What has cricket got to do with policing?
Not much, perhaps; yet during August I found my thoughts going from one to the other.
As a cricket fan I have had a heart-stopping summer watching England’s fortunes ebb and flow against Australia. But as Ben Stokes took an unnecessary swing at a ball in the first innings at Headingley – and got caught – and then won the match in the second, it became clear why the England team had struggled.
The problem was that cricket is no longer simply the county and test matches I grew up with.
We now have white ball cricket as well as red ball cricket. These are two very different types of game and they require different approaches.
White ball cricket is the restricted over game. You have to get stuck in immediately if you are to win. That means hitting a good score or scuttling the other side out quickly.
Red ball cricket proceeds at a slower pace. Over several days you may have to adapt your strategy many times as you move from one innings to another and the situation – and the weather – changes. This is the fascination of a test match.
I prefer red ball cricket; but I quite see why others want a game that moves at pace.
England’s poor start at Headingley seems to have been the result of playing red ball cricket using white ball techniques.
With the white ball the batsman takes a firm grip of the bat, waits for the ball to come to him, and then whacks it.
But red ball requires patience. The batsman will move his hands and feet more and pick his shots more carefully. He has the time to do this.
And that got me thinking about policing!
There are times when we want white ball policing. We want the police to react swiftly to a developing situation. They need to get there and act quickly.
But not all crime is solved like that. We also need the red ball approach. This takes the longer view – thinking about a problem, understanding what’s happening and then deciding what is the best way to get a successful outcome. Sometimes speed does no good at all.
Knowing when to have the white ball and when the red ball approach is one of the things that turns an adequate police force into a good one.