Friday, October 05, 2007

I’m a philistine

Predictably people are lamenting the advent of 20-20 cricket even after the success of the tournament. Part of me does sympathise, cricket seems to be an especially random game, so the longer a match, the more likely the better team will win and the better chance each player has to display his worth, all very fine things. But there are many fine things out there that nobody gives a shit about and if test cricket is one of them, well so what? I also disagree with that it impacts negatively on the skills necessary to be a good test player or team. Yes the test game has changed in the past 10 or so years but in a good way, teams score faster and totals have been increasing. It's easy to surmise that this is because of the influence of one day cricket, but it's a good influence. Australia were the first to really change and they kicked ass more than normal all of a sudden. One day cricket has also changed; what counts as a good score is much higher now than when I started watching. My theory is that it was test cricket that made the initial scores so low. People did not (do not) realise that in almost all cases, scoring at a faster rate is better.

I was super excited the first time we played a test at Lords. We'd arrived! We were part of the world! But I remember being mystified at the many empty seats in the ground, which I found out were reserved for members, the purists. If the purists can't be bother to go watch test cricket why the hell are they (yes I know they're not necessarily the same members) moaning at the philistines who are also too bored to watch. The stupidest complaint I've read it (top blogger Norm describes Gideon Haigh as cricket writer supreme) that it's dumb to try attract people who don't normally like cricket, "A novel idea, this: to redesign a game to the specifications of those who don't like it..." Yeah, but the same thing can be said of any rule change that's designed to improve the game or any marketing promotion. There will always be people on the margins of any activity, make it more appealing, those people will join in. Make it less appealing they'll drop out. If we agree that this is bad then why is it not considered good to make test cricket even longer and more boring. Then only true purists will stick around to play and watch, yay!! Of course there will still people on the margin crass bastards and they'll be the ones who don't really like the game, demanding that the activity be pleasurable. How few people must enjoy cricket before it achieves true perfection?

It's a problem with sport, we forget what the point of it is. There is nothing intrinsically valuable about winning; sport exists to bring out human excellence. Players should be trying to win and the game should be set up so that this effort, on average, produces a maximum of valuable moments. In other words, all goals count the same but the beautiful ones make sport meaningful. Batsmen should not be allowed to pad their averages (teams should never declare, unless they've been scoring at 8 an over for a while, they should be bowled out), teams that win by playing an unappealing style should be respected but placed below flamboyant teams with similar results.


GT said...

Soccer is more popular than curling. So why don't we change the rules of curling to make it more like soccer?

The goal should not be to make the maximum number of people like a sport.

You don't have an appreciation for test cricket. It isn't boring. It is appealing. It is pleasurable. Its primary merit is not its length. The fact the that it doesn't conform to predictable rules (e.g. teams always try scrore 8 runs per over in the last hour before they declare) is part of its appeal.

Stuart said...

I don't really think its boring, though I clearly don't appreciate it properly.

My point I guess that there is a tension between what is popular and what people may enjoy playing. The players are welcome to decline the invitation to play 20-20. I suppose some people lament the declining popularity of chess, but I don't think much of it.

I do kind of stick to my point about winning. in professional sport winning shouldn't take a back seat to statistics. We don't think of cricket like bull-fighting or the harlem globetrotters. the subtleties should be knowledge that helps performance.

Cricket strikes me as a game in stasis. the impact of 20-20 cricket on run rates could be evidence.