27 March 2007


Apart from the occasional murder, the Cricket World Cup, does not set pulses racing in the outside world. For those who don't follow the sport that Robin Williams described as "baseball on Valium", the ICC tries to entertain the world every four years with a jamboree of One Day Cricket. If you don't know cricket, you may be surprised to find out people can make a game last a whole day. You may even be astonished to learn it should actually last for five days - it is known as a Test Match for very good reasons. If you do know cricket, you may mourn the transformation of what should be a game of physical chess into tic-tac-toe.

The world's 8 best teams meet to play 8 other teams who are anything but, at a warm and agreeable place. Having dispensed with the illusion that the game has relevance beyond a hard core of Commonwealth countries, the 8 best teams then indulge in another round robin of matches until everyone has given up caring and somehow there are four teams left. A straight knockout then brings a merciful release, and Australia are declared to be the winners.

To give some context, being the best team in the world at test match cricket is the equivalent of three michelin stars. Being the one day cricket World Champions is like being the best in the world at making cheese on toast. Whereas cricket should be about finesse of technique, tactics and patience, the World Cup One Day version has been reduced to hitting the ball as hard as you can.

But in recent years, even this questionable format has been reduced to fit the attention span of a teenage mayfly with ADHD, into something called 20-20 cricket. This now lasts a couple of hours, and every team has a very small number of opportunities to score as many runs as possible.

All this is sold as a pragmatic response to sport in the 21st century. Life and the demands of TV are so kinetic we need new formats for previously savoured pleasures to reduce the time between anticipation and satisfaction. Anyone who feels uncomfortable with such innovations is either old-fashioned or naive. Maybe we could apply this to all sports - instead of four rounds of golf to win The Open, perhaps Tiger Woods could go to the driving range to hit a bucket of balls over 400 yards? We could finally get all sports into a format that fits between the news and the late night movie with ad breaks in between, and delivers all the enjoyment and complexity of a bag of crisps.


PW said...

Not being much a cricket fan - preferring to spend a Saturday afternoon watching paint dry - I was intrigued that the competition continued, even after the murder of one of the team's managers.

We're told that's what he would have wanted.

Oh, really?

"If someone bumps me off in mysterious circumstances, just make sure you keep on playing. I'd hate anything to get in the way of the game."

Paul Martin said...

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