I can no longer refrain from writing about cricket. Paradoxically, I cannot bring myself to write about the shambles underway Down There. I am going to change the whole cricketing subject and hope no one notices.
I never liked the sound of 20/20 cricket, but reliable sources told me it was a guilty pleasure well worth cultivating. So over the last summer I took to watching Surrey met out bite sized thrashings to a series of other counties.
I first went with a spirit of scepticism and disdain and was surprised by what I saw. In the first instance the Oval was sold out – this is the second largest cricketing venue in the world and it was sold out for a county match.
The cricket was also of a very good standard, neither bowler nor batsmen pulled any punches or tried anything mad and watching James Benning, Ali Brown and Ramps really swing for the ropes presented damn good value for money.
It is also always a pleasure to see Middlesex lose.
True there was also a great deal of ghastliness going on. The sight of a number of urchins and louts wearing football colours in the Oval has rather the same effect on my sensitive soul as seeing a hijab in St Peter’s.
Also, the practice of blaring a few lines of a pop song after every boundery and wicket was irksome in the extreme, but I have hopes about this as it was so obviously unpopular with the entire crowd.
Also in attendance, and ill-advisedly given a microphone, was some half-witted mockney who was demonstrably pig-ignorant about all forms of cricket and would not shut up. I was later reliably informed that he presents graveyard shift Channel 5 programming on obscure American sports. This man must be shot.
What I can say is that all these things were distractions, distractions from the cricket which I found myself enjoying.
Now let us not get ahead of ourselves, I am not saying it is proper cricket nor am I suggesting or even thinking that it is preferable to a hard fought 1st class game. But as an excuse to bunk off work an hour early of a summer’s Wednesday it was pretty good.
Twenty/20 is not really competitive nor do I think it is meant to be – it is an exhibition game. Boycott and co often dismiss it as “hit and giggle” cricket which I think is unfair. It isn’t real cricket, but then neither are ODI’s which I keep hearing we need to take more seriously.
In fact, I find the 20/20 much more enjoyable than its 50 over brother and I do so because it is without pretension. I am fed up to the back teeth with hearing about ‘specialist’ one-day players and coaches, about strategies, tactics and ‘building an innings’.
It’s all rubbish and the are all charlatans who cannot last a proper test. The first ODI was conceived as a way of entertaining crowds on the fifth day of a test match that had lost four days to rain – entertainment pure and simple.
I was heartened to see Australia turn up with their nicknames written on their kits – they were there for an exhibition match and they knew it. Both sides wanted to win but neither was under the illusion that the victory meant anything.
I say get rid of the bloated 50 over version – it has got way to big for its boots – and make 20/20 the new standard limited overs format. It won’t tax an already overworked touring squad as much, and most importantly there will be no risk of it being mistaken for real cricket.