadium when lunch was called?

The grass embankments at SuperSport Park are so lovely and there is really some great food on offer too that I can’t understand why the crowd couldn’t just wait those 40 minutes in the baking Centurion sun.

I thought the modern fan didn’t only come to watch the cricket, that they wanted to enjoy the beer and braais.

I couldn’t believe they so desperately wanted India to score those runs before lunch!

Don’t worry about the anti-climatic atmosphere when play resumed after the break, that majority of fans have no clue what makes cricket worth watching.

Sure, the gloss was taken off a really, really good Indian win but that doesn’t matter.

What matters is that cricket ruthlessly keeps its tradition in this ever-changing world and uphold sacred traditions like a lunch break.

Those are far more important than attracting new, different spectators to the sport.

And if cricket’s support base crumbles sometime in the future, at least you can say you stuck to your guns.

I commend that.

Kindest regards,

Heinz Schenk, a true cricket fan

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