Drysdale’s Column: Health and Safety Gone Mad??
It maybe tells you all you need to know about the parlous state of Scottish cricket coverage that so little attention has been paid to the circumstances behind the cancellation of Saturday’s Eastern Premier League fixture between Aberdeenshire and Grange at Mannofield.
If you weren’t there, you’ll probably just have looked at the words “Match abandoned: Unfit outfield” and deduced that rain had once again intervened to wreak havoc with the fixture list in the Granite City.
But, as it transpired, nothing could be further from the truth.
I turned up at the ground in mid-afternoon after learning the start of the contest had been delayed, due to the previous night’s inclement weather. I figured there was little point hanging about until the action commenced, so I mowed the lawn and marvelled at how a rainy Friday had turned into a resplendent Saturday. It was perfect for cricket…..
Well, the next few hours were to test that theory to the limit. No sooner had I arrived at Mannofield than I was speaking to people who were angry, frustrated, incredulous, even irate. There were plenty of expletives flying around and not much explanation. But eventually, all became clear – the umpires, having inspected the ground on several occasions had ruled that play wasn’t possible. So that was it. End of story.
Or perhaps just the beginning of it. Because, you see, all 22 players were wiling to take the field. All the officials at both clubs were keen for a game. The conditions at 3.0 were a bit damp underfoot, but Mannofield wasn’t in danger of being confused with a swimming pool. I spoke to the Grange batsman – and Scotland captain – Preston Mommsen and he told me, in quite matter-of-fact fashion, he had wanted to play and was disappointed at how things had turned out. He was more moderate than most!
Other people with stronger emotions told me that umpires were petrified of sanctioning matches where players might slip on wet outfields and sue the officials. And yes, this has already happened, though it strikes me as utterly ridiculous. I was informed by several individuals that it was “Health and Safety gone mad” and a “dark day for Scottish cricket.”
And you know, I couldn’t argue with the second statement. At 5.0, I walked onto the Mannofield surface and tested it for myself. It was 100% fine for cricket and I’ve been involved in the sport long enough to state that as a fact. By this stage, the sun was shining, it was an absolutely glorious evening and I recorded a video to highlight that we should have seen a cricket contest at Mannofield on Saturday, no question about it.
The umpires can’t wriggle off the hook, either. Even if they believed conditions were “unfit” at 1.0 or 2.0, was it beyond their powers to organise a Twenty20 tussle starting later in the day? Both sides would have agreed to that. But it was never even mentioned. Why not? You can’t just adhere rigidly to rules and regulations when you are dealing with something as unpredictable as the Scottish climate. What about some common sense?
Even if the umpires were concerned over the state of the outfield, that didn’t justify their behaviour. They didn’t exactly hang about before making their decision. If they were worried about litigation, let them say so. Then the burden would fall on Cricket Scotland to introduce a system whereby players signed a waiver at the start of matches agreeing they were happy to play without taking legal action if they suffered injury on the pitch.
But I talked to other people in the sport on Saturday night and Sunday and was told this wasn’t an isolated incident. On other occasions this summer, clubs have been desperate for cricket and officials have raised repeated objections. It’s absurd. This is a sport with a season which lasts just four months. It’s Scotland, for heaven’s sake, not the Costa del Sol. If we faff around and look for reasons not to play in June and July, it can only have one consequence.
And that will be to drive away people from the sport. Grange’s personnel left Edinburgh at 8am and didn’t get home until after 7pm. For what? As somebody said: “It’s a day wasted. And the sun is shining out there.”
The players even organised a kick-about next to the pitch. I didn’t see anybody slipping and sliding or putting their health at risk. Instead, they flung themselves into the proceedings and everybody felt better for the experience.
So why were they able to enjoy themselves at football, but not cricket?
It was a nonsense. And a farce. And it’s time we stood up and said so!