August 03, 2004

Lightning reactions

I was at the Oval today, watching the cricket and the building work, when an electrical storm took place over London early in the afternoon. There was no apparent rain, and the light was not poor, but after a number of lightning forks had entertained the spectators, Mervyn Kitchen and Peter Willey decided to take the players off the field. After a few minutes the announcer told us that this had been under the rules allowing the umpires to stop play if they were concerned about the players' safety.

Not that I had any objection, having no desire to see anybody, even Mark Ramprakash, perish in the cause of cricket. No need to play on as if Sir Henry Newbolt were watching. What puzzled me, though, was that none of the building workers in the stand opposite saw the need to rush for cover. (Perhaps they would have if UCATT were still a force.) Moreover, as the players left the field of play, the groundstaff rushed on, with covers and plastic sheeting to protect the pitch and the run-ups from any rain that might occur. And, while the lightning continued unabated, they stayed there, exactly where the players had been, as if acting as a collective twelfth man in the absence of the players. Or as if acting as a collective lightning rod instead.

I don't know, are cricketers in danger from lightning strikes but groundstaff not? Is lightning attracted, as PG Wodehouse was not, to men wearing white flannels? I was taught as a child that you should never shelter under a tree if there was a storm. In future I shall also make sure never to take shelter next to a cricketer.


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