If, like me, you subscribe to the theory that an infinite number of monkeys on an infinite number of typewriters (or IPhones in this day and age) would eventually write the complete works of Shakespeare, then it was always possible that Mike Selvey would say or write something sensible
This happened in the Guardian Sport Section (June 26) when he described Twenty/20 cricket as superficial. Since its inception I have been trying to discover the part of my inner self which finds Twenty/20 so abhorrent but have struggled to find an answer which doesn’t involve ranting or recourse to language too foul even for Nigel Henderson’s wonderful site. (ed’s note – currying favour with the editor does not mean he owes you a pint)
This moment of enlightenment happened during my routine morning toilet visit (ed’s note- too much information) and simultaneous reading of Selvey’s column.
‘Superficial’ I thought, that’s it is, but just to be absolutely certain, I found the nearest dictionary to confirm that an accurate definition would describe my feeling for the lowest form of the game.
My battered O.E.D. tells me that superficial means “on the surface only, without depth, (of persons) with no reserve of knowledge or feelings”. With this one perfect word Mr Selvey has summed up my, and I suspect, many others’ opinion of Twenty/20. Cricket, the game I have known and obsessed over for 40 years, requires infinite knowledge and goes far beyond the “surface only.”
I don’t have a problem with Twenty/20 existing and being played wherever and whenever people want to watch it. To many, it is obviously highly entertaining, and provides what most people want from a sport. It is exciting, there’s lots of action, you get a result, it’s over quickly, and you can wear your team’s kit. My contention is, that it’s not really cricket (as we know it, Jim). Could it be soccer in disguise? The money certainly seems to suggest so.
It is profoundly worrying to hear profesional cricketers themselves alluding to Twenty/20 being the way forward. Sure, if you want to go out and smear a few decent length deliveries for six over midwicket for half an hour, then this is the game for you. Strip away the skills a batsman needs to be worthy of the name, and you have a successful exponent of Twenty/20. Just why a bowler would want to play the game however, is a complete mystery, unless they genuinely believe going for eight an over is a good hour’s work.
Cricket was invented as a game of consummate skill and subtlety, as can be seen at a hard fought days test or county cricket match. Where Pieterson hitting Murali for six is a tactical victory of thought, and these days patience, over a skilled adversary and is therefore to be savoured. It is not just one of thirty or forty cross-batted fast food slogs dished up at your MacDonalds Stadium of Darkness.
One of cricket’s apocryphal, but endearing definitions, and indeed attractions, is that it’s a game which Americans don’t understand. Now witness what has happened – cricket has sold its soul to a Texan who offers s**t loads of money, to encourage the globalisation of a game that has more in common with baseball than cricket. In fact, looking ahead, cricket is inventing a game of such limited scope that it could be included in the Olympics, where it would almost certainly mean another gold for the bloody Aussies.
I could go on much further, but I won’t. Instead I call upon true die-hards and cricket nuts to stand up and be counted (and I don’t mean in a Mexican wave). Edmund Burke once almost said: “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men and women do nothing”, so how about a mass movement denouncing the proliferation of Twenty/20? The People’s Revolt Against Twenty Twenty (P.R.A.T.T.). We could recall a time when Boycott reigned supreme, we could describe to youngsters what a defensive shot is, and persuade them that bowling is a worthwhile trade.
But, most of all, we could agree that, yes cricket is insane, incomprehensible, and for many bystanders defies all logic, but that’s precisely why we love cricket and hope it will continue as W.G. intended for another hundred years.