Sunday, 15 April 2018

Falling out-of-love with cricket...

My earliest blog (that wasn't merely a repository) was about cricket - it was called The Doosra, and was somewhat focused on the question of how this method of bowling was being attempted by a new breed of offspin bowlers.

I came late to an enjoyment of cricket - it was the summer of 1992, the 18th June, second day of the Lord's Test Match - and I was listening to Test Match Special on the car radio as I drove back to Glasgow in Scotland (where I then lived) from an overnight stay in Kircudbricht. I think the only reason I was listening is that - in this rather remote part of Scotland, Radio 4 Long Wave was the only accessible channel, and that was broadcasting cricket...

My original interest was to discover what 'leg spinner' meant; and this proved surprisingly difficult! But after that my interest in cricket grew rapidly, and was mostly focused on the craft of spin bowling.

(I can't do it myself; and never have been able to bowl or throw without shoulder pain - even as a kid; so the interest was purely theoretical. Indeed, I was permanently put off playing cricket as soon as we were compelled to use a hard leather ball instead of a tennis ball, from about aged 10 - due to repeated finger injuries. Yet the fact that in India and Pakistan (especially) they uses a duct-taped tennis ball for cricket up to semi-professional level doesn't seem to have impaired their prowess one whit.)

Anyway, my love of cricket became integrated with daily life - and (as for many people) reached its peak in the famous 2005 Ashes (i.e. England versus Australia) series; then had a second peak when England won the beat Australia-at-home in 2010-11. 

When T20 (20 overs per side) cricket was invented, I at first enjoyed it a lot; although I immediately saw that the bowlers should be allowed five overs maximum, each, instead of the current four, if the game was to retain the proper balance.

But domestic franchise T20 cricket (led by the Indian Premier League; IPL) became a vast money spinner, as a monochrome slugfest of about 8 runs per over or more; while 50 overs-per-side one day cricket and 5-day test match cricket have dwindled.

Currently I find the IPL unwatchable - a huge, dull, fake; and test matches duller and more depressing with each series; and am only really engaged by good 50 over cricket in the context of a five match competition or the World Cup...

For me the decisive moment was the year the Doosra was banned - 2015. (Especially the banning of the world's premier spinner - the immaculate Saed Ajmal.)  It was banned (rather than modifying the laws of cricket to accommodate this delightful innovation, as had happened often in the history of the game) essentially because the batters found it too hard to deal with when trying to hit sixes, and it limited the colossal run totals in T20...

Anyway, I have fallen out of love with cricket. The essence of cricket is personality; and the longer forms of the game provided unmatched opportunity to see personality unfold in a competitive context. Cricket really could be a microcosm of Life. But with its commercialisation and simplification, that has ceased to be the case - and cricket players in context of actual matches have become almost as dull as tennis players, swimmers and cyclists; and nearly as thuggish and graceless as footballers...

Plus, political correctness has, and it took a long time, finally penetrated and permeated the heart of cricket; destroying truthfulness and integrity, and making everything beautiful into a political/ bureaucratic attitude - as it always does...

I still watch in hopes - and there are still highlights (the England versus New Zealand series recently was good, far better than The Ashes - although the 'crowds' watching were tiny). But the fact is that the love has dwindled, the magic has all-but gone. 


  1. Well said. When I came to Australia in 1976 I borrowed a small B&W TV from the media centre and found myself hypnotised by Cricket. The bowler caught my eye right away - it was the way he put his back into it that told me I was watching what appeared to me to be an extraordinary athlete. And I wasn't wrong - it was Dennis Lillie and I was hooked. Although I spent hours in the nets bowling at my two sons I never got past what one colleague, charitably called 'medium pace'. I particularly love the long gruelling hours of test cricket, the field placements, the necessity for sustained concentration and balance that challenges the deeper aspect of character. But the recent cheating fiasco in the series between Australia and South Africa revealed the miscreants as having no character at all - and exemplars of the level to which men have fallen. The young men who recently flocked to Jordan Peterson here in Australia to thank him for turing their lives around know instinctively that his injunction to tell the truth and take responsibility is just what is so desperately needed.

  2. Are you able to say what took you to Kirkcudbright?

  3. @Crosbie - Just taking a look around. My grandmother's cousin, twice removed (sounds remote, but these were our Northern Irish relations - who are clannish), used to farm nearby - and we had stayed there when I was a kid.

  4. @Igude - I find it hard to be sure whether it is cricket, or myself, that has changed - but I think it is cricket. An indefinable charm has all-but gone from it - at least in the professional game. Although the current problems were building, there was a last flowering which I witnessed with great players like Lara, Tendulkar, Dravid, Murali, Warne, Kumble, Donald, Pollock, Walsh. The current crop just don't match up - especially not the bowlers - although the English later produced our only recent greats among bowlers with Swann and Anderson. At present - the spirit of cricket is supposed to be guarded by the ICC, which is a corrupt and faceless bureaucracy. The MCC - for all its faults - was composed of real people who cared for the game. But really, it's just the way that *all* large institutions have incrementally gone over recent decades. The disenchantment of the world, as Weber termed it...

  5. That 1992 series v Pakistan was utterly compelling, with Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram tormenting England with blistering speed and late swing. Another highlight for me that series was a nuggetty 73 by a recalled David Gower at Headingley to win that Test for England. I think that was the last time he represented his country as he absurdly wasn't selected for the winter tour of India.

    I started watching and listening to cricket in the late 70s. I used to find watching it on TV quite a meditative activity as the commentators would often leave large gaps between speaking, just letting the game unfold. That's all gone now - too many ex-player, former captain alpha males in the commentary box all trying to outdo each other. Radio was particulatly evocative when I was a kid. There's not so many chararactrts on air now.

    The 90s was a phenomenal era of Test Match bowling. Apart from England and New Zealand, every team had at least two all time greats. Any batsman who made runs in that era was undoubtedly a true great. It was unfortunate for Graeme Hick that he was catapulted into the England team and presented as a saviour at that time. He'd make a 50 every innings now.

    I've still got hope though. There's an inherent quality to the game that leaps up and hits you between the eyes when you least expect it.

  6. @John - "There's an inherent quality to the game that leaps up and hits you between the eyes when you least expect it."

    Indeed, for example the last two England NZ series have been far better cricket than the adjascent Ashes series - indeed the last NZ series in England (two tests and the ODIs taken together) was second only to the 2005 Ashes among my personal favourites. It encapsulated the spirit of the game.

  7. @Bruce et al. I think i have changed too because game after game that held my attention has lost interest to me as I have aged and learned about what it means to do God's will rather than my own. At their best sports are metaphors for that great work but once one has seriously embarked upon it I think the fascination of sports fades. But I agree that Cricket has changed and is subject to the same evils as our other institutions which this blog so usefully reminds us. Still I would be far more inclined to watch a test match if the game had not lost so much of its integrity.

  8. @Igude - the other factor, so obvious I almost forgot, is dilution. With cable TV cricket is no longer a Summer Game, nor is it just a matter of watching England playing at home; supplemented by listening to cricket abroad, on the radio. Some of my most memorable cricket experiences have been listening on the radio, and visualising the situation. Plus, there was a hunger for seeing cricket, live and in real time, that was powerful by the spring - but now there is no fasting period to offset it.