Alex Massie

Clausewitz on Cricket

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Further to this post, an occasional series exploring the relevance and application of Carl von Clausewitz's On War to the game of cricket.

In Chapter Nine of Book Six the great theorist examines some of the problems faced by a side mounting a rearguard effort on a turning wicket:

On the battlefield... it must be acknowledged that a turning movement is [often*] the more effective form. This is not due to the form of envelopment as such; rather it holds true only where the envelopment can be pushed to an extreme, when it can severely restrict the enemy's chances of retreat while the battle is still in progress. This is the very situation that the defender's positive counter-attack is designed to prevent. In many cases where a counter-attack is not enough to win a victory, it may still suffice to provide protection in that extremity. At all events, we must admit that, in a defensive battle, the danger of having one's retreat severely restricted is pre-eminently present; where it cannot be averted, the impact of defeat...is aggravated.

Clausewitz is also surely right to counsel that there is no point in adopting a purely defensive crouch. That merely invites the fielding side to complete the envelopment, posting units - or fielders - on all sides of the batsman and, slowly but surely, squeezing the life out of the poor batsman. Instead, even in a defensive and potentially losing cause, there is much to be said for the judicious counter-attack. Shifting a few fielders from close catching positions is a reward in itself, clearing a path, potentially, for a dignified, honour-salvaging retreat to a draw. Failing to do that does indeed increase the risk of an aggravated, and consequently humiliating, defeat.

*My addition. Because there are occasions in which other forms of attack are more useful. Clausewitz, as we shall doubtless see, would agree.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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