Can we keep cricket from being a sideshow?

When Twenty20 cricket first popped its dyed blonde-haired, blue-eyed, attractive but completely vacuous head up I was totally OK with people not taking it very seriously. Like its human counterpart it was the one you could watch do its thing and enjoy while it lasted, but you never really felt like you owed it anything. You wouldn’t write home about it. You wouldn’t buy it Grange. When it was done you both went home and didn’t think about it again.

I also liked that it had some childish elements, as any fling based purely on lust does. I liked that Punter wore ‘Punter’ on the back of his shirt, and little Pup wore ‘Pup,’ and James Hopes rather bafflingly wore ‘Catfish.’ I liked that blonde, blue eyed, attractive but completely vacuous men and women danced on the stage, gyrating their hips more suggestively than a banker raising his eyebrows to the bottle blonde on a Friday night at Establishment.

I also liked that the old geezers in the commentary box had to try to remember which Usher song Mike Hussey had ‘chosen’ when he walked out to ‘bat.’

It was nice; a sideshow that distracted us, albeit briefly, from the meat and potatoes of test and one-day cricket.

I liked it because Twenty20 wasn’t really that serious back then. There wasn’t really any money in it. It was sort of interesting to see people slap and dash for an hour or two, but that was about the extent of the interest.

‘Hit and giggle,’ some called it. Perhaps rightly.

Sadly, people with money realised it was a hell of a lot more entertaining than the other forms of cricket in the same way Transformers is more entertaining than The Shawshank Redemption.

More robots fighting each other to the death. More weird, overdubbed voices. Not really, but there was more booty-shaking, less standing round saying “jolly good show” and lamenting those who had gone before, and a much, much greater propensity for fireworks and hip-hop music. Between these  last two factors alone, Twenty20 covered just about every singe demographic a twenty-seven-year-old unmarried but definitely looking marketing exec (sex withheld) could name, even the fabricated ones.

Fireworks keep the nerds happy. Hip hop everyone else. These are facts. Don’t like them, see your counsellor.

In amidst all of these bootilicious bodies, big sixes and cricketers wearing shirts that are way too tight for their oft-sloppy rigs, somehow the requirement of actually being able to play cricket was lost.

Remember when Andrew Johns almost lost a game for NSW because being a celebrity was enough to qualify him for the state cricket side? Probably not. But you remember him playing right? Or do you just remember him being in the team?

Apparently he was there to draw the crowds. The only problem was he couldn’t wow them with his banana kick, given that cricket is played with a non-oval ball that is mostly left unkicked unless you happen to be Mark Taylor or just really pissed off. Instead he had to rely on his straight drive. I looked up Joey’s Wikipedia page. There was nothing on there about how good his straight drive was. Or his off-break.

Funnily enough, there is aslo very little about Usain Bolt’s bouncer, aside from the fact that once he got Chris Gayle out when the coolest man in cricket was probably focusing more on swatting away West Indies Cricket Board contracts than Bolt bumpers. C’est la vie.

Similarly, googling Yohan Blake, another Jamaican sprinter, will yield many results about his times, his stride, his battle with Bolt, how he is called “The Beast,” his biceps and other things related to running 100 metres.

It may also reveal that Blake was being courted by the Sydney Sixers cricket franchise, presumably a response to his buddy Bolt being wooed by Melbourne Stars, in particular their captain Shaun Wane.

But nothing about his cricket skill. Cricketers rarely have to run 100 metres.

It’s because Twenty20 trivialised the real skill of the game of cricket, and the attributes vital to being a good cricketer, that we are in this mess. But the marketing execs are not satisfied with making cricket less about skill and more about cheap thrills (The Hip hop’s getting to me). Along with reducing many of the skill and attitude requirements of the game, they even want to put more players who have hardly bowled or struck a ball in anger to go with the Old Codgers currently supplementing their pension with Twenty20 contracts.

Being good at the game, apparently, is no longer essential to being a cricketer.

To me, this stinks. Stop the Blake and Bolt sideshow and let me watch people who can actually play go at it for the three brief hours T20 affords me.

I know Warnie’s going out with Liz Hurley and is is about 100 years old, but the guy can still bowl spin better than any other Aussie.

The old codgers running around with hip replacements I can deal with. Just don’t try to sell me the best players in the world and give me some guys who can dance well and run fast. That’s not what cricket’s about, and it never was.

Keep cricket and cricketers uncool, stay in school.

Respect.

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One response to this post.

  1. Patrick

    That is a very conservative view you are espousing for one still young enough to play. unfortunately sport is no longer sport but is ‘entertainment’ and competes with theatre, opera and movies for ratings.

    Kim

    Reply

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