It’s becoming harder and harder to say anything original about the current state of British politics. It feels like a lot of stuff is happening under the surface, and by that I don’t mean in backrooms or offices of state (although, there probably is a lot of that taking place). What I mean is Covid, the relative ceasefire in the Brexit wars, Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer, all of that is having an effect on the body politic, but none of it is having a visible effect for the time being. There will be some new Tory scandal and then the polls don’t move an inch. Starmer walks out onto the streets of Blackpool and the most common thing that gets thrown at him is that no one knows who he is. It feels like once the nation feels psychologically past the Covid crisis, things could move fast. But we aren’t particularly near that point, ‘Freedom Day’ rhetoric aside, and so it sort of feels like nothing is happening at all, politically speaking. And that is a problem if you write about politics. What is there particularly noteworthy to say about it all at the moment?
Which brings me to the cricket. It’s late July, which normally means England would be playing a test series at home right about now. Yet instead, we have a summer in which the last test match ended in very early June and the next one doesn’t begin until August 4th. So, no test cricket for a whole two month stretch of an English summer. This might be because Covid means wacky scheduling was necessary; scarily, this might also be the foothills of the mountains of shit that English cricketing summers could become in the near future. I want to believe the last possibility isn’t a goer, yet the existence of The Hundred makes me wonder otherwise.
The Hundred is so perfectly a concept built for the early 21st century, it’s almost a parody of our times. Twenty20 cricket apparently didn’t lack substance enough, so they had to lop a ball off of every over to ensure that people who don’t like cricket might somehow be lured into watching some once in a while.
Twenty20 was already way too far down a certain road for me. I don’t mind the one day game; at least there is some element of strategy remaining there. You can’t just blast every ball in 50-over cricket and expect to win, you need some way to navigate certain parts of the match that require finesse and thought. Twenty20, on the other hand, is like public nets. You can afford a wicket every two overs and still expect to win. I know there is more to it than just that – but not much more. Just swing at everything and hope for the best.
Test cricket remains the most beloved form of the game in England for good reason – it is by miles and miles the best form. The whole idea that because it lasts five days (some of the time at least) it lacks urgency and therefore interest is a spurious argument. For one, I think if constant action is your thing, cricket is probably not the game for you. What’s great about the game is that it’s relaxing and not big on pace, except in certain segments of a match that become pressure filled and key. It is this ebb and flow that makes the game what it is.
I suppose I wish the authorities who run cricket wouldn’t keep trying to figure out ways to change it in order to get people who don’t like the game to think again. All they really need to do is remove some of the more annoying features of the game. Like not having matches end on Day Five when the match is in the balance because of light meter readings. We have floodlights these days, lets figure out a way not to have light be an issue given we clearly have the technology to make this work. Or how about having additional days made available in a test match if too many overs get rained off?
The panic around finding ways to get people to like cricket always astounds me. Lots of people love the game. It’s fine. We don’t need ten overs a side bash-a-thons to ‘save it’ since it doesn’t need saving. Just give us more test matches, please.
While I’m here, I’ve got a new book coming out in the autumn entitled The Patient. It’s about a woman who goes into the hospital to give birth to her child, being two weeks overdue….and ends up staying in the hospital for a year, still pregnant the whole time. If you want to find out more, here’s where you can have a better look.