Tag Archives: Ed Smith

Das Ding an Sich or Drawbridge Down – Why It’s Time Team England Management Went for a Clumsy Solution


Those who have visited the National Cricket Performance Centre, Loughborough, will know that the glass doorway to this nerve centre of cricket in England and Wales is approached by way of a bridge, all rather reminiscent of, among other besieged entrances, the one taken by Charles 1st into his Carisbrooke confinement.

Phenomenally the span is fixed, but ‘the thing in itself’, the noumenal, is a draw bridge and the draw bridge has been up for many months.

Yesterday, inside the Centre’s print room, where copies of the infamous 84 page Nutritional Guidance for Hosts to the England and Wales Touring Party to the Antipodes 2013/14 were impressed from the divine (original) form, the machine was whirring again.

“’Ou’s this geezer Dildo anyway?”

“Chris Dillow? He’s a Marxists the Gaffer thinks a lot ov.”

“Waz this about then? Seys “Revenge Effects”. We planning fer 2015?”


“Revenge. I likes the sound of that.”

Chris Dillow, who Third Man once described as ‘that radical left arm around the wicket bowler whose front-on and off-the -wrong-foot action delivers very late away swing – a sort of Proctor through the looking glass’ has written an important piece and it is refreshing to see that the Central High Command Cricket England ™ has registered its importance and is already disseminating it’s intelligence to underlings.

The Dillow piece is an extended comment on this from Smudger Smith (RHB, RAMF), copies of which had already emerged warm from the copier and are being collated.

“Smudge ‘as cum up wif anotha one then?”

“Quality, mate, quality, that boy.”

“As soon as I sees him, I seys, ‘quality bat’.”

“A rare’ne.”

“An ‘ard worker wif the right stuff seys the Gaffer.”

Here’s the point that Smudge makes, ‘Some players need to be managed towards greater discipline, focus and restraint. Others require the opposite encouragement, to be set free from stifling executive control. Hence two questions – where each player stands on that spectrum, and how to move them in the appropriate direction – add up to a definitive set of judgements for all captains and managers.’

“Yer see, Smudge’s using an early two dimenshunal form of Cult’ral Theory: the ‘higherarchical’ an the ‘individulistic’.”

“Yer means he’s not yet factored in the ‘fatalist, the ‘egalitarian’ and the ‘autonomous’?


“But the boy done gud?”

“O yeh.”

Thankfully, copies of Organising and Disorganising: A Dynamic and Non-linear Theory of Institutional Emergence and Its Implication by Michael Thompson are already a well thumbed essential in the kit bags of all support staff. (WISH)

As the blurb says, “There are five ways of organising: the hierarchical, the egalitarian, the individualistic, the fatalistic and the autonomous. Each approach is a way of disorganising the other four: without the other four, it would have nothing to organise itself against.

“In Organising and Disorganising, Michael Thompson gives a detailed explanation of the dynamics of these five fundamental arrangements that underlie ‘Cultural Theory’.

“We may believe that our perspective is the right one and that any interaction with opposing views is a messy and unwelcome contradiction. So why should egalitarians engage with individualists, or hierachists with egalitarians?

“Using a range of examples and analogies, the author shows how the best outcomes depend upon an essential argumentative process, which encourages subversions that are constructive whilst discouraging those that are not.

“In this way each approach gets more of what it wants and less of what it doesn’t want. Michael Thompson calls these best outcomes ‘Clumsy Solutions’.”

“Lower the drawbridge and let the others in!” yelled Andy (WISH).  

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Finding the Northumberland-charity-night-match Within

Two of Third Man’s favourite books are It never rains … A Cricketer’s Lot by Peter Roebuck and On and Off the Field by Ed Smith.  Both are diaries of a cricket season written by young professionals battling with their demons and insecurities in the perenial search for form.  The first describes the 1983 season, the second that of 2003.

In early 1983 the Somerset squad meet up for pre-season training at Millfield School.    Roebuck has just returned from spending the winter teaching and coaching in Australia.  He feels fit having spent time training with some Rugby players down under, but is unwell having eaten a tinned fruit cocktail during a stop over in Bombey.  “Today I am ill and didn’t go to work – does work sound okay?” 

He is experimenting with what is now called a trigger movement.  “Can’t quite work out how to bat this season.  Always before, I’ve stood still and blocked the ball.  Today I tried to get more behind it by moving before the ball is bowled … Trouble is, it doesn’t work for me somehow.  I don’t know how Boycott and the rest do it so well.” 

Roebuck is a very fine writer and never more so than when he is analysing aspects of the game that he understands so well.  Through him we get a ring-side seat close to the action. “Good players appear to arrive in the right place at the right time as if it were the most natural thing in the world.  They are always balanced and in command of the ball, always playing the ball near to their bodies.  How do they do it?  They play very late.  Apart from that, you can’t really generalise about excellent batsmen.”

Wednesday 14 April (happy Jungian coincidence as TM is writing this on the anniversary) finds Roebuck making his acquaintance with the club’s new bowling machine.  “It’s a strange contraption with splints and what appears to be tyres whirling round. It shoots the ball out without warning  so that if you put it on high speed you feel like a coconut.”  [What would PMR make of Merlyn, the latest Warne-imitating spin machine that ‘beeps’ and flashes its lights before spitting out late drifting, steep dipping, buzzing breaks ?]

In 20 minutes he faces 150 balls.  Gradually more end up past the bowler.  [TM remembers Ken Palmer doing this exercise a few years before in much the same way but using expendable young net bowlers.  Might be a Somerset thing.] 

As pre-season continues Roebuck appears to be the only person in the club to use the machine – one can imagine the views of the other professionals, which include I.T. Botham, both on the use of the machine itself and on the eccentricity shown by Roebuck in using it at all.

Eccentricity?  Saturday 30th July v Lancashire at Old Trafford (1st day) and Roebuck is off alone in Manchester that evening, to see a play at the Royal Exchange.  “It must be heartbreaking for actors steeped in experience to play to half-empty houses.  Not that there were many at Old Trafford this afternoon for Richards and Clive Lloyd.”

Somerset’s stumbling season reaches its special climax at a Lord’s Nat West final.  “Arrived to find a deserted visitors’ dressing room filled only by balloons and telegrams.  There had been long lines of people waiting for the gates to open, and these provided the first inkling that the day would contrast sharply with yesterday’s nonsense at Taunton.”

His fortunes conclude with a charity night match in Northumberland.  He bats brilliantly (according to the local newspaper) to the astonishment of his team-mates.  He hits straight sixes, backs away to play some delicate late cuts and steps inside a left-arm spinner to lift him over cover.  He reflects that he’d never even tried to bat like this before, never even given himself the chance to play these shots.

Was it a freak?  “Perhaps the insecurity of batting, sharpened as it is by being my career, has caused me to concentrate on the avoidance of failure rather than accepting the challenges … To succeed in this I would have to be more tolerant of bad dismissals, I’d have to endure mishap with a shrug and a laugh.  Probably I’ve been too intense about it all.” 

In Roebuck’s autobiography, Sometimes I Forgot to Laugh, his father described his son as ‘obscure and oblique’.  Certainly no batsman’s stance ever expressed so vividly the internal contortions of a batsman’s psyche.  Now this mind, clear and direct from the media centre, helps to disentangle our thinking on the game in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald.

This is a must read for cricketers wishing to escape their demons and find the Northumberland-charity-night-match within them.  And essential reading for Directors of Cricket, selectors and coaches who should create the environment in which young cricketers can play without fear. 

It never rains … looks to be out of print but can be purchased at Abebooks for 65p plus postage at a number of booksellers. 

Tomorrow TM hopes to borrow the Wellsian time contraption to visit 2003.

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