The Guardian view on 100-ball cricket: the sacred and the profane

first_imgThe announcement of a 100-ball form of cricket is yet more mildly depressing evidence that the glorious game is splitting into two forms: the classical and the popular. The former, Test cricket, is a codified, cultivated game played over five days and four long innings. It was amid the tactics and patience of “long-form” cricket that players cut their teeth. However, the classical game is dying in its pads. English county teams, who play the longer form, often get fewer spectators in a season than big football clubs get for one game. What are thriving are the “popular” shorter versions of cricket – their detractors consider them a different sport – such as the one-day game and Twenty20. These can be batting slugfests or target practice for pistol-quick bowling. Less treasured is the skill of building an innings and arranging the field to test a batsman’s – or woman’s – weaknesses. These are losses, aesthetic and otherwise, but the gain is popularity: 120 million people watched India’s domestic 2016 T20 final.It did not have to be this way. English cricket has never been more popular than it was in 2005, when almost 23 million watched at least 30 minutes of England’s victorious Ashes series. Cricket became a victim of its own success: Sky bought the TV rights and the game disappeared from terrestrial television. Today it has never been less popular. The England and Wales Cricket Board’s own survey of schoolchildren showed that three in five didn’t even rank cricket in their top-10 favourite sports. Instead of invigorating the classical form of the game, the ECB has created a novel 100-ball format and a new eight-team, city-based tournament. While this paper will mourn the demotion of the Test version, a crumb of comfort is that cricket will be shown live on BBC for the first time in 21 years from 2020. India cricket team Read more IPL Share on WhatsApp Share via Email Opinion ECB In attempting to make cricket attractive, the 100-ball game is polluting the game’s best traditions. An innings split into 15 six-ball overs and another of 10 balls means the format would need a change the laws of the sport. This seems a step too far: why not just put the cash into the existing T20 competition? The answer is presumably that only the shock of the new can jolt life into the sport. India’s recent cricketing experience is worth recalling. It was only after India won the 2007 T20 World Cup in a heart-stopping final against old rivals Pakistan that the country embraced the fast and furious game. A year later and the laser shows, cheerleaders and Bollywood stars proved an instant hit. Today the domestic tournament attracts £400m in annual television rights from Star India. Players come from all over the world to pick up large pay packets. Yet Indians remain fascinated by a long innings of attrition and retain an eye for a bowler’s line and bounce.Now the ECB has decided to submit cricket to the cult of the unsentimental – prepared to reinvent the game to save it by pulling in a billion pounds mostly from Sky, but with the BBC to reach a wider audience. One can only hope English cricket can lure people to make excursions across the border between popular and classical forms. Twenty20 BBC Topics Share on Messenger Since you’re here… Share on LinkedIn Sign up to the Spin – our weekly cricket round-up England cricket team editorials Share on Pinterest Cricket … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Share on Twitter Support The Guardian Share on Facebook Reuse this contentlast_img

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