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Thirty things we love about cricket today

Timeouts, T20 leagues, DRS, Spidercam - the modern game is in our faces all the time, but we still can't get enough of it

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
27-Mar-2023
Spidercam, Spidercam, does very little that a camera can  •  PA Photos/Getty Images

Spidercam, Spidercam, does very little that a camera can  •  PA Photos/Getty Images

Since there have been circa 30 editions of the Light Roller, the big kahunas at ESPNcricinfo thought some sort of celebration was in order [are you sure this is the landmark they were referring to? - LR Ed]. So here is our list of the 30 things that make cricket in the 2020s the game we know, love, and occasionally wish we had ghosted long ago.
1. DRS
Nothing short of revolutionary. Where previously players and fans seethed and whined about umpiring incompetence, home bias and underhand tactics, now they seethe and whine about ball-tracking, soft signals and umpire's call.
2. Franchise leagues
Drop a pin on the map of the world and if there's not already a T20 league in operation, then there's an IPL team owner just touched down in his gold-plated airplane to ask: "Why not?"
3. Data
Once upon a time, the only number that meant anything in cricket was how many tinnies you could sink on the plane over. Now the analyst is king and it's all about how many laptops you bench-press, bro!
4. RONSBU
"If you don't cross the line, you can't be dismissed." "Bowlers should just concentrate on bowling." "It's cheating, simple as that." "Shouldn't be punished with losing a wicket, though." "How hard is to stay in your crease? Do that in club cricket and you'll get lamped". "Check the Laws, it's a legal dismissal." "Next you'll be saying I can't use the word "Mank-" [Fight breaks out]. Play on repeat until the end of time
5. The Big Three
Every year, Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his hole in the ground and squints into the watery sunlight. If he sees his shadow and goes back in, it's because he knows two of England, Australia and India are currently playing a series together. If he doesn't see his shadow, it's because nuclear winter has set in.
6. The Fab Four
Like the holy trinity, but with better cover drives. Unclear how Kane Williamson qualifies since he's not from a Big Three country (see above). Fans of Babar Azam/David Warner/Rohit Sharma: cry more.
7. Women's cricket
What a momentous time it is for the ladies. Skyrocketing exposure, WPL riches, kit that fits properly… and last year they pulled off their first high-profile RONSBU (see above). Truly, sisters are doing it for themselves.
8. Auctions
You'd think that cricket, with its colonial history, would shy away from putting people on an auction block with a price upon their head. But no. Is it still wage slavery if you're sold for US$1m? Asking for a friend in possession of a valid NOC.
9. Team owners
From the glitz and glamour of Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta to the recent interest shown by one of the Yanks who owns Manchester United, T20 has made cricket a plaything of the rich. Now only a matter of time before Cristiano Ronaldo's Knight Riyadhers are storming to glory in the Saudi Arabian Premier League.
10. The FTP
Elaborate charade of creating an equitable schedule that broadcasters Full Members can plan around over a four-year period. Really just a front for the India-Australia-England cartel (see Big Three).
11. Formats
Only cricket can offer such a wide and varied palette to its followers. There is the full five-course experience of a Test match, the subtle flavours of the one-day game, and then plate upon plate of tasty treats offered up by the T20 circuit. The result? Indigestion! Bon appetit.
12. T10
Short-short-short form. Like those dehydrated packets of food astronauts take into space, but with less flavour.
13. The Hundred
Sportswashing exercise in the name of Big Crisp (see Strategic timeouts). Five years on and still no one's certain it wasn't supposed to be an April's Fool.
14. Strategic timeouts
The only strategy going on here is the marketing strategy. As a wise man once asked: does cricket make money in order to exist, or does it exist in order to sell more cars/crisps/cement? (Answer at the end of this 90-second break.)
15. Bilateral series
Where once administrators gorged themselves by squeezing in tours wherever they could (another India vs Sri Lanka series, anyone?) now they ruthlessly look to cut them - in order to fit in a T20 franchise league (see above) instead.
16. World Cups
The pinnacle of the international game, and therefore not something to be spoiled by having too many pleb nations involved. Also, we'll hold one pretty much every year, because who's ever heard of having too much of a good thing (see Formats)?
17. Spidercam
Ever wanted a bird's-eye view of Dean Elgar hitting a pull shot? Of course not. Fancy having a quick chat with Scott Boland during drinks? No! But yeah, watching it try to assassinate Anrich Nortje was pretty funny.
18. Stump mics
The true window to the soul of a cricket team (see Documentaries). Should always be turned down but we thank our lucky stars when they are not.
19. Commentators
Once semi-oracular doyens of the game, now semi-articulate hype men (and women) - but no less beloved for all that. How many IPL finals did Richie Benaud call, anyway?
20. Documentaries
In this sanitised era of limited access and curated social media feeds, fly-on-the-wall documentaries offer a rare window to the soul of the game's icons. Or at least that's the idea, if you can bear to sit through several hours of hagiography. That said, Justin Langer kicking over a bin at Headingley was enough to justify the genre's existence on its own.
21. Bazball
Like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Bazball is an entire existentialist philosophy masquerading as practical instruction. Nervous about going on a date? Be your authentic self. Need to fix a flat tyre? Give it a red-hot crack. Heard reports of an escaped lion from the zoo? Run towards the danger. Actually, maybe not that last one…
22. Spirit of cricket
Fairy story that adults tell to their children in order to make them behave.
23. Racism
Still a thing, sadly.
24. Equipment
Bigger bats, pink balls, zing bails. That's right, the gentleman's game has been redesigned in the theme of a five-year-old's birthday party.
25. Celebrations
Shouldering your bat like it's a firearm. Revving up an imaginary "chainsaw". Taking off your shoe and pretending it's a phone. Pulling out a mask to wear. Honestly, whatever happened to the quiet decorum of ripping off your shirt and waving it around in the air like a maniac?
26. Relay catches
Initially spontaneous moments of quick-thinking genius, then highly athletic acts of coordinated trapeze artistry. Now we're only interested when they go wrong.
27. Celebrity endorsements
The IPL has a semi-official tie in with India's entire film and music industry. Cricket South Africa has linked up with Roc Nation, the entertainment agency founded by Jay-Z. And the Hundred has… a few former contestants from Love Island. No wonder the English game is in trouble.
28. Substitutes
Silly tactical experiment brought in by the ICC turned vital medical intervention in the event of concussion (or Covid). Soon to reappear as a silly tactical experiment at the IPL.
29. Golf
Preferred sport of a large majority of cricketers. Has taken over from net practice as England's means of preparing for Tests under Brendon McCullum (see Bazball).
30. ESPNcricinfo
Thinking fan's crumpet. Still nudging and nurdling. Biased against your team.

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick