August 7, 2014

What modern cricket needs

Alex Bowden
A cricketer puffing on a cigar while being cuddled by a bearded giant? Truly we live in less entertaining times  © Getty Images
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I've just read WG Grace's Classic Guide to Cricket. There are a quite a few aspects of the sport peculiar to that era that I feel need to be brought back. I believe that the following changes would improve the quality of our sport no end.

Venison
Apparently the Epsom club nearly ruined itself financially after providing three haunches of venison by way of catering during a friendly match. They also drank the cellar dry, the chairman politely claiming the final bottle all for himself on the grounds that it would be "ridiculous" to divide it amongst so many.

Grace describes this form of cricket as "very enjoyable" and who are we to argue? The big man was also partial to refreshing himself mid-innings with "champagne and seltzer". Sports nutritionists can learn a lot from such things.

Underarm bowling
There's a certain homogeneity about modern bowling. There are spinners and fast bowlers, but purveyors of fast-medium predominate. A bit of underarm - or as Grace would have it "underhand" - wouldn't go amiss. Grub-hunters might not be too great to watch, but I for one am intrigued to see how the modern batsman deals with "lobs". Back in the day, many bowlers would try and bowl the batsmen through attempting to get the ball to land directly on top of the bails from as great a height as possible. It is also worth noting that practitioners of this form of bowling were referred to as "lobsters", which is surely reason enough to reintroduce it.

Multiple England teams
Have you seen the schedule? This one's a must. If the load can be shared between an England XI, an All-England XI and a New All-England XI, there's a fighting chance that at least one England international player might get through the next year or so without suffering either injury, mental breakdown or both.

Ludicrous team names
You may think that Chennai Super Kings is outrageous, but they're barely even trying. What about Idle Boys or Variegated Annuals? Nonentities or Anythingarians? Or how about Unmitigated Duffers? All of these were real teams. Also, never mind your Birmingham Bears or your England Lions, what about the less celebrated members of the natural world? Gnats v Fleas would surely be a close match, while Caterpillars v Butterflies raises some interesting questions.

Strict qualification criteria
As some countries have proven, even nationality can be hard to define, so let's go back to teams whose entry requirements are rather more clear-cut, such as Single v Married. The Gentlemen v Players matches might prove a little one-sided these days, but I for one would love to see cack-handers punished for their sickening wrong-handedness in a modern Left v Right fixture.

Top hats
At one point Grace observes: "Three of the All-England XI played in top hats." No further comment is supplied and the readers are left to make up their own mind why this information might be in any way relevant to anything. Personally, I have concluded that cricket becomes exponentially more fun with every additional top-hat wearer. If we can also bring back handicap matches in which 11 from one team take on 22 comprising another, we can see sporting heights undreamed of for 200 years or more. Just imagine it - 33 top hats in one fixture. I might even be tempted to pay modern ticket prices to go and see that.

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