I Don’t Like Cricket, I Hate It is a semi-regular feature where we ask a fella called Prince Prefab about cricket – even though he hates cricket. We are in bold. Prince Prefab is not.
England tour Sri Lanka and the West Indies this winter and the big news for cricket’s (in)visibility in the media is that talkSPORT have got the radio broadcast rights, so there’s no Test Match Special.
Well I don’t listen to Test Match Special but even I’m livid. One of my favourite things is talking on the radio that goes on for hours. I think it might be time to riot.
Well there’s always the talkSPORT talking on the radio that goes on for hours. They’re so committed to it that they even put ‘talk’ in their name. Have you ever listened to talkSPORT? Can you imagine what cricket on talkSPORT would be like? (And what, exactly, do you imagine that cricket on Test Match Special is like?)
Well I should have been clearer. I like long talking on the radio that is not on talkSPORT.
I heard talkSPORT once in my friend’s car about ten years ago. It was angry men shouting about football and I did not care for it. I think I can imagine what cricket would be like on talkSPORT and I do not think I would care for that either.
What do I think TMS would be like? Sort of like posh old chaps talking about the breeds of birds on the pavilion roof, the slant of the sun over the south-facing stand, their sandwich filling of the day, their favourite type of cake, a bit of poetry they remembered from school, making a note of a wicket or a six. That type of thing. Close?
Well it’s evolved a bit in recent years – most of what you describe was basically Henry Blofeld’s exact contribution – but stereotypes are generally rooted in fact aren’t they? There’s still an undercurrent of all that.
We suppose TMS has moved towards the middle ground of late and the very fact that it’s cricket will probably drag talkSPORT more towards the middle ground too. There’s also Guerilla Cricket, which is the irreverent option. Those guys commentate on the TV coverage and broadcast online.
I might give TMS a go. I fall asleep at night listening to podcasts of things I’m not very interested in. I find it soothing.
Well, like we said, they haven’t got the rights, so you’ll have to wait until summer. They are however going to… [checks announcement] “… give fans a chance to hear their favourite TMS broadcasters, like Aggers and Michael Vaughan, give their expert view on England’s tour of Sri Lanka and take part in discussions around all the big issues in the sport.”
Yeah, that sounds suitably uninteresting. That should do it.
The climax of the County Championship is always thrilling.
This year was no exception. (How could it have been when we literally just told you that the climax is always thrilling? (Think, McFly! Think!))
Having surrendered a ten million run first innings deficit to last year’s champions Essex, this year’s champions Surrey almost won the match but then didn’t.
One of the more mundane revelations from the recently undertaken trials of The Hundred is that they’re going to have a Powerplay.
‘So what?’ you might think. But when all innovations seem to be on the table and the aim is to make the game as simple and straightforward as possible, this strikes us as odd. Is this how much Powerplays have come to be accepted as a fundamental part of limited overs cricket?
‘Powerplay’ is an unjustifiably excitable way of saying ‘temporary change in the rules governing field settings’.
In the first 10 overs of a 50-over one-day international, you’re allowed a maximum of two fielders out on the boundary (technically ‘outside the circle’ but let’s not get into that); from overs 11-40 you’re allowed four; and in the last 10 overs you’re allowed five. At least two of these periods are Powerplays and probably all three. (We cannot be bothered looking this up).
In a T20 match, two fielders are allowed on the boundary for the first six overs and five after that. Maybe just the first one’s a Powerplay; maybe they both are – who honestly cares?
Fielding restrictions are tweaked in a bid to manipulate the behaviour of the players.
By moving most fielders closer, the idea is that the batsmen will seek boundaries rather than singles at a time when they’d otherwise be more likely to play conservatively. The general feeling is that runs are boring when they involve running, so the rule-makers engineer gaps to tempt batsmen into playing big shots.
It is also hoped that the bowling side will seek wickets rather than looking to ‘keep things tight’.
We honestly don’t know. There is a reason why cricket has Powerplays in all its shorter forms and that’s because when they didn’t exist batsmen played more cautiously.
But attitudes change. Players approach T20 batting with a certain abandon these days and with an innings in The Hundred being 17 per cent shorter, surely they’d approach that with even more of a gung-ho attitude.
Why not just have the same fielding rules throughout the innings so that no-one has to explain Powerplays to anyone? You wouldn’t have to have five fielders out at all times. You could have three or four.
Maybe it wouldn’t work, but if you’re trialling a whole bunch of rule changes for your funky new easy-to-understand competition, why wouldn’t you trial this?
Surrey have won the County Championship. You win 10 of 12 matches and draw the other two and these things happen.
We were checking the averages in the first division of the County Championship earlier today and two things struck us. Firstly, very few people have averaged over 40 and secondly, Surrey have had the three stand-out cricketers this season.
The three are:
While the wicket table is somewhat unexpectedly topped by two Lancashire players (Graham Onions and Tom Bailey), Morkel isn’t far behind despite only playing two-thirds as many games. He has so far taken 50 wickets at 13.96 and should quite honestly be playing a different standard of cricket or attempting some other similarly challenging activity, like limbo.
Burns is way off on his own as top run-scorer with 1,241 at an average of 68.94. This is a weight of runs to defy Ed Smith’s funkiest selectorial urges, so you can’t imagine he’ll be playing quite so many matches for Surrey next year.
Ollie Pope is the only batsman who has made a significant number of runs at a higher average. He has made 802 runs at 72.90.
There are currently 16 players averaging more than 40 with the bat in the first division. Only seven of them have played more than eight games. Batting in England is really hard.
Paul Collingwood excelled at all those aspects of cricket which are undervalued; all the ones that are hard to measure; stuff like fielding and unearthing singles that have no right to be taken.
Because of this, he was one of our heroes when he retired from international cricket and he’s not exactly dropped in our estimation since then, playing on for Durham through thick and thin and thinner and thinner still. Now he’s retiring completely.
We’ve nothing left to say about Colly’s cricket. We instead want to quickly talk about a photo that has gnawed away at us ever since it was taken back in 2016. There is something about the scene that is so perfect it almost brings us to tears.
After playing a game against Lancashire at Southport and Birkdale CC, Collingwood’s Durham stayed behind for a bit and played a knockabout game with a tennis ball with a few kids on the outfield. Colly was umpire.
The players had a few beers, the wicket was a chair, the kids got Ben Stokes out and the whole thing took place on the kind of long summer evening you can only ever really get in the UK.
It is, to our eyes, idyllic, and it will have meant THE WORLD to the kids involved. “It was quite difficult to get them to sleep that night,” one of the boys’ dads told the Southport Visiter at the time.
We don’t think it’s a coincidence that Paul Collingwood was involved in this and while we can’t really put what that means into words, in many ways it seems to sum up the man so we’re just going to leave it at that.
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That joke isn’t funny any more. You know the one. The one where you make up an outlandish format detail about The Hundred in an effort to satirise the ECB.
The problem is that while The Hundred seems like rich source material, it really isn’t. The joke suggestions are too close to home to actually be amusing. The ECB sees your ridiculous idea and raises you a ludicrous one.
The latest – since denied – was that teams would be able to field 12 players or 15 players or something. Can we propose that they make it 100-a-side so that they can keep the name but go back to normal overs?
You see? They’re not funny are they?
We honestly, honestly, honestly believe that the ECB is deliberately spreading disinformation, calibrating our expectations so that when they eventually deliver something semi-normal, there’ll be much less resistance to it. Perhaps even mild rejoicing.
Two other things to mention.
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The prospects of there being a fresh tactical dimension in The Hundred have been all but dashed after Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) chairman Daryl Mitchell said that no-one was really up for the 10-ball over because it seems kind of tiring.
Speaking to The Mail, he said: “People who are going to bowl at the death are concerned about that because of the physical demands and mental well-being. I don’t think it would be possible to ask, say, Tymal Mills to bowl a 10-ball over at 92-93 miles per hour, especially if you throw in the odd wide or no ball.”
So, to be clear: a whole extra limited overs competition is fine, but one guy bowling an extra four balls in one of his overs is far too great a workload.
Mitchell then raised an interesting question about the PCA’s workload thresholds by suggesting: “Maybe we could have eight-ball overs at the start and end of an innings to make up the hundred.”
Or maybe you could have nine-ball overs? How does that grab you? An innovative solution or would it not be possible to ask, say, Tymal Mills to bowl a nine-ball over at 92-93 miles per hour, especially if you throw in the odd wide or no ball?
Cutting to the very heart of the issue, Mitchell then said: “There’s not really an easy way to get to a hundred balls and the fact it’s not divisible by six does cause a problem.”
Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer. After that, build a whole stupid thing around the stupid answer and then pin all of your hopes for the survival of your sport on how well the stupid thing fares.
The ECB are going to launch this 100-ball competition and they don’t give a shit that pretty much every existing cricket fan thinks it’s a bad idea. This is because they’re after a “new audience”.
Over at Wisden, we’re saying that this stance is moronic and completely misses the point about how people latch onto a sport in the first place.
Pondering how to attract a new audience, the ECB asked people who don’t like cricket what they would like to see. These people entirely unsurprisingly told them that they would like to see something that differs from the sport that they don’t currently like.
They have asked people who don’t understand cricket to identify cricket’s flaws and make it better. These people don’t profess to be expert sport designers, but their collective voice has given rise to something new anyway.
Surely a smarter way of going about things would have been to ask existing fans how they first came to the sport. These are the people who have gone from not liking cricket to liking it, after all. They therefore provide some sort of template for how people are typically won over. Identify the themes and you can maybe identify areas where you could be doing better.
A few weeks ago we asked people on Twitter how they were won over. Pretty much everybody was influenced by friends or family. That’s how people get hooked – through their interactions with other people.
Even if there was one defining moment that finally tipped the balance, they’d normally been worn down by the sport for a long time beforehand. Maybe they always heard it on the radio. Maybe they played in the back yard with a parent. Free-to-air coverage may well have played a part, but seeing the action alone is not enough.
If you’re immersed in a cricket environment, you’ll probably get into cricket. That’s generally the way it works. A cricket environment is not just what’s on the telly, it’s what people around you are talking about. The conversation matters. Get enough people talking about something and it becomes a big deal and when something’s a big deal, it makes headlines.
If existing fans hate a tournament, they aren’t going to enthuse about it and if existing fans aren’t enthusing about it, that oh-so-vital conversation is stillborn.