I hate T20 cricket. I hate the Big Bash, the IPL, the Whosever-it-is T20 Blast, and all the damn rest of them.
I go to a county game about once a season. It’s been dubbed hooligan cricket by my T20 mate, Graham, who talked me into going and now apologises on occasion for sullying my purist cricketing blood. And so he bloody well should.
It’s confusing these days, though. I’m torn between a sensible antipathy towards the crackpot backroom job creation snake-oil-science of ice baths, bleep tests and curfews, and the memory of useless England cricket teams being eviscerated in the Caribbean and Australia while being pictured on fishing trips with beery grins, or surfing, or sailing, and turning up pissed for training. All the while assuring the gullible fan that ‘class is permanent’ and they would ‘get it right on the pitch’. Spoiler alert for those who have forgotten:
Anyway, on the occasion of it belting down on Easter Saturday, I thought I’d give the World T20 quarter-final between England and holders Sri Lanka a go. It’s one of those tournaments where the TV director thinks the audience at home will never tire of shots of the crowd in throes of ecstasy at the sight of themselves on the stadium big screen, or gurning at any passing cameraman to no discernible benefit for the casual viewer. Note to TV Director: We were tired of this almost before you’d started.
I hate T20 cricket because I have seen the future. Mobs of six-maniacs shout and leap themselves silly as a brawny batter wielding something the thickness of a telegraph pole launches a plucky bowler of the poor bloody infantry (forever hidebound by the lawmakers) over the ever-constricting boundary ropes yet again. Meanwhile the creeping desertification of test match crowds in many countries is now so serious that surely the Barmy Army could start charging appearance money.
I’ve seen the future, brother, it is murder. Soon, all of these sixes won’t be sufficient. There’ll be eight on offer for hitting tier two, or a photographer, or cheerleader. Ten for tier three, an unwary spectator wearing a watermelon hat, or a TV director. Actually, make that twenty-five for a TV director.
Perhaps if a crowd catch is taken by someone wearing the correct sponsors’ hat that might count as a wicket? Would the batsmans’ union allow that? I doubt that the Gayle/KP/De Villiers axis would entertain such nonsense. In any case, I think their sights are set on a much bigger prize, as we’re not far away from the golden-batted elite not having to bother with the often unglamorous task of fielding at all.
Michael Atherton wrote a fine piece in The Times recently which remarked on the change in batting stances to resemble those more often associated with baseball. A game which has been seriously blemished by batters being caught using steroids to aid them in humping the ball ever further, ever higher, ever longer. Atherton sounded a warning bell for the future of cricket, and I think he’s right.
I hate T20 cricket for the music, the hysterical stadium announcers and their exhortations to the crowd to ‘make some noise’, to which my reply is always ‘be any good then’. As for the bugle call, if the crowd needs waking up, then your problem is on the pitch, not in the stands.
Being force-fed this ‘product’ often feels like being involved in a team-building event, which, when you boil it down to its corporate essence is little more than a vehicle for selling beer. Not forgetting getting us involved with bookmakers, and if kids want to emulate their heroes I understand some players have close ties of their own in this area. There’s an envelope in the desk drawer of an Indian judge which, we hear, contains some very interesting names.
The quarter-final, you ask? Alright then.
England began with some traditional stodge, and their predictable comic cuts dismissals against the spinners. They mounted some sort of recovery with a yip and a wobble, and a wobble and a yip, and after the Sri Lankan bowlers got Buttlered in the final overs we (foolish English fans ignoring historical precedent) began to believe again. Certainly when Sri Lanka were reduced to 15/4 it was clearly all over bar the bugle. But there does seem to be a tendency for the English foot to ease off the pedal, we see complacency and expectation rather than action. I remember being at Lord’s some years ago when this very scenario played out against India.
Later, despite a fine effort by Sri Lankan captain Mathews while we shared the pain on Twitter, where people were watching from behind the sofa, and posing existential questions like, ‘why do we put ourselves through this?’ it was over at the last, the last ball.
I hate T20 cricket.
Particularly when it’s so bloody entertaining.