October 26, 2013

Can aliens understand cricket?

If they ever met the chaps who run Cricket Australia, they may reconsider any plans of invading our planet

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