I have often wondered, "Who really loves the game of cricket?"
Is it the first-class player like myself, who had his pads and boots cleaned by the room steward, and whose matches are played on well-manicured fields with meticulously prepared pitches? Or is it those who play in the park on boiling-hot Saturdays, having pegged down a matting pitch, then chasing balls around a tinder-dry outfield?
I've come to the conclusion that first-class players love the game in a calculated manner. Although it may change with the money in cricket, you basically have to love the game to play it decently. Nevertheless it's a calculated enjoyment, as first-class players are always chasing trophies, prize money and contracts.
However, the people who have a real love for the game are those who perform in the park even when it's parched and the only reward is a cold drink at the end of play. Maybe I could do that for a week, two at the most, but then I'd be looking for other pursuits.
Those dedicated cricketers also regularly attend big matches. When both types mutter in unison, "Get on with the bloody game", it's time to evaluate top-class cricket's speed of play.
Using timers is one way to speed up the game. However, it's better if umpires are empowered by the administrators to ensure cricket keeps moving at an acceptable speed.
Other sports I watch, like baseball, rugby league and tennis, now have a timer. The timers are designed to speed up games where administrators are acutely aware that spectators want to see plenty of playing action.
Surely people don't switch on their devices or go to a ground to watch cricketers adjust their gloves every ball, chat with their batting partner in the middle of an over, change gloves regularly, or down unofficial drinks. These can possibly be decreed health measures or might be purely down to superstition, but they often completely ignore the etiquette of the game.
If a bowler is about to begin his run-up, a batter must be in position to receive the delivery. That used to be, and still should be, part of the etiquette of the game.
It's pretty obvious when players deliberately waste time to avoid another over leading into a break. In that case the player should first be warned, and if they transgress again, then there have to be consequences.
Players are lucky I'm not an umpire. If a batter deliberately wasted time and wasn't ready to face up, I'd let the bowler deliver and if he hit the stumps, I'd give it out. There would be a huge outcry, but drastic action would ensure that batters don't cause a problem in the future.
The time captains take talking to bowlers about field placings - I'm not including T20 cricket - is sometimes inordinately long. The captain should be spoken to by an umpire and told to keep the game moving.
Umpires must be given license to insist that players don't purposefully waste time. In turn, the umpires should be backed to the hilt by the judicial system. All players should be made aware of their obligation to the public; they deserve a fair day's play for what is often an expensive outing at the cricket.
It's easy to conclude that either most administrators don't understand the angst slow play causes, or that they are only concerned by the bottom line. Either way the pace of play is not being properly administered.
Test matches being completed inside the allotted time frame should not be an acceptable excuse for tardy over rates.
Administrators themselves are guilty of slowing the game. The DRS, replays to decide boundaries, and sight-board advertising are three obvious cases, but there are others like the front-foot no-ball law that are poorly thought out.
There's a place for pageantry to enhance the importance of games but it should never impinge upon play. The pace of play and over rates are crucial issues where the paying spectator deserves consideration in producing an entertainment package.