It is possible to comprehend a game of cricket in terms of resource management.
The 101st Test encounter between England and India reached the half way stage in terms of wickets available to each side shortly after five o’clock on day two of five possible days – that is, in a touch under two-fifths of the available time.
Cricketers talk about a game being ‘in a hurry’. This game is in the type of hurry that the hare was in when, wakened from a deep slumber beneath a shady tree by an intruding sense of unease, it spied the tortoise up-ahead a human foot from the finish line, and sped off flustered and unsteady, disorientated by the unfamiliar condition of the pursuing rather than the pursued.
The batsmen in this Test have been similarly disorientated and taken into unfamiliar territory by the nature of the Trent Bridge wicket that they are playing on and the characteristics of the liquid (air) through which the ball is travelling.
Help was at hand thanks to the presence in the ground of Professor Julius Sumner Miller. (Third Man, on calmer reflection, may have been deceived by some fiendish impersonator in fancy dress.)
“Why is it so?” the batsmen could have asked the good Professor when the ball swung late or did not do so, or when the ball reared with the force of a Harrier jet taking off from aircraft carrier in a heavy sea or did so next delivery with the feebleness of a Tiger Moth.
With what passion Sumner Miller could have demonstrated in either dressing room the principle of Bernoulli with its commonsense-defying effects of pressure and temperature on liquids!
“My view is this,” the Professor might have explained to those Project Managers, Flower and Fletcher, “We teach nothing. We do not teach cricket nor do we teach cricketers. What is the same thing: No one is taught anything! Here lies the folly of this business. We try to teach somebody nothing. This is a sorry endeavour for no one can be taught a thing. What we do, if we are successful, is to stir interest in the matter at hand, awaken enthusiasm for it, arouse a curiosity, kindle a feeling, fire up the imagination.”
Professional batsmen rarely show their emotions. They discover early in their career the value of inscrutability. They show no pain when hit. They communicate no admiration when beaten by the bowler’s guile.
However, in this match we have seen more expressions of shock and awe from the batsmen than in a whole career, such has been the volatility produced by the extraordinary playing conditions.
Stuart Broad took six wickets for 46 in 24.1 overs. He even took a hattrick, a rare enough event in Test cricket. Yet long after his feat has been forgotten, the memory of VVS Laxman and Raul Dravid batting in these conditions in the morning session will remain etched on the memory.
93 runs they put on, most of them in boundaries. Dravid, taming the willful ball as he shepherded it through an imaginary gap in that hurdled fence made by the slips and gully, went on to make 117.
Laxman, driving square through the covers with a languid bat or picking up the ball with the apparent effortlessness of a boy scrumping an apple in an orchard and tossing it over the wall made by midwicket for his friends to enjoy, will have been disappointed to edge a loosener from Bresnen to Prior for 54.
Interviewed after the end of the day’s play, when England remained 43 runs behind India’s first innings total of 288, with 9 of their available resource of wickets remaining, Dravid explained, “What we do, if we are successful, is to stir interest in the matter at hand, awaken enthusiasm for it, arouse a curiosity, kindle a feeling, fire up the imagination.”
So, it had been Sumner Miller.
It is therefore with awakened enthusiasm, curiosity and imagination that the resumption of play is awaited. Resource Management be damned.