Wearing one

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Descriptive language tends in two directions. One is the hyperbolic, where the notable is ‘incredible’, the amusing is ‘hilarious’, the inconvenient is ‘a complete nightmare’. The other direction is careful or casual understatement and it is often found in situations of danger.

In cricket there’s little more dangerous than being hit by the ball. And so the understated, off-hand description of a batsman being struck on the head by a fast bowler may include ‘the ball got big on him’ for the moment prior to impact; ‘sconned’, not for an incident in the Great British Bake-off, but for the thud of the ball onto head; and ‘wearing one’ for the outcome of being unable to elude the speeding ball.

Rarely has ‘wearing one’ applied more literally to a cricketer than to Stuart Broad at Old Trafford on the third day of the fourth Test.

Broad’s innings was brief. He played no stroke to his first two balls, ducking under a short delivery from Pankaj Singh. The following over, looking to increase the scoring rate to build England’s lead quickly, Broad drove at a full ball from Varun Aaron, before hooking successive short balls for six.

The next ball, the sixth of Broad’s innings, was also a bouncer. Broad aimed another hook but, with the ball propelled at 87mph it may have bounced higher, he played under the ball, which arrowed towards his eyes. The momentum of the shot, rather than any move to avoid the ball, swung Broad’s head to the right so the ball crashed into his helmeted head facing midwicket, rather than the bowler. The ball, perhaps through some minor misalignment of the helmet’s grill, forced its way under the helmet peak, breaking Broad’s nose.

Broad swivelled and moved back past his leg stump, after a few steps crouched and waved to indicate help was needed. All the while, the ball was jammed against his face, pinned in place by the helmet’s grill.

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I have found the image of Broad with the ball stuck hard against his face, inside the helmet, oddly unsettling. Much more so than the pictures of him bleeding onto the ground, or stitched and bruised. I cannot quite put my finger on what gives me such a strong instinctive reaction to that image, but I’ve tried to rationalise it and have identified the following possibilities and associations:

  • the sight of an object lodged fast against the face suggests not just injury, but suffocation. The damage caused is continuing and needs urgent alleviation, not merely treatment.
  • the ball is screening the wound, meaning the true extent of the injury has to be imagined until it is revealed.
  • a projectile bursting into a body references warfare – not missiles and bombs, but their deadly side-effect, shrapnel
  • it even conjures images of assaults by animals, their teeth or claws attached to the flesh
  • the picture, in my mind, that it most closely resembles is that of a victim of 1970s football hooliganism with a dart in the nose.

hooligan dart

Broad may return for the Oval Test, wearing a mask and wearing a replacement helmet when batting. If he does play, he’s sure to be tested with short-pitched bowling. Let neither he, nor anyone else, have the misfortune of ‘wearing one’ in that unsettling way.

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About chrisps

TouchlineDad to three sporty kids; cricket blogger and coach; and the alpha male in our pride.

2 responses to “Wearing one”

  1. downatthirdman says :

    A decent bat can get his hands shoulder high from the back lift and ‘pull’ flat batted or even down on a ball – impact shoulder height or below. Harder but possible is doing this by ‘fetching’ the ball from outside (to the off). It’s a pull. Think of Cowdrey turning on his heel.

    Then there is the hook – the greatest shot in cricket. The hands are not raised as much so that the ball will be struck upwards. Above head height it’s a free hit – who could possibly think that an underedge would cause harm?

    At head height it’s the shot that brings quantities of adrenaline gushing to slows time like you were in a car crash. The ball is above shoulder height. The view of the ball is the most addictive in cricket. You can read the manufacturers name (if it’s a new ball). The gold shines (if its a bright day or the shot is played under lights [???])

    Watching the ball rise towards the boundary brings a fulfillment from its instinctiveness. That is what all those hours of hitting balls was for.

    It is a gambler’s shot – fraught with cricketing danger of dismissal and of course fraught with physical danger. But the batsman is committed long before such considerations bite. If there are such considerations they come a minute or two later, possibly at the non-strikers end. It is shot of the immortal. Well the closest you can get to immortality outside of a firefight.

    It is a ‘one of fifty things to do before you die’, but, like climbing the great flake on Central Buttress the chance has gone for most.

    For Broad there were other dynamics, it was not instinctive. It was calculated. His was a strategic decision. The only way out of the situation he has found himself in since last winter. Since Mitchell Johnson opened the secret door, every bowler in the world has know Broad couldn’t defend against this ball. Broad figured that the only way to stop this treatment and to rescue his batting reputation was attack and the hook.

    But the hook is instinctive. There is more to the ‘Happy Hooker’ soubriquet than calculation. Somewhere in the past someone or something set up that behavioural trigger. The pigeon’s reaction to Skinners red light. Tall as Broad has always been, relative to his peers, maybe that never happened for him even as a young batsman.

  2. ged says :

    a few years ago, with the appearance of Viv Richardsin the tms box, there was a flurry of stories about the mid seventies era of county cricket. Vic marks told of the graduation his generation of colts from second team and/or university cricket to their assumed rightful place in the first team.

    Then, as if landing from some alien planet came viv who upset the complacent view by demonstrating the ability to hook Andy Roberts from off the end of his nose into the stand.

    The reminiscences let to a story that may have been about Roberts, or Daniel or someone of that ilk. .. insert West Indian fast bowler of choice here. The story is to do with the quaint batsman’s ritual of not wanting to show pain on ‘wearing one. ‘

    Roberts hit a batsman flush in the ribs and then stood eyeballing him as the batter tried separately not to acknowledge the blow.

    “G’arrrn…rub it marn….cos ya just know it hurts.’

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