In the rush to ultra-sleek modernity, has the International Cricket Council forgotten what once made the sport so great? By jove, it was Test cricket! You remember that, don’t you?
Where people played for five whole days and drew most of the time and it still pulled in wonderful crowds and nobody cared a jot that it might be considered boring.
One of the gifts I received for my birthday last month was a copy of the latest DVD set by one of British comedy’s finest groups, The Goodies. The episode “2001 And A Bit” instantly got me thinking of those simpler times, when Test cricket was king and there wasn’t even a thought given to the Rollerball-level madness of the Twenty20 format.
As Bill Oddie put it during the story, everything by 2001 has become permitted in society, meaning nothing stands out as fun or daring any more.
Even Rollerball has been put in the boring pile.
On Match Of The Day, every English premiership game ends in a 0-0 draw, with plenty of nasty fouls filling the highlights reels instead of goals.
The solution, according to Graeme Garden, is Rolleregg – a combination of Rollerball and the egg and spoon race. Result? A complete and utter snooze-fest.
Bill instead longs for a return of the ancient art of cricket, arguing that the most boring thing on Earth (Test cricket) could actually prove to be such a novelty nowadays that it would stand out as surprisingly interesting.
Or as the writers on the Goodies Rule OK site put it: “Return to the good old days and give the crowds something really mind-bogglingly, rivetingly, excruciatingly dull, and pointless – by reviving cricket!”
As Bill says in a rousing poetic speech: “If you’re the one who plays for five long days / Trying desperately to draw / If you stop each ball like a concrete wall / Till they let out a mighty snore / If you can run a gallant one / Between 10am and tea / But above all, if you can bore ’em stiff / You’re the pride of the MCC!”
Why not, I say! Bring back boredom – for the sake of fun!
If you get the chance over the next 12 months, try following three-day, four-day or – if you’re game enough – five-day cricket. Thirty hours of a Test on television, or better still, live at the ground itself. Scan your eyes over the English County scores.
Pick a favourite team and tip against your mates. It’s still a grand old game, and you get more cricket for your ticket dollar than the Indian Premier League.
CricInfo.com’s UK editor Andrew Miller championed “the very sanctity of cricket in the country” in an article on May 9 titled “The End Of Innocence?”. County games were worth preserving simply because they represent how cricket used to be, a reassuring summer staple that was always available if you felt like having a look.
“Out of the exhaustion of England’s winter campaign in Australia and the subcontinent has emerged one of the most pleasurable starts to a domestic season in years,” Miller wrote.
“It’s as if the entire cricket-watching fraternity has flopped down with an ice-cream in one of Hove’s legendary deck-chairs and heaved a sigh of relief.”
Sure, he called the county championship “sleepy” compared to the IPL’s “glitz” – “but no less fascinating for its modesty.”
“It’s been the sort of cricket that exists to reassure. It’s always there when you want it, as the silent masses who click on the county scorecards will testify, but never offended if you’re too busy to notice, or too tied up with the end of the football season to truly care. Other forms of the game crave constant attention – or worse, validation – but this season the county game has just got on with the business of being.”
Miller acknowledged that the IPL will remain, but county cricket – “the Eeyore to its Tigger”, continues to thrive, as it’s not trying to be anything more important than cricket itself.
One fan posted later in agreement, saying :”Test cricket is unique and special…and first-class cricket is the gentle rhythm behind each Test.”
It’s all about something that may seem a little quaint, but at its best can contain a lot of quality, too.
Remember, even in the surreal Goodies universe, Graeme and his Rollerball XI were no match for the MCC. They were all out for nothing at Lord’s on that zany day back in 2001… and a bit.