Alex Massie

English Cricket Welcomes the Enemy

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The news that England hope to host the IPL  is as unsurprising as it is depressing. After all, what better way to start an Ashes summer than with the distracting influence of a cricketing circus? Never underestimate the greed of those charged with looking after the game, howver. As soon as the Indian government declined to offer satisfactory security guarantees it was inevitable that English cricket administrators, dazzled as always by the prospect of raking in more cash, would prostitute themselves in a mad dash to grab a piece of the action.

It is hard to see any advantage in this. Better by far if the circus were taking place in South Africa. But apparently the thinking in England is that, while of course the idea of protecting the first-class game must be paid some form of lip-service, the only thing that really matters is cold hard currency and anything that advances the ECB's bank balance is Good for the Game. So, far from considering the best interests of cricket, more and more Twenty20 tournaments are proposed. The best that may be said of this strategy, I suppose, is that it may hasten the day when a large part of the cricketing audience becomes tired of Twenty20, appreciating that it is, for all the flamboyance and razzamatazz, a joke form of the game. We can but hope so.

Indeed, all the noise and colour associated with the Twenty20 "spectacle" is a clue to its essential emptyness: you need all this nonsense to distract the audience and prevent it from realising that that there's very little that's interesting actually happening on the pitch. High church cricket fans might be depressed if the game were sold to an abbreviated format that was, nonetheless, superior to the traditional forms of the game, but it's quite another thing entirely for the game to be bought and soldto promote a markedly inferior, less compelling, less textured and varied form of cricket. And yet that is where our current masters are taking us. It is madness. 

Then again, cricket has often - perhaps even most of the time - been in crisis before. And yet the old game finds a way to muddle through and still thrive. That may be more difficult in a crasser, more commercial age in which the sport incresingly seems sold to marketing experts and dubious consultants of one sort or another, but one must hope that, in the end, the sport will find a way to rebalance itself once again. But it will probably have to do so in spite, not because, of the efforts of its administrators.

Of course, it's April in England. Which means rain. Probably a lot of rain.

UPDATE: Good news! Patrick Kidd suggests that MCC (with an assist from the climate) have helped kill this nonsense and South Africa can have the dubious pleasure of hosting this farrago instead. More here.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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