Too Much Cricket?

24 05 2010

England Squad Announced

Great news came yesterday in the form of the 12 players selected for the first test against Bangladesh starting later this week. With Paul Collingwood and Stuart Broad being rested for this game Eoin Morgan and James Anderson have been called into the side.

The Compulsive Hooker has for some time been pushing the merits of Morgan’s extraordinarily calm temperament and proven big match ability and we are delighted that Andy Flower has obviously been thinking the same thing. True he has only a mediocre first class record – but so did Collingwood, Vaughan and Trescothick when they were first picked and look what they achieved. Apparently it is said that Morgan’s record being as it is, is something to do with the humdrum nature of county cricket meaning that he is not so motivated for the four day domestic league and prefers the excitement of limited overs cricket. Hopefully in the rarefied atmosphere of test cricket (even if it is only against Bangladesh) he will find that extra intensity needed to make him perform. This preference for the big match game and more testing situations is born out by the fact that, in his international career so far, he has generally scored runs when England needed him most. Morgan has also expressed his desire to play test cricket in an Ashes series; labeling that as the highlight of any batsman’s career.

We cannot imagine Collingwood enjoying Flower’s decision to rest him from this game, as for so long he always seemed to be the one wary of his place. Now he can rest easy, however, knowing that he is as crucial a part of this England side as any man and there is no way that Flower would forgo his cussed nature on what will be a testing winter trip to Australia and the World Cup.

The decision to rest Broad though is a relatively easy one, as along with KP and Collingwood, he is the only player to regularly play all three formats. It was noticeable on the recent trip to Bangladesh that he had lost some of the bite to his bowling and whilst some of this is undoubtedly the pitches they were playing on; it is surely also part exhaustion or burn out.

Jonathan Trott is retained although we cannot help but hope that if he is selected he fails. Since the flash in the pan that was his debut 100 against the Australians he has appeared to be a man at sea in international cricket. His performances against South Africa was baffling in the shot selection employed and then he scored what must be one of the worst test fifties against Bangladesh; scoring his runs at an extraordinarily slow rate.

Steven Finn has also been retained in the squad and is likely to play. He has been in exceptional form so far this season, the highlight being 14 wickets in the first game of the season against Worcestershire. Similarly to when Broad was selected as a raw county bowler, Finn will be expected to do his growing up in the international arena. He has the ability and the physical attributes to succeed so we applaud this decision.

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Too Much Cricket?

One final thought on cricket for today – if we are in a situation where cricketers need to be rested for international matches – surely there is too much cricket being played! We remember growing up in the 90’s that when there was a test or a one dayer on how excited we were at the prospect. Perhaps we are simply getting old and cynical; but surely less is more? It used to be an occasion, something important to look forward to. Now it’s just another game.

The ICC and all respective national cricket boards would do well to learn this lesson we feel.

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6 responses

24 05 2010
Ben Palmer

I concur on all fronts dear Broads – especially the Compulsive Hookers’ thoughts on “less being more”.

I am as keen on international cricket as the next man but it seems as though there’s a never ending conveyor-belt taking us from 20:20 to one dayers’, test series after test series – it’s all becoming a bit of a blur…

24 05 2010
Bradders

A blur is a good word. No build up or excitement about any series other than the ashes now it must be said. It’ll be bad for the world game in the long run! Cheers for commenting Palms!

24 05 2010
Russ

Brad, I don’t necessarily agree with you. On two fronts. While I will confess to being burnt out at times – and there is no easier way to reach that state than forcing yourself to write reviews for every test. In the 90s foreign tours were often foreign and obscure; games not involving Australia barely registered. Now I can read about and watch every game, no matter where it is played. That is a big change in viewing habits and the rhythm of anticipation and watching.

But more importantly, I don’t think there is too much cricket, so much as a lack of narrative for why we watch cricket. The headline I read today shows everything that is wrong with cricket: “Morgan and Finn look to press Ashes case”. The Ashes are months and months away. If the only series that matters is the Ashes, then everything else is meaningless filler. But, you can’t manufacture history to give meaning to games; nor can we force a team to be competitive to make the game compelling; we can only bring narrative to bear through the competitive structure the game is played within.

In other words, we need a test championship, and more than that, I think. I wrote quite a lot on the structure and future of cricket recently and I’d appreciate any comments. The game, to me, is really at a cross-roads, which makes things interesting, but also a little worrying.

24 05 2010
Bradders

Fair enough. I’m really only talking from a personal perspective here and I can see what you’re saying. The rhythms have changed as you say but I just feel that any time England aren’t fielding their first team because of the risk of burn out – it becomes too much! I’ll have a good look at yours and let you know what I think! Cheers

24 05 2010
Bradders

Hello again Russ. Just had a very brief glance at your manifesto for cricket – a lot of work gone into that! I haven’t had time to read it properly so forgive me if you’ve covered this, but I don’t really agree on the baseball cricket comparison…. It might work if all cricket was was 20/20 stuff and then more games would indeed be possible. Cricket is far more varied in format and infinitely more varied in content (not the right word but its late here – hope you understand!) For that reason a diet of 20/20 games like that would simply not work as people would swiftly get bored. I realise this wasn’t the point you were arguing but I feel its relevant as a direct comparison to baseball.
I know baseball is a high intensity sport in short bursts, as cricket is, but with cricket obviously you have players involved for longer periods of the game meaning that cricket, on the whole, is probably the more tiring sport (this is though perhaps offset by the frequency of baseball games and is of course total supposition on my part!). And in this lies the problem, if because of the longer hours spent on a cricket field players are getting burnt out, and therefore being rested from international games, the paying public in the end are going to be less interested. The point of international sport is usually to have the best 11 players playing against each other. If that isn’t happening then I for one am less interested and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. (Some sports like soccer don’t always follow this maxim, but then that is one of the major issues for me with watching England in an international friendly! What does it mean?!)
Anyway, these aren’t particularly coherent thoughts so apologies for that. May expand on this in a blog piece over the next few days. I will link to your site as I like your ideas about the test championship.
Apologies for not commenting on your site – I couldn’t work out where to put the comments! Cheers

25 05 2010
Russ

Brad, thanks, and apologies about the comments. I have my site setup to turn off comments after a month to reduce spamming. I’ll need to fix that.

A few points re: baseball. Firstly, I am not suggesting cricket should be like baseball, merely that the raw number of cricket games being played (around 350) is quite low. It is perhaps better expressed as a question: how do other competitions sustain interest across substantially more games (2500+ baseball, 1500+ basketball, or even the 380 of English football)? The answer lies in the seasonal narrative, which cricket lacks. Every cricket tour is supposed to be special, but in reality, most are just “friendlies” while we wait for the competitions that do count (the World Cups and the Ashes).

Secondly, by “not enough cricket” I don’t mean the players, so much as the fans. Because cricket is concentrated in international competition, the opportunities for spectators to watch, and the number of games that can be staged is very limited. The way to get more games is to see domestic cricket return to prominence, largely via 20/20. Which is what I am proposing. And too, I’d like to see less international cricket, by having it focused in a few key competitions.

Thirdly, I agree, regarding player burnout and the impacts on the international game, although the level of work is very uneven – India, Australia and England play a lot more cricket than other countries. Most sports seem to be roughly at the limit of what players can do. The most injury prone players in baseball are pitchers, who are constantly rotated. They throw around 2500-3500 pitches a season. Tennis players, playing 50-100 games probably serve double that number. International cricketers generally bowl around 2000-3000 balls a year. Spinners are a bit higher at 3000-4000. Mitchell Johnson, incidentally, is either a freak or an injury waiting to happen, having bowled 9000 deliveries in two years, more than 30% higher than the hardest working baseball pitcher.

Anyway, I look forward to your extended thoughts, particularly on the test championship, which is the main thrust of the manifesto.

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