England November 26, 2011

A mathematical question on Twitter

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

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