With Jesse Ryder opting to spend time in the bar with a beer and a burger instead of playing against England, the Kiwis will be down to the last 12 men in the country who know the rules of the game – unless they can rustle up a few more South Africans who even Northants rejected. But players have always opted out of honest work. It’s a mark of the lower classes from which so many are drawn, even today, when trendy teaching has replaced cricket with crochet in our so-called schools.
After The Great War, SF Putney demanded a half-crown bonus on top of his match fee, cynically exploiting the labour shortage with so many brave Tommies under the mud of Picardy. (Things had got so bad that Papa had to go without a chauffeur for months in 1919). Putney’s captain at Lancashire, The Hon Lloyd Bumble, saw it for the Bolshevism it was, and, as you must with incipient revolution, stamped it out immediately. He did not bother to point out that Putney never bowled for more than an hour or so, before he was back in the pavilion with a half of his favourite mild and his pipe – he simply sacked him on the spot, threw his family out of their tied cottage that same evening and gave Putney a dozen lashes for his impertinence. (Try that now, and – believe me, I was only talking about this a couple of years ago with a keen observer of the game – the do-gooders and the Human Rights police from Brussels will be on you like a ton of bricks. It’s the kind of good sense that’s treated as if it’s a crime these days).
Putney, and his Bolshevik menace, was seen off out of the First Class game and cricket entered a Golden Age lasting right up until the late 70s, when the loutish Kerry Packer brought his Page Three girls into the Lord’s pavilion and set us on a path that leads us to today’s madness. We live in times, and you’re going to have to take my word on this, when India’s MS Dhoni earns more than our courageous and visionary Prime Minister, who has bravely set course to remove the continent from the European Union unless we can negotiate for Tuscany and Dordogne and maybe Norway and Switzerland, to stay in with us (not Scotland) and the rest sod off back to where they came from).
So Mr Ryder may think himself clever now awaiting the call up to the IPL while England bowl out the nine men his country can muster for double figure totals, but he’ll regret passing up the chance to average 27 over three Tests in exchange for a mere few billion rupees and all the Kingfisher he can drink.