Cricket's Latest Heavyweight
New Zealand's call-up of the aptly-named Jesse 'Wider' Ryder to their one-day squad to face England may have been a surprise to some, but he follows in the knee-deep footsteps of a number of players of equally epic proportions who have made a considerable impact on the game - and on the ground when they landed on it.
The part-time Irishman with a taste for high living, together with a reputation for not bothering to turn up for games when selected, made his international debut in the recent Twenty20 game against England at Eden Park, Auckland, and he was unsurprisingly run out when he slipped, fell and was unable to clamber out of his own crater in time to regain his ground.
The hard-hitting Ryder, as well as being a more than useful useful seam-up trundler, has actually been picked for his fielding as much as anything else. World-renowned sports scientist, DeVille Ducky, takes up the story:
"Jesse has a lot of natural ability, and the ball finds its way to him more often than not. In close, he looks every bit the equal of those other great - in the volumetric sense of the word - slip fielders, Phil Sharpe and Robert Key, and no ball heading in his vicinity seems to be out of his colossal reach.
"This is hardly surprising, as he possesses sufficient mass to generate his own gravitational field, and anything passing close enough to his centre of gravity inevitably goes into temporary orbit - sheep, the entire tray of cakes in the restaurant at teatime and, of course, cricket balls.
"On the occasions when he is called upon to field in the deep, his very presence actually creates a momentary indentation in the space-time continuum, and this gives him those extra few seconds in order to be able to haul the ball in towards his event-horizon and prevent those vital boundaries.
"It's a trade-off, though - on a couple of occasions recently, Jesse has played back to the short ball and the bails have actually been sucked off the top of the stumps by his very proximity. Also once, in practice, one of wicket-keeper Brendon McCullum's gauntlets became so firmly lodged between his buttocks that we had to use the 'Jaws of Life' to cut it free."
There is one other advantage to the inclusion of Jesse Ryder, and it's something that will be welcomed by environmentalists the world over. Heavy, petrol-driven rollers will no longer be required between innings where he is playing. Five minutes of Jesse lying on the strip will render even the stickiest turner as hard and bouncy as the WACA in its heyday.
Mr Cricket was feeling somewhat out of sorts. He lay in bed with his eyes tightly shut, trying to make the daytime go away. He thought back to the previous evening - it had been a very good night because the Cricket-Writers Guild of Cricket-town had just presented him with an award for being a very good cricketer indeed.
He had eaten a lot of jelly and drank quite a few bottles of lemonade - especially after he had sat down with Mr Warne and Mr Marsh - and everyone had talked about what a really, really good cricketer Mr Cricket was, and that he was getting better all the time.
Someone even said that Mr Cricket was the second-best cricketer who had ever lived in Cricket-town, and Mr Cricket was very pleased with that. Then Mr Marsh had laughed - as loudly as you would have done if Mr Tickle had tickled you in a very ticklish place. That laugh hadn't worried Mr Cricket at the time, but lying in bed as the morning ebbed away, it worried him a lot. Was he not as good as people had said?
Mr Cricket finally got out of bed just before lunch time, washed his face and oiled his bat. He thought that perhaps Mr Marsh was laughing because he had drunk even more lemonade than Mr Cricket had, but he couldn't be certain. Cricket-town's special book of very good cricketers, written by Mr Wisden, said he was really very good, but not one of the best five - not even during the last year. He decided to go for a walk.
After Mr Cricket had been walking for a few minutes, he saw Mr Bump on the other side of the road. He said "Hello, Mr Bump. Why are there two of you?" Harbhajan Singh and Monty Panesar replied in unison "These are not bandages, Mr Cricket - they are patkas. And neither of us is Mr Bump - we are Sikhs."
Mr Cricket was very confused - he was sure there were two of them, not one - and certainly not six. He decided that he needed another glass of lemonade, so he headed straight for The Bucknor's Arms. Even more confusingly, the real Mr Bump, who seldom uses his full name because it is treble-barrelled and makes him sound very posh and un-Australian, was playing darts when Mr Cricket asked him, "Am I the second-best cricketer who has ever lived in Cricket-town?"
The pub went very quiet. A dart fell out of the board and Mr Bump-Ball-Clarke, to give him his full name, bent down to pick it up. He hadn't heard Mr Cricket's question properly so he said, "How's that?" The landlord, Mr Wrong, without looking, sucked his teeth and simply said "Out!"
It was the same story wherever Mr Cricket went - he couldn't get a straight answer out of any of his friends. Mr Topsy-Turvy-Elbow agreed that Mr Cricket had played very well indeed against Sri Lanka, averaging nearly 150 in the test matches, but it was too early to say, whereas Mr Dizzy had simply said, "I'm not sure. How many double-hundreds did you say you had scored again? I have one."
Mr Messy-Hair said "What was that you said about monkeys?", Mr Angry-Nel laughed and laughed and mentioned something about Nicky Boje getting him out twice in Johannesburg so how good did he think that made him, and Mr Rush merely said "BetterThanRickyPontingCaptainOfStraya?"
Mr Cricket was just about to give up and go back home when he saw Mr Jelly, who was running up and down the road, trying to get away from his own shadow. As Mr Jelly shot past, Mr Cricket shouted, "Mr Jelly, do you think I am the second-best cricketer who has ever lived in Cricket-town?"
Mr Jelly stopped running for a minute and said, "No, but I know exactly how you can be." Mr Cricket asked him to explain. "Just do what I do" replied Marcus Trescothick. "Be poorly every time you are picked to play away against the good teams."
Next Week - Devil Ducky's Guide to French Cricket