Saturday, October 21, 2017

Matthew Engel on the existential crisis of cricket (and me on the President of the MCC's buttocks)

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Matthew Engel has a magnificent polemic on the state of cricket in today's Guardian:
This is not the game that enraptured me when I was six years old. Nor the game I have written about happily for much of my adult life. 
I don’t care about the St Lucia Zouks. And I won’t care about whatever names the 12-year‑olds in marketing invent for the new made-up teams when the existing English Twenty20 is engulfed by yet another new competition in the years ahead. 
This wretched idea was sold to the county chairmen by bribery – an annual £1.3m sweetener per county – with a tacit undercurrent of threat.
My only interest – in common with many other cricket lovers – is the hope that the damnable thing is a total flop and that we can somehow save the game I once adored, and still love more than the people who have seized control of it.
Do read the whole thing.

You can argue that Twenty20 has led to batsmen being more aggressive and even inventing new shots. And leg spin has returned - if only because every bowler gets caned now.

But there have been greater losses. Few batsmen now seem equipped technically or mentally to play a substantial defensive innings. And I have heard Graeme Swann say that a spinner who has grown up keeping things tight in limited overs cricket has no idea how to take wickets if he is thrown the ball in the fourth innings of a first class match.

At the heart of cricket's crisis - and Peter Tinniswood's Brigadier did once accuse Engel of fomenting revolution in concert with Vic Marks - is money.

As I wrote in my Liberal Democrat News column as long ago as 2004:
People think the cricket authorities are stuffy, but really they are the most shamelessly commercial administrators of all. There are now logos on the players' clothing and painted on the field of play. For the right price you could probably get your company's slogan tattooed on the President of the MCC's buttocks.
Engel asks:
When did you last see a group of children (public schools and Asian community partially excepted) playing cricket without an adult?
For me, I think it was in the summer of 2005 as England finally won back the Ashes and the authorities decided to sell the rights to screen future tests to Sky.

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