PRATT: join the people’s revolt! (A guest writer writes)

Well, after days of cajoling over several pints in the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem in Nottingham, Jack S Pratt (his real name’s John and he lives in York if you want to look him up and rant at him down the telephone at his reactionary stance) has put pen to paper (acutally his partner typed it out for him otherwise we’d still be waiting for it) to describe his opposition to Twenty20. Bizarrely, it involves monkeys, Mike Selvey and the Oxford English Dictionary…read, enjoy and let us know if you think we should set up a petition to fight the evil that is the short game
 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.

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One response to “PRATT: join the people’s revolt! (A guest writer writes)

  1. Eden Spark

    Mr Pratt is on fertile ground here. It doesn’t take 20-20 vision to see that Twenty20, for all its merits (if any), just isn’t cricket. It is some other game, invented by those who find the one-day game tedious – agree, naturally – but who wilfully fail to grasp the appeal of the 3, 4 or 5-day game.

    Also there’s the money.

    Mr Pratt is uncharacteristically restrained in his use of language to describe this abomination. “Superficial” is certainly accurate but lacks his usual directness. “Bollocks” is a more satisfying descriptor, with the additional merit of having a near-homonym of Mr Pratt’s actual name, as well as being one of his favourite words.

    I recall the day in 1986 when Mr Pratt and I and others in our rag-tag tour party found ourselves sauntering on a beach in southern Goa near a humble fishing village. The local children played beach cricket with what we had come to learn was their typical enthusiasm and intensity.

    On discovering my New Zealand origin they immediately began chanting “Richard Hadlee!” and asked if I played county cricket. By way of answer I took up their kind offer of a bat and was promptly bowled first ball. Obviously they took this as a reply in the affirmative.

    Mr Pratt is a man of multiple sporting interests and will surely have followed England’s dismal rugby tour to New Zealand. He will have taken solace, however, in that Ryan Sidebotham’s new-found ability on the barge must surely have generated a call from Martin Johnson.

    There is hope for English sport yet.

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