Is this legitimate concern for the health of the modern game? Credit: David Hammond

Cricket debate with David Hammond: The rise in prominence of ‘good old’ extras

Torbay Weekly

Take a look through the scorecards across all divisions of the Devon Cricket League and you will notice that one of the most consistent run contributors is not the overseas professional, or most promising young batter destined for county honours, but that wily old campaigner extras.

In this week’s A Division alone, he top scored for Seaton and Plympton, admittedly in totals of under 100.

But in the local derby at Abbotskerswell, extras was Torquay’s joint top scorer with Jiniv Joshi (29 each) in a total of 164.

This week is just an exemplar of the season as a whole and of a much wider picture.

Wides, incidentally, are most to the fore alongside no balls, byes and leg byes. Extras give ‘free’ runs to the opposition. Excessive amounts can demoralise and de-motivate wicket keepers, fielders and captains, putting more pressure on the batters with higher targets to chase down.

When asked, a sample of experienced local cricket observers will cite stricter, more T20-style, umpiring decisions, especially when it comes to calling wides, wicket keeper error or simple bowler inconsistency and poorer standards of bowling as a whole.

Which begs the questions, is this a trend clubs should be worried about? Can practice and coaching put it right? Are systems in place at clubs for this? Or, more worryingly, has the skill standard and quality of our beloved summer sport dropped and is continuing to drop?

This last explanation holds sway with many former players I have spoken to at matches this summer.

But is this legitimate concern for the health of the modern game, or another example of pining for those halcyon bygone summers when “everything was better in my day?”

Extras himself, meanwhile, looks set to continue to enjoy this rich run of form, maybe feeling slightly aggrieved they no longer pass a hat round for the top scorer!