This morning I am writing this with the Wimbledon’s Men’s final in the background.
I have in the past compared tennis to cricket, and cricket to tennis. Both sports have similar backgrounds: both invented in England, cricket in Kent, tennis in Birmingham; and both spread in popularity throughout the English speaking world. (For whatever reason, however, tennis spread throughout the non-English speaking world as well, while cricket is still only popular in former British colonies. More on that in a second). Furthermore, they exist on a similar historical timeline: the first test match was held the same year as the first Championships at Wimbledon; and while initially dominant, England has seen its presence in the game diminished. Andy Murray is the first British Wimbledon finalist since Fred Perry in 1936.
Since then, Wimbledon has seen Men’s Champions from the USA, France, Australia, Egypt, Peru, Spain, Czechoslovakia, Sweden, West Germany, the Netherlands, Croatia, Switzerland, and Serbia.
Also, in my opinion, the games are similar in other ways:
Both are gentlemanly lawn pursuits that have welcomed swashbuckling foreigners to spice up the game.
And both require creativity, stamina, concentration, and intelligence – in spades. Tennis is far more athletically challenging than batting in cricket, of course, but I feel the latter is closer to the former than anything else in major sport.
And both sports’ games require a long time to develop their individual storylines. It’s games, sets, hours before you really know what kind of tennis match you are going to get. Just as in cricket it takes overs, hours, DAYS before you get an idea as to how the historians will remember the match.
Both are great old games.
But it makes me wonder why the world accepted tennis, and golf, and football, but turned up its collective nose at cricket?
Also, tennis is incredibly entertaining because of its global nature: Spanish swashbuckling, Eastern European efficiency, North American arrogance, South American passion.
How much fun would cricket be if we could be treated to similar such diversity?
An unanswerable question, of course. The game might actually be less entertaining, but I don’t think so.
Unfortunately, the world will probably never know. Cricket’s time in the sun is fading, and despite the ICC’s best efforts, it will never become a global game. Ever. That window of opportunity has closed forever.
I had been toying with a piece on attacking cricket versus “boring”, defensive cricket, after all of the talk about Spain’s Euro 2012 win, and about “parking the bus” etc. But Russ from Idle Summers beat me to the punch with this fantastic article. Definitely worth a read.
Until next time.
4 Replies to “Breakfast at Wimbledon”
Thanks for the link Matt.
I’d like you to elaborate on this comment:
I don’t feel that is true. Research into what makes sports popular – in particular the excellent Global Games by Maarten Van Bottenburg – indicate that sports become popular in a particular period in national development (urbanisation) and are chosen to bring people closer to the dominant global culture. In many non-Western parts of the world that are reaching that point of development, choosing cricket, to align themselves with India is certainly a viable choice.
Not that I’d expect cricket to overtake football, but I think its best years are ahead of it.
That said, it already missed one window of opportunity, as you said. Largely because the people playing it in non-British colonies played cricket to assert their credentials as the elites in society, depriving it of its middle-class base. Sadly, that attitude prevails in cricket, so it would be no surprise if development is stifled again. History repeats and all that.
I appreciate your optimism! I just feel like cricket had its chance to become globally popular, to be in the olympics, to be universally accepted and adored. To be like football, tennis, golf…etc, but it missed its chance. It was the favored sport of a global super power, but it still could not overcome the obstacles it set out for itself.
However,while it is the dominant sport in a country that is rapidly becoming a global super power (India), which does bode well for its future, I think it will remain for 60% of the world a bit of a niche sport. Like baseball, lacrosse, field hockey, ice hockey…etc.
All of that said, I should not have said cricket’s time in the sun is fading. It just feels like it is maybe slowly decaying, eroding. Like the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. And therefore all sorts of windows are closing forever. The world is moving on. Even football will fade away from the public view as time goes on.
Glory is fleeting; nothing lasts forever.
Fair points. Tennis was not so different to cricket, going back 40 years. It was only then, when the Open Era started, and the subsequent growth through Northern, then Latin and then Eastern Europe that it became a global sport. Before that there was a reason Australia dominated: they were the only nation playing with a relatively open social policy, competing with the elites of the United States, England and a few small clubs.
In that respect, cricket’s amateur English era is ending. But perhaps the Roman Empire is a better analogy, declining/stagnating in the West, but expanding in the Byzantine East.
The window for English – pastoral, elitist – cricket is surely closed. But others will open. Whether we’ll both like what blows in from them I don’t know.
Great points. And well taken. No matter what they blow in, I am excited to see what happens.