15 April 2006

Whither cricket?

Sometimes it's easier to see things from outside the circle or on the margins than from the centre. So it seems to be with cricket, where, in the aftermath of Australia's pyrrhic victory over Bangladesh, the talk from the centre of the cricket universe is all of too many games putting pressure on the players rather than of the chinks in Australia's armour and Bangladesh's capabilities .

Anyway check out The Scotsman for a view from the margins and see if you agree that it makes some good points, such as this, made in response to the editor of Wisden's plea for the number of top level cricket playing nations to be reined in:

Geographically, Australia, South Africa, West Indies and India could not be further apart but no veil will disguise the fact their interest in cricket grew as a result of a common diaspora.

However, the beauty is that none of those countries today are remotely alike. Diametric cultures are reflected in the way they play the game. Urban bowls become fascinating melting pots when competition is fierce. Rivalries are formed, and 18-month gaps between series are just about bearable. Five or six years would be achingly long if the rest was just filler.

Hang on. That's what it has been in recent years. Over the past decade only one team, India, has made an Australian summer interesting, and before the Baggy Greens ambushed them at Lord's last year, England had won ten straight Tests at home. This is not the fault of the International Cricket Council, it is because two nations got their houses in order and others fell behind. Everything is cyclical. Not so long ago England were a shambles.

The trouble with cricket is that it takes too long. For a Test you have to write off five days, for a major tour three months. Sadly, it wasn't designed to cater for 205 countries, as football now does. Scotland are ranked 62nd by FIFA and 12th by the ICC, but the comparison means nothing because in football, quality opposition is only ever an hour away. Trips can be done in two days.

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