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The Last Question

The Last Question
By Dan Liebke • Issue #43 • View online

One last question before we go, mate.
Sure.
Which cricketer would you pick to bat for your life?
To what?
To bat for your life.
… in what sense?
Uh, y’know, in the sense that, if your life depended on it, who would you want at the crease.
If my life depended on it?
Sure. Who do you think would handle the pressure the best?
I would simply refuse to place myself in such a ludicrously risky scenario. I mean, what’s the upside to this?
Well, there isn’t one. It’s more, like, a hypothetical. A thought experiment.
A thought experiment? No, no, no. A thought experiment is a philosophical examination of the underpinnings of a particular known state, so that we can explore its logical ramifications and, in doing so, perhaps challenge our preconceptions. What preconceptions are we challenging here? The danger inherent in having my ongoing existence inexorably tied to the ability of a cricketer to not lose their wicket? I feel as if that’s already extremely well established.
But that’s kind of the point. Who would you most trust to not lose their wicket under that pressure? You know, like a, say, Steve Waugh or—
Steve Waugh? What in blazes makes you think that Steve Waugh cares one iota about my life? Of all the characteristics historically associated with the former Australian captain - his determination, his bloody-mindedness, his ruthlessness - you’re ascribing to the top tier his unbounded empathy?
Okay, fine. Then what about, say, Rahul Dravid? The Wall.
Dravid?! Dravid batted 605 times in international cricket and lost his wicket on 533 occasions. Am I supposed to be happy with a 12% chance of surviving this preposterous scenario?
Okay, not Dravid either. You can choose whoever you like.
Look, to even begin to decide which batter I’d entrust with this macabre responsibility, I’d need far more information on how the entire process works.
Like what? Which bowlers they’ll face?
Who cares what bowlers they’re facing? The odds are overwhelmingly against me, regardless. Unless, y’know, the whole thing is a pointlessly mismatched charade. 
So what do you need to know?
The mechanics of the entire thing. I mean, how, exactly, is the loss of my life tied to the loss of the wicket? Is it like a zing bail thing?
I dunno. Maybe.
Because if it is, perhaps I can find a cricketer with some kind of training in electrical circuitry. Or an apprentice sparky. Anybody who, in between deliveries, might be able to dismantle the underpinning mechanism that ties our fates together. 
I’m not sure that’s quite in the spirit of the—
Or failing that, get Watto out there to stick his enormous front pad in front of anything that came his way.
Well, I don’t think that would save you. LBW would have to count for the purposes of the experiment.
Okay. So then it’s not a zing bail thing?
I guess not.
Is it an umpire thing? Is it triggered by the raising of their finger? Because surely even the most rigid and unflinching of officials would curb their zeal for giving a batter out if it was simply explained to them the gruesome ramifications of their strict adherence to the Laws of the game.
Perhaps.
Perhaps? They’d have to be a sociopath to behave otherwise. They’re caught in the middle of this as much as I am. Would they really prefer to have an innocent person’s death on their conscience?
Probably not. But—
Do I get reviews? Because if the batter is given out by a psychopathic umpire so dogmatically determined to end the life of an otherwise-unconnected third party, I’d really prefer for them to not make a mistake.
I’m sure you’d get a review.
Great. So if the onfield umpires remain, despite all appeals to their better nature, willing to be accessories to my murder, I can still attempt to reason with the third umpire?
I guess.
Or I could hire somebody to hack into the various systems - the ball-tracking, the edge detection and so forth - and edit the data on the fly to ensure the batter survives, thus ensuring my own ongoing survival.
That sounds tricky.
Of course it does. It’s Mission Impossible-style bullshit. But this is quite literally a life and death situation for me. I will be exploring all avenues, no matter how unlikely to succeed, in order to disentangle my destiny from that of the batter.
I really think you’re thinking too much about this.
If you think I’m thinking about it too much, maybe you’d like to swap places in this insane death trap.
Fine.
Great.
(The interview subject removes the electrified helmet from his head and places it on the journalist, who is horrified to hear David Warner almost immediately trapped plumb in front by Stuart Broad. The journalist lets out a small scream as his skull is fried by the ensuing powerful electrical shock. The interview subject goes to the whiteboard and puts an emphatic line through David Warner’s name.)
Did you enjoy this issue?
Dan Liebke

Every Friday, I go through my big list of cricket ideas, and churn out a first draft of something I've got in there. It won't be polished. It may not be interesting. I make no promises. But I'm going to throw something up and see what works and what (infinitely more likely) does not.

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