England November 26, 2011

A mathematical question on Twitter

And a prize to be won if you can answer a simple question about names
18

Wednesday, 23rd November As three-cap wonders go, Hugh Morris was one of the best. It wasn’t his fault that his parents had the lack of foresight to bring him into the world in 1963, thus ensuring that his peak years as a cricketer would coincide with a period in English cricket when a new Test batsman had a career expectancy of two and a half weeks.

Anyway, in his current role as Head of Miscellaneous Cricket-Related Stuff at the ECB, he’s been keeping his finger on the technological pulse and wrestling with the ethical dilemmas inherent in allowing contracted cricketers access to social media. So Hugh, what’s the official ECB position on Twitter?

“It’s like giving a machine gun to a monkey.”

Hmm. Well that’s one way of putting it, I suppose. But it does put me in mind of that famous mathematical theory about the hypothetical primates. Given an infinite amount of time and unrestricted access to the internet, would an infinite number of international cricketers eventually come up with an interesting tweet?

Friday, 25th November It isn’t entirely true to say that nobody wants to watch Test cricket. On the other hand, it isn’t entirely false either. Everything is relative. For example, there are more people who like to watch Test cricket than there are squirrels on the branch of the sycamore tree outside my window*. There are more people who want to watch Test cricket than are running for the nomination of the Republican Party (though it’s a close-run thing).

But there are not enough of them to make it worthwhile for broadcasters to want to televise it, at least not in preference to the really popular stuff; which is why when the ICC tried to get boards to ditch the 2013 Champions Trophy in favour of a Test Championship playoff, it received the kind of response that batsmen used to get from Glenn McGrath if they nicked a mistimed cover drive to the fine-leg boundary.

And who can blame them? They aren’t historical societies; their job is not to preserve archaic and unpopular pastimes. Test venues are emptier than a Sri Lankan cricketer’s bank account and worse still, no one’s tuning in at home. It’s one thing when people wouldn’t cross the road to watch a Test match, but when they can’t even be bothered to cross their living room, then the writing is on the wall.

Purists like to say the five-day game will always survive and they’re probably right. Like re-enactments of the English civil war, chess boxing and the Conservative Party, there will always be enthusiasts who want to keep it going. It just won’t be on television. A hundred years from now, Test cricket will be played by dedicated amateurs in their spare time. Just like the good old days.

* There are two squirrels. I have named them Ivanhoe and Wally. Why? There is a reason and not just that I like giving unusual names to tree-dwelling rodents. The first reader to come up with the correct answer earns themselves a glow of satisfaction, the admiration of their friends and a state-of-the-art emergency DVD-disposal capsule to be used in the event that any of your friends are unkind enough to send you a copy of Swanny In A Spin as a Christmas present. The capsule is made of reinforced concrete and designed to withstand extreme underwater pressures so you can rest assured that, once thrown overboard, you will never have to see the thing again.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew Hughes on November 28, 2011, 22:14 GMT

    Well done to everyone who got it, I knew you would and a particularly hearty pat on the back for Pradip who came up with the middle names.

    And kudos to those of you who mentioned Sir Walter Scott, though you should know by now that I'm not that sophisticated.

    I don't take any pleasure in the possible decline of Test cricket, but I don't quite agree with rob's suggestion that if Test cricket died, it would be the end of the sport. For me, the essence of cricket is bat v ball, the length of time it is played over is immaterial. In fact, one day cricket has a longer history than the five, four or three day version and a stronger claim to be the purest form of the game.

    Bandon is being mischievous, but I think he falls into the trap of mistaking England for the world. Test cricket is still going strong here, but England A v England B will not make for a dynamic Test programme in 2111. Andrew Strauss is right, we should be worried.

  • rob on November 27, 2011, 20:31 GMT

    Fact 1: If test cricket dies so does all cricket. Fact 2: Where do you get your facts from hughes. There was good attendance on several days of this wi v ind series and aus v sa as well. Not everyday admittedly - people have to work. And what where the tv ratings? Care to enlighten us or just spout more rhetoric

  • Aditya on November 27, 2011, 14:24 GMT

    I actually like the idea of Test Cricket not being on TV and being played by amateurs on the village greens. That would suit me just fine. Cricket administration is a parody of itself.

  • Pradip Kumar Dhole on November 27, 2011, 3:24 GMT

    Ivanhoe Mordecai Barrow and Walter Reginald Hammond are the only two batsmen dismissed by Don Bradman in Test cricket.

  • Circe Magnifica on November 27, 2011, 2:54 GMT

    Re the squirrels: Because Ivanhoe was a character developed by Walter "Wally" Scott?

  • Circe Magnifica on November 27, 2011, 2:52 GMT

    With the little experience of probability theory I have, I can assure you the unlimited access to internet is not required! Just given an infinite amount of time, a group of international cricketers generating tweets *at random* would come up with every single exotic quotation from Kalidas and Shakespeare and the Upanishads. Our problem though is that they do not seem to be generating tweets at random, but with a conscientious effort at being uninteresting.

  • Sundar on November 27, 2011, 2:45 GMT

    Haha I know! The only two wickets taken by the Don. However, i think the number of Test followers and the number of runs scored by the Don are a very comparable thing.

  • Shamal Jayakody on November 27, 2011, 2:36 GMT

    This is a good article.

  • Gerard Daams on November 26, 2011, 21:35 GMT

    Sir Walter Scott comes to mind

  • Michael Hall on November 26, 2011, 21:34 GMT

    Hope your wrong about tests. But outside England evidence seems to be increasingly with you from the empty grounds I see on TV.

  • Andrew Hughes on November 28, 2011, 22:14 GMT

    Well done to everyone who got it, I knew you would and a particularly hearty pat on the back for Pradip who came up with the middle names.

    And kudos to those of you who mentioned Sir Walter Scott, though you should know by now that I'm not that sophisticated.

    I don't take any pleasure in the possible decline of Test cricket, but I don't quite agree with rob's suggestion that if Test cricket died, it would be the end of the sport. For me, the essence of cricket is bat v ball, the length of time it is played over is immaterial. In fact, one day cricket has a longer history than the five, four or three day version and a stronger claim to be the purest form of the game.

    Bandon is being mischievous, but I think he falls into the trap of mistaking England for the world. Test cricket is still going strong here, but England A v England B will not make for a dynamic Test programme in 2111. Andrew Strauss is right, we should be worried.

  • rob on November 27, 2011, 20:31 GMT

    Fact 1: If test cricket dies so does all cricket. Fact 2: Where do you get your facts from hughes. There was good attendance on several days of this wi v ind series and aus v sa as well. Not everyday admittedly - people have to work. And what where the tv ratings? Care to enlighten us or just spout more rhetoric

  • Aditya on November 27, 2011, 14:24 GMT

    I actually like the idea of Test Cricket not being on TV and being played by amateurs on the village greens. That would suit me just fine. Cricket administration is a parody of itself.

  • Pradip Kumar Dhole on November 27, 2011, 3:24 GMT

    Ivanhoe Mordecai Barrow and Walter Reginald Hammond are the only two batsmen dismissed by Don Bradman in Test cricket.

  • Circe Magnifica on November 27, 2011, 2:54 GMT

    Re the squirrels: Because Ivanhoe was a character developed by Walter "Wally" Scott?

  • Circe Magnifica on November 27, 2011, 2:52 GMT

    With the little experience of probability theory I have, I can assure you the unlimited access to internet is not required! Just given an infinite amount of time, a group of international cricketers generating tweets *at random* would come up with every single exotic quotation from Kalidas and Shakespeare and the Upanishads. Our problem though is that they do not seem to be generating tweets at random, but with a conscientious effort at being uninteresting.

  • Sundar on November 27, 2011, 2:45 GMT

    Haha I know! The only two wickets taken by the Don. However, i think the number of Test followers and the number of runs scored by the Don are a very comparable thing.

  • Shamal Jayakody on November 27, 2011, 2:36 GMT

    This is a good article.

  • Gerard Daams on November 26, 2011, 21:35 GMT

    Sir Walter Scott comes to mind

  • Michael Hall on November 26, 2011, 21:34 GMT

    Hope your wrong about tests. But outside England evidence seems to be increasingly with you from the empty grounds I see on TV.

  • Neil Pickup on November 26, 2011, 20:01 GMT

    Wally & Ivanhoe - Don Bradman's two Test wickets.

  • Bandon Decker on November 26, 2011, 19:26 GMT

    You're right no one likes to watch Test cricket. Except for the people who formed a mile long queue outside Lord's last summer. Or the thousands who follow England around the world. Or the hundreds of thousands who watch the live coverage on Sky. Or the millions who listen on TMS. Apart from that though, everyone prefers T20s. That's why the viewing figures for last year's IPL were higher than ever!

  • CricFan on November 26, 2011, 18:16 GMT

    Good idea Swann, since you can’t win it might as well scrap it, ODI that is.

  • Sheheryar Khan on November 26, 2011, 16:44 GMT

    Lovely write-up, Andrew. Truly brought a wide smile on my face. God bless you. Ameen.

  • Gokul C on November 26, 2011, 16:37 GMT

    Ivanhoe Barrow and Wally Hammond were Don Bradman's only two test wickets

  • Swapnil Shah on November 26, 2011, 14:22 GMT

    Ivanhoe Barrow (1930) and Wally Hammond (1933) were the only two batsmen to be dismissed by Sir Donald Bradman in Test cricket.

  • Vishnu Prasad on November 26, 2011, 12:47 GMT

    After Ivahoe Barrow and Wally Hammond, Don Bradman's only two test wickets.

  • shyam on November 26, 2011, 9:11 GMT

    @Andrew (via wikipedia) - Ivanhoe is a historical fiction novel by Sir Walter Scott (aka Wally) in 1819, and set in 12th-century England. Ivanhoe is sometimes credited for increasing interest in Romanticism and Medievalism; John Henry Newman claimed Scott "had first turned men's minds in the direction of the middle ages."

    Perhaps the squirrels are a reference to your comments in your article "A hundred years from now, Test cricket will be played by dedicated amateurs in their spare time. Just like the good old days," which in my opinion is a reference to the backward thinking of the ICC?

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  • shyam on November 26, 2011, 9:11 GMT

    @Andrew (via wikipedia) - Ivanhoe is a historical fiction novel by Sir Walter Scott (aka Wally) in 1819, and set in 12th-century England. Ivanhoe is sometimes credited for increasing interest in Romanticism and Medievalism; John Henry Newman claimed Scott "had first turned men's minds in the direction of the middle ages."

    Perhaps the squirrels are a reference to your comments in your article "A hundred years from now, Test cricket will be played by dedicated amateurs in their spare time. Just like the good old days," which in my opinion is a reference to the backward thinking of the ICC?

  • Vishnu Prasad on November 26, 2011, 12:47 GMT

    After Ivahoe Barrow and Wally Hammond, Don Bradman's only two test wickets.

  • Swapnil Shah on November 26, 2011, 14:22 GMT

    Ivanhoe Barrow (1930) and Wally Hammond (1933) were the only two batsmen to be dismissed by Sir Donald Bradman in Test cricket.

  • Gokul C on November 26, 2011, 16:37 GMT

    Ivanhoe Barrow and Wally Hammond were Don Bradman's only two test wickets

  • Sheheryar Khan on November 26, 2011, 16:44 GMT

    Lovely write-up, Andrew. Truly brought a wide smile on my face. God bless you. Ameen.

  • CricFan on November 26, 2011, 18:16 GMT

    Good idea Swann, since you can’t win it might as well scrap it, ODI that is.

  • Bandon Decker on November 26, 2011, 19:26 GMT

    You're right no one likes to watch Test cricket. Except for the people who formed a mile long queue outside Lord's last summer. Or the thousands who follow England around the world. Or the hundreds of thousands who watch the live coverage on Sky. Or the millions who listen on TMS. Apart from that though, everyone prefers T20s. That's why the viewing figures for last year's IPL were higher than ever!

  • Neil Pickup on November 26, 2011, 20:01 GMT

    Wally & Ivanhoe - Don Bradman's two Test wickets.

  • Michael Hall on November 26, 2011, 21:34 GMT

    Hope your wrong about tests. But outside England evidence seems to be increasingly with you from the empty grounds I see on TV.

  • Gerard Daams on November 26, 2011, 21:35 GMT

    Sir Walter Scott comes to mind