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The Light Roller

Is it possible to enjoy the County Championship and the IPL together? They're so similar, no?

For one thing, they're both cool

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
Callum Taylor keeps his hands in his pockets while celebrating a wicket with fielder Kiran Carlson, Yorkshire vs Glamorgan, County Championship, Headingley, April 9, 2021

Nothing heralds the start of the summer like a too-cold-to-get-my-hands-out-of-my-pocket celebration  •  Stu Forster/Getty Images

It's that time of year again, when cricket's alpha and omega go head to head to win hearts and minds. On the one hand, a 130-year-old first-class period piece, steeped in history and tradition (actual market value: negligible); on the other, a plucky T20 tamasha entering its teenage years and desperately seeking any gulp of publicity it can get. If you see Lalit Modi, please tell him to get in touch.
Currently, both the County Championship and the IPL are being played out in echoing stadiums to an audience of two security men and a sniffer dog - a situation, it's fair to say, they are more used to at Wantage Road than the Wankhede. But while we might tend to focus on the obvious differences between the competitions, and the types of fan they each attract, there are actually plenty of endearing similarities in the familiar rituals and rhythms that accompany the start of each new season.
The IPL may have all the street cred, but county cricket is so cool, it actively disdains popularity. So cool it's ice-cold, in fact - the Championship in April is almost comically inhospitable to players, never mind fans (when they are allowed in). Two games in last week's opening round were snowed off, which is a concept so farcical it needs no further embellishment for inclusion in a semi-humorous monthly column. But for many of us, there's nothing so warming as the sight of professional sportsmen standing shivering in a field, bobble hats on heads, hands thrust into pockets, hoping the ball doesn't come their way.
Franchise T20 is more needy but no less predictable. Nothing tells you that another IPL is in the offing more surely than videos of gormless, grinning white blokes doing the lightbulb dance, the shoulder wiggle, and sundry other Bollywood-inspired acts of cultural misappropriation. The blizzard in this case is one of #content (don't forget the hashtag), be it lavish kit unboxings, inspirational Insta montages, candid nets footage, even promos for branded face masks.
But just when you're considering a spot of social-media distancing, up pops Ricky Ponting giving a team talk like he's rehearsing for Al Pacino's role in the remake of Any Given Sunday, or Rahul Dravid coming over all Michael Douglas in Falling Down to promote some app or other, and suddenly the chills are back - and not just because you left a window open while watching the county livestream earlier.
Society would tell you that you have to pick a side, join the jocks or the nerds (you can decide among yourselves which is which). But like peanut butter and jelly, or Richie and Greigy, the Light Roller thinks they can and should be enjoyed at the same time. And if high school movies have taught us anything, it's that tribal loyalties are only worthwhile if they can be transcended for the greater good. (Besides, cricket fans are clearly mathletes at heart, so we should therefore all stick together.)


Continuing with the theme, there's a new kid in class and once again the rumours are flying. "Every generation is afraid of the music that comes from the next," says Lindsay in Freaks and Geeks, and it turns out the same, pretty much, holds true of cricket formats. No, genuinely, we're all terrified of the Hundred. The latest flash of Loads-o-Balls inspiration is that "wickets" could be replaced by "outs" in order to broaden the game's appeal. But why stop there? With just a subtle tweak of the size and configuration of the stumps, you could just as easily call them "goals". Shorten the game a bit more, say, to around 90 minutes. Maybe increase the size of the ball, so that it's easier to see from the stands, do away with bats (an expensive "barrier" to entry) and encourage more kicking. Before long, the ECB will be running the most popular sport in the country.


Fakhar Zaman said, "The fault was mine as I was too busy looking out for Haris Rauf." Temba Bavuma said, "It was very clever from Quinny." The MCC said, "It's up to the umpires to decide." Various others weighed in on "the obvious deception" that was "completely against the spirit of the game". Having observed Quinton de Kock's supervillain smirk at the run-out of Zaman during the second Johannesburg ODI, it's easy to see why people started asking questions. But was it fake fielding or fake news? The Light Roller can't help feeling the obvious answer is being overlooked. Let's put it this way: de Kock might be viewed as a genius in certain regards, but he's not exactly Niccolo Machiavelli, is he? No further questions, your honour.

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick