October 26, 2013

Can aliens understand cricket?

Andrew Hughes
Simon Katich at a training session, Durban, October 15, 2012
If it takes Cricket Australia two years to realise a mistake in selection, in about 300 years it should be able to make a plan to win the Ashes back  © Getty Images
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How would you explain cricket to an alien? You'd have to start with the basics (sledging, spot-fixing, ball-tampering) and gradually build up to more contentious subjects, such as the profound literary contribution that cricketers have made to world literature, and the vital role that rockets, tracer bullets and other high-calibre munitions play in cricket commentary.

Once they had mastered the basics, they would probably be keen to broadcast their findings back home, and given that aliens are fairly brainy coves, they might even have a few ideas:

Report On Popular Earth Pastime Known As Cricket

Version 1.0 Lasts a week. Beloved by Earthlings, but few watch it. Not profitable
Version 1.1 Lasts one day. High Earthling viewer ratings. Profitable
Version 1.2 Lasts one afternoon. Even higher Earthling viewer ratings. Very Profitable
Solution: Render Version 1.0 as popular and profitable as other Versions

Sadly, aliens, whilst ahead of the curve when it comes to space travel, tentacles, and supersonic death-rays, are clueless when it comes to sports administration. Making Test cricket more popular would take a lot of work, so our cricket rulers have opted for Plan B, which is to make the other formats less popular, so Test cricket won't look so bad.

Thus the endless fiddling with one-day internationals, which are now so complicated that no one understands how they work; the resting of a country's best players during the one-day international portion of the tour on the grounds that it doesn't really matter, and the continual moaning about the pointlessness of the format from everyone with a press pass.

So that's one-day international cricket hobbled. But what about T20? Step forward Rod Marsh. This week he suggested it should only be played by the over-30s. At a stroke, T20 will be rendered slower, duller and less popular, and Australia's youngsters will be saved from bad habits such as scoring quickly, or entertaining the crowd.

Our alien friends might wonder whether instead of trying to preserve Test cricket skills, our time would be better spent trying to preserve Test cricket. But that's why they don't have Cricket Australia executive car parking spaces.

This corker of an idea comes from the same nation that brought us another wonder of modern cricket: the perpetual Aussie transition. Transition from the great team of Warne and McGrath to a new great team was something that the chaps at Cricket Australia used to talk about with a gleam of childlike excitement in their eyes, as though it were a great adventure.

In fact, it's like trying to cross the Sahara on foot, a journey for which you want as much desert-trudging experience as possible. But they laid off most of the veterans early on, lest the codgers slow their transition from one end of the desert to the other.

Six years on, they are still wandering around in the wilderness, supplies of hair gel are running low, some of the younger members of the party want to go home, and they have this week been reduced to retracing their steps, admitting that, with hindsight, it was wrong to drop Simon Katich, and that furthermore, not dropping him would have been the better option.

But like stiff-upper-lipped Victorian explorers, expedition leaders Sutherland and Chappell are undeterred. With upside-down maps, and copies of the Argus Report tucked into the back of their sunhats to keep the desert heat at bay, they urge their straggling caravan of lost souls to keep trudging towards the next dune, because Mr Sutherland is 100% certain he's seen an ice-cold-drinks dispenser in the shape of a giant urn.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here

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Posted by Insult_2_Injury on (October 28, 2013, 2:45 GMT)

I think you've hit on it Andrew! Aussie fans have long believed Sutherland is employed by the ECB to turn Pommie fortunes around. It's obvious now that he is from much further afield - or should that be further a-void? He has announced he'll stay at the helm 'til his contract expires in 2015, so apparently the mother ship isn't due 'til then. We'll no doubt get more excellent decisions like this years; having the domestic ODI in a 4 week block while our ODI team is in another country playing an irrelevant ODI series. Then when our own home ODI series vs Eng is on Zog Sutherland has decided that it's an opportune time to have a 20/20 domestic bash. I think the aliens will understand how all that works more than us humans. To completely prove the alien theory - Administrator Sutherland admitted his bureaucracy got a decision wrong. Sure way after the fact, when nothing could be done to rectify it, but an admission none the less.

Posted by vivkr on (October 26, 2013, 19:50 GMT)

Indeed, and when you think that CA executives' idea of the ideal preparation for the upcoming Ashes Test series at home (both in morale-boosting and cricketing terms) was to send their boys to play a series of ODIs and T20s to India, then you start seeing why the aliens and even the Earthlings start getting all foggy.

So, when CA next sends their boys to La Paz to play football matches against Bolivia as a preparation for the next Test series against SA, then there is only one thing to do: Remind yourself that sport administrators tend to have an IQ that's 40 points below the average, and if that doesn't comfort, then remind yourself that it was a similar board over 70 years ago that almost made the greatest cricketer ever think of throwing in the towel and retiring.

Posted by WalkingWicket11 on (October 26, 2013, 19:00 GMT)

Hilarious article. Though with all due respect, I think you missed one.

"Thus the endless fiddling with one-day internationals, which are now so complicated that no one **<strike>cares</strike>** understands how they work;" would have sounded better IMHO.

Posted by DRS_Flawed_NeedsImprovement on (October 26, 2013, 13:48 GMT)

simply amazing, great article. I will bookmark it and suggest this article to someone who says test cricket is a pure cricket.

Posted by   on (October 26, 2013, 13:32 GMT)

Andrew Hughes, you beauty! P.S. What do you think the aliens would make of the BCCI?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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