It’s ruining the game it is! This new fangled thing they’re doing out there.
As the World T20 World Cup winds to a close I thought it was a great time to reflect on the things, like T20, that have ruined the game of cricket.
In 1822, one journalist wrote “the new style is fatal to all scientific play, putting a premium on chance hits, and placing scientific defence at a discount”.
What was this revolution? Round arm bowling (think the Malinga Slinger). In 1864, another new revolution was going to ‘ruin batsmanship’ – overarm bowling.
Within a decade one old player was saying “[it’s] killed professional fast bowling; for years they were almost afraid to bowl”. That was W.G. Grace coming out to face this new style of bowling and scoring 217, 77, 112, 117, 163, 158, and 70.
“Big money is ruining cricket!” wrote one journalist in the ’30s of the controversy to shortening the playing hours. This was a conspiracy not to make it more bearable for the players, but to coax more money out of the cricket going public by making the games go for more days.
In 1943, C.T.B. Turner, one of the fast bowling greats of the late 19th and early 20th centuries called the ‘hit or miss’ race for runs against time of one day cricket ‘a menace’.
In the ’50s the NSW Cricket Association had a short ban on there being more than two players in the leg trap as it was “ruining the spectacle of cricket”. If such a ban had been kept and expanded to the rest of the cricket world, we’d probably never have seen the reverse sweep.
And then came Kerry Packer. A whole article could be written about the whinging and moaning surrounding the explosion of one day cricket in the 1970s, but I think even better would be to offer some choice quotes from this letter to the editor in The Canberra Times from 1985.
Packer game not cricket
[T]he Packer organisation … will be recorded in history as the people who firstly seduced and secondly destroyed the game of cricket. [T]urned the rules of the game upside down, decked the … teams out like … clowns at a kids’ circus, fitted all types of head-gear and protective devices to the players, changed to using a white ball instead of a red one …, introduced instant replays from every conceivable angle with monotonous regularity and,… microphones at the stumps to record and broadcast the “death rattles” … all to entice more … non interested cricket spectators to pay and pass through the gates. [T]hey encouraged a new form of bodyline as the standard for fast bowling, no doubt having in mind the “blood-and-guts” attraction of the arena at the Colosseum or … bull fight. [T]hey have created an entirely new game with precious little in common with the game of cricket. … What I believe we are witnessing is the end of cricket as we have known it. … I do not believe that the two games are either complementary or compatible. … [I]f our cricketers continue being involved in both systems, we will never field a Test team with the capabilities of the teams of the 50s and 60s.
As far as Old Man Yells At Cloud goes, Abe Simpson would be proud.
Which we could pretty much just rinse and repeat for T20.
Brett Osmond wrote in The Roar on 1 November, 2013 that it’s “turning our Test team into a bunch of easy-out individuals who think it’s more important to score runs fast than to construct an innings for the team?”
Mickey Arthur said in 2011 that it was ruining Australia’s chance of regaining the No.1 test spot. Funny, I thought that it was having Mickey Arthur as coach that was doing that.
Mohammad Yousuf declared that it was going to be the end of Pakistani cricket after a disastrous first Test in Australia in 2009-10. This was a time when Pakistan were the world T20 champs, and six months before the betting scandal that would throw a cloud over all Pakistan results for years prior.
Pretty sure that’s worse for the team than T20, Mohammad. Let’s not forget the 2014 Australian tour of Pakistan (UAE) ended with three Pakistani batsman averaging over 97.
At the time of writing, the West Indies are still in with a chance of winning this year’s Twenty20 tournament. The same West Indies that got their proverbials handed to them on a platter by the Australians last summer.
The same West Indies who, if it weren’t for the money being paid out by the various T20 comps around the world, would probably be fielding a side of 16 year olds who hadn’t yet given up to go and play baseball in the US so they could at least earn a pay packet.
The same West Indies who were beaten in a thriller by Afghanistan; a team who is surely one of the sporting stories of this century.
T20 sure has changed the face of cricket. More players than ever can make a living out of the game, vastly improving skills. More teams than ever can compete at a world cup without it taking fifteen months to get through, vastly improving the international reach of the game.
The BBL is the ninth most attended sporting league in the world. BBL games have bigger crowds than Serie A! Imagine what that’s doing to getting the next generation of Australian cricketers involved in the game. And that’s not even mentioning what it’s done to create a more exciting style of play, both with the bat, and the ball (I defy anyone to say that T20 isn’t a bowler’s game).
I love Test cricket. But T20 isn’t ruining Test cricket, it’s making it. If you disagree feel free to go and shout at clouds with Jack Herrald of Bateman’s Bay, and I’ll watch overarm fast bowling to reverse sweeping W.G. Grace-esque batsman with my snicko and instant replays.
Anthony Condon is a cricket historian at La Trobe University