Do you remember the Marcus Trescothick sweet controversy?
The former England player revealed he helped the ball swing by eating sweets. The sugar on his saliva as he shined the ball seemed to make a difference. Sales of Murray Mints around English cricket grounds shot up overnight.
You see, former first class cricketers know all the tricks in the book for taking wickets. They usually stay as trade secrets but every now and again, like Trescothick did, an ex-player reveals his hand.
This is how I found out recently about the art of working an umpire.
I was listening to radio commentary of England against the West Indies. Former Somerset and England bowler Vic Marks was talking about the passionate appealing of Monty Panesar. Monty, he surmised, was not being a good professional and not working with the umpire.
I see the point Vic was making. I have never been a bowler, but I certainly have done my fair share of umpiring. I can exclusively reveal that umpires are human and no matter how much they try to be impartial they can be subtly influenced. In short, they are more likely to give the benefit of the doubt to someone they like.
At club and school level this can be exploited even more by the canny bowler. Many times umpires are appointed by the home side or even players/coaches with an understandable bias to their own team. Anything you can do to redress that balance has to be good for your bowling average.
Whether the umpire is neutral or temporary, how do you get him or her on your side and build up their confidence?
Be nice to umpires
When Panesar was appealing for everything he was showing both his passionate desperation for wickets and a total disregard for the standing umpire and the Laws of the game. If you were the umpire at his end wouldn't start to get slightly peeved at the enormous appeal followed but an incredulous stare every time the ball hit the pads (even if it pitched 6 inches outside leg stump)?
I know I would. Who wouldn't get worn down by it in the end? Who wouldn't start thinking 'you just appeal for everything, I can't be sure any more so it's going to have to be plumb for me to give it now'? You have just shot the umpires confidence in themselves and your appeals.
Compare that to being nice.
You still appeal of course, but when the umpire says 'not out' you show some respect. Nod at his or her in depth knowledge of the game. Asking respectfully: 'sliding down leg side was it umpire?' or something similar. The umpire feels great. They know that you know they can't be hoodwinked. They are too clever for that. So when you do go up for a big shout that could go either way they have the confidence to give it out. After all, the bowler knows almost as much as the umpire. It must have been close, right?
Tricks, not treats
What strikes me about this trick is that it's not really a trick at all. You are not trying to get a wicket you don't deserve, just asking the umpire to be fair. Sadly sometimes umpires are not fair because they lack confidence, are not good enough or are just plain biased. You can do something to redress the balance just by being a nice person.
It's only what your mum would tell you to do anyway.
Image credit: Prescott