The Old Batsman:
Ever wondered why it's so difficult to swot a fly with your hand? I'd always thought it had something to do with its angled take-off, how it can throw itself sideways as well as upwards. New research has discovered something else though, something about the way that the fly perceives time itself.
We were discussing something almost identical last week at lunch. It started off as a comment on placement, and whether batsmen can in fact place the ball through the field.
An old friend who has always sworn Test batsman cannot place the ball as the commentators would have us believe.
I mentioned how Shane Watson often appears to drive the ball to the fieldsman, while Steve Smith has a knack for bunting the ball into gaps.
My theory is that time moves slower for Test batsman than us mere mortals.
(This does not make Watson any less of a Test batsman than, say, Victorian Wayne Phillips, it just makes him mechanical.)
Us park plonkers semi-panic as the ball leaves a quick bowler's hand, while Test batsmen are already aware of what the ball is going to do and have no worries about how they must react.
Couple that with good hand-eye, practice and the confidence derived from their innate ability to conquer the bowling, an you know why it was so hard to bowl to the odd top level cricketer who somehow found himself wallowing in the presence of us park duds.
You probably know the feeling: "Bob Blogs played for Essex." Next thing you are all but bowling at a brick wall.
Apropos good batsman, and possibly relative to time - get it* - is this: how well do your eyes transition from the ball in the bowler's hand, to the ball at your feet? Surely it is easier to a short person to go from looking up to looking straight down. I'm 6'4" and always had trouble making the adjustment, which meant I would be well set and still get bowled by innocuous deliveries (among other reasons, I mean excuses, no, as you were).
This idea of time and how it plays out for great sportsmen is not restricted to cricket. Greg Williams was slow as a wet week, but always got to the footy first, then when he had the ball made every one around him look like a headless chook. George Best was the same in soccer; Joe Montana in the NFL.
Which makes you wonder whether, with sport now big money, is there anyone working on sporting prowess and the relative nature of time and speed.
* You don't need to be Robinson Crusoe to work that out.**
** Speaking of mal-aphorisms. In a meeting last Thursday the chairman said "It's the old 80-20 rule: 90% of the effort is spent fixing 10% of the problems." No, he was not joking.