A moment we’ll mark time by

Today is the first full day of fall in the Northern Hemisphere. Which made yesterday – officially anyway – the last day of summer.

But as humans we have a tenuous and shifting concept of time, and our personal last day of summer rarely matches up with the last day of summer on the calendar.

As a kid growing up the States, the last day of summer for me was always Labor Day – the first Monday in September – the last day before school started back up again.

But as an adult it changes every year.

In 2002, my last day of summer came in October. My wife and I were in the kitchen of our downtown condo, listening to the Minnesota Twins lose their playoff series to the California Angels in crushing fashion, as my Step-dad clung to life in a hospital bed. It was a summer of real hope and light, but it ended that early fall in almost complete darkness.  I remember Adam Kennedy, of all people, hitting three home runs for the Angels that lonely Sunday afternoon.

Nine years later – and two years ago today – my summer ended on the first day of fall, when my wife and I had to put our old dog down. The sky was mournfully blue that morning, with white patches of clouds that looked like steps into the heavens. Later that afternoon it clouded over completely and a cold wind kicked up out of the north. From summer to winter in just a few short hours.

And as I have written about before, the summer of 1989 also ended in October – October 8th to be exact – though that year the best stretch of Autumn weather I can ever remember stretched on for weeks following that awful Sunday.


Today is the first full day of fall, but it feels like the last day of summer, and so that’s what it is.


The English international cricket summer ended earlier this week, as Australia defeated England to take the ODI series. The county season ends later this week with a whole host of championship matches. But as we all know, cricket is not a finite sport with seasons and endings – it stretches on forever – with domestic competitions in the southern hemisphere starting up again soon – and we are only three months away from Ashes II.

But still, when those Championship matches end on 27 September, it will feel for many as the last day of summer. The long shadows across the pitches, the chill in the late afternoon air, and that feeling of deep and unexplainable melancholy that sits in our chests.

I think the coming of those matches next week, and the ending of the international season on Thursday, at least half explain why my brain has decided today is my personal autumnal equinox. So much to look forward to in April, and now it is all but over.


For cricket fans in 1939, the last day of summer was September 1st when six Championship matches ended. That same day, Germany invaded Poland. And so when that summer finished, it didn’t come back for six long years. (I have written about the summer of ’39 previously).

Same deal in 1914: the last matches of that season ended on September 1 as the winds of war whipped across Europe, and the pitches sat empty until 1919.

Sometimes winters last longer than they should.

We’ve all had those winters.

And so today is my last day of summer, but for some it was weeks ago, and for others it will be weeks from now. For some cricket fans it was earlier this week in Cardiff, for others it will be 09/27 at Hove. For some baseball fans it will be the last day of the regular season in a couple weeks, but for a lucky few it won’t be until the end of October.

It was not entirely the case this year, but I have on many an occasion used to a match or game to mark the end of summer. And while non-sports people will cast spurious glances at those of us who use sport to mark time by – I think the fact that sport allows us to place the passage of the seasons into easy to understand patterns is one of the best things about these silly games we endlessly obsess over.

At any rate, happy last day of summer, everyone – whenever it may be – and may it be a short and mild winter, and may spring be here before we know it.

View this post on Instagram

Lake Owasso has that "last day of summer" vibe to it.

A post shared by Matt Becker (@matthewtbecker) on

*Last day of summer, 2012


(Note: for the purposes of this post, when I refer to “DRS”, I am specifically referring to the ICC’s Umpire Decision Review System and its rules and guidelines as they stand today. I am not referring generally to a technology based review system. Clear as mud? Good.)

Ah, DRS. What would we all talk about if it wasn’t for DRS? Cricket, probably. You know, things like strike rates and pitch conditions and the like.

But instead, we get DRS as a discussion topic time and again. And with the ICC meet up happening this week in Dubai, we can expect yet another round of debate about the flawed review system.

First of all – cricket and DRS aside – I am of two minds when it comes to technology in sport, as I am sure most fans are. On one hand, I approve of and support the use of technology in officiating – no matter the sport. It works quite well in gridiron football, basketball, rugby, and tennis. Baseball is new to the technology party but it seems to be working all right so far, well enough to expand it starting next season. Association football is lagging far behind other sports, but this season the Premier League instituted goal line technology which is a step in the right direction.

And the above progression toward technology is a good thing because it is important, in the end, to get the call right, and it is worth a couple of delays in the game here and there. We, as fans, have all seen our team end up on the wrong side of a blown call, and so it is comforting to know that most sports have tried to take that out of their respective games. But fandom aside, there is simply so much money involved in sport these days that the financial stakeholders need to have assurances that calls are being made with the upmost accuracy. Otherwise the investment is just too risky, the money leaves, and the leagues collapse.

Get the call right, the technology is there, and it should be used.

That said: my other mind thinks that it really does take all of the rock n’ roll out of the game. I positively loathe those interminable checks for no-balls after big wickets in big games, for instance. And the review system in baseball just feels wrong – like it has stripped away the last vestiges of that great 20th century tradition that was BASEBALL in America.

And sport is great because it is unscripted – it is about human effort overcoming obstacles despite pressure both mental and physical. And the officials are part of that drama; but removing their humanity makes the games slightly more scripted – which is a real shame.

Like I said: two minds.

But then we come to cricket, and the DRS, and the situation becomes even more gray – it becomes three minds instead of two – because DRS, more so than any review system in any sport, is flawed beyond repair. And while some might disagree with that statement – that when used properly it works fine – it is too late, as the system has become so irrevocably controversial that the only solution is throw the entire system out of the ballpark.

Then what though? Go back to letting the umpires on the field make every call  – like what we have in County Cricket and other domestic leagues – while waiting for something better to come along? Or does the ICC allow the DRS to limp along until said better system can be introduced?

Tough questions. But these are the questions we should be debating, and these are the questions the ICC should be answering in Dubai this week.

Because while we all might be of two minds with regard to technology when it comes to sport, we should all be of one mind with regard to cricket’s DRS as it stands today:

It needs to go.


Note: this is blog post number 400.


Today, in Harare, Zimbabwe beat Pakistan by 24 runs. It was their first victory in a Test match that wasn’t against Bangladesh since June of 2001 when they beat India by four wickets. It was also only their 11th Test victory against any opposition since gaining Test Status in 1992.

94 matches, 11 wins.

To put that into perspective England have played 940 Test matches and won 336.

Ten times the number of Tests played and 30 times the number of Test victories.

And Zimbabwe and England are both part of the exclusive global club that is Test playing nations – and so therefore are, for all intents and purposes, in the same league. Which is kind of ridiculous when you think about it.

But is it really? I mean every team needs to start somewhere. Should Zimbabwe be “relegated” back to Associate status?

Their population is 12 million, which is more than New Zealand’s and Ireland’s combined, and only 10 million less than Australia’s. Meanwhile, fellow minnows Bangladesh have a population of over 150 million.

Population therefore cannot be a factor used in relegation. But what about GDP? Using the IMF’s formula Zimbabwe ranks 132 out of 184 – sandwiched between the economic powerhouses of Armenia* and Macedonia. The next closest Test nation is Sri Lanka at number 69. So maybe we are getting somewhere.

But then Bangladesh comes in and screws everything up: they are at number 59 – ahead of Sri Lanka in GDP but miles behind them on the cricket pitch.

Then again: The United Kingdom (I could not find just England numbers) has a GDP of 2.435 trillion USD, while Zimbabwe’s GDP is currently 10.81 billion USD.

The UK’s GDP is therefore 225 times great than Zimbabwe.

I had to double check that number.

To put that into some sort of perspective for my American readers, including myself: The GDP of the New York City metro area is a staggering 1.2 trillion dollars – 110 times greater than Zimbabwe’s. While even the GDP of lowly Cincinnati is 100 billion – ten times greater.

And using GDP, the UK is to Zimbabwe what New York City is to American cities with a GDP of around 5 billion. Cities like Abilene, TX or Farmington, NM or La Crosse, WI.

Could you imagine any of those cities fielding a Major League baseball team against the likes of the Yankees or the Mets and being anywhere near competitive? 

Yeah, me neither. But somehow we are all okay with pitting Zimbabwe against England on the cricket field.


Based on the above economic data, should we disqualify Zimbabwe from Test status? Or should we give them more time to play the game and find their footing?

They are not the first newly promoted Test team to struggle in their early years.

Pakistan only won 10 of their first 50 Tests. Sri Lanka only four. Based on that latter stat, Zimbabwe’s 11 out of 94 doesn’t look all that terrible.

Of course, once you drill down on that number, you see that Sri Lanka didn’t have Bangladesh to push around. And Sri Lanka has only had Test status for ten years longer than Zimbabwe – and yet they have played more than twice the number of Tests (222) and won an impressive 66 of them.

Which brings us to the crux of this matter: Zimbabwe has had Test status since 1992, but between September of 2005 and September of 2011, they did not play a single match in the longest format. And so while last year was the 20th anniversary of their elevation to Test status, it was really only like their 14 anniversary. Which make today’s win against Pakistan even more impressive.


In the end, despite their relatively poor performances, and despite their economic distress, having Zimbabwe playing Tests is good for the game, because it can provide scenes like we saw this morning in Harare…


That’s not cold and calculating England ruthlessly dismantling Australia, that’s a group of young, spirited cricketers celebrating the biggest victory of their lives – a victory over a side that just two and half years ago white washed England 3-0 in the UAE.

Upsets are what make sports fun. And you cannot have upsets without teams like Zimbabwe.

But then again: upsets just do not happen in Test cricket. True giant killings in the five day game are incredibly rare. So maybe what we saw in Zimbabwe this morning was not an upset, but a team coming into their own. The ICC gave them time, and now they are, slowly but surely, getting to the point where teams like Pakistan have to take them seriously.

In the end, upset or not, today was a good day for Test cricket.

Congrats to Zimbabwe, I’m looking forward to seeing you among the Test nations for decades to come.

*I am not going to talk about the fact that the Armenian national football team just beat the Czech Republic (#51 in GDP ranking) 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier.

Just buy, baby

A few weeks ago I mentioned that the best way to reinvigorate the supporters of a struggling team was, quite simply, to win.

But there is another way: buy new players.

Look at Arsenal as of late: they have both won and bought players and now the entire Arsenal universe is awash in positivity.

Beat Tottenham, buy Özil, and their problems are solved. Wenger is a genius again, and the entire frustrating summer and the awful loss to Villa are all but forgotten.

Unfortunately, in cricket, international squads do not have this option. Australia cannot, for instance, reload their squad with a simple influx of cash and make the next Ashes series a competitive one. They cannot go out and buy Amla and Steyn and Ajmal. They have to develop talent from within, and that can take years, even decades. Australian cricket supporters are looking at a long road back to where they were in the 90s and 00s – andas they travel that long road they will simultaneously watch in horror as the sport they love slowly but surely ebbs in popularity down under. There is no other option. They are a national team, not a club side, and so have to rely on the talent their country produces.

That last sentence, of course, as we all know, is utter bullshit.

It’s not a black and white anymore when it comes to national team eligibility rules. Not in football, not in the Olympics, and definitely not in cricket.

Looking just at the England team (which is like shooting fish in a barrel): Ed Joyce and Eoin Morgan are Irish; and Craig Kieswetter, Matt Prior, Kevin Pietersen, and Jonathon Trott were all born in South Africa, as were Jade Dernbach and Stuart Meaker.

All a non-English cricketer has to do to play for England is live in England or Wales for four years.

That’s it.


And England is not alone.

Just two weeks ago Australia relaxed their rules on eligibility when it comes to their domestic tournaments in order to “strengthen their talent base.”

It’s all getting a little ridiculous.

So I propose we throw the entire system out the window.

Oh, there will still be an English Cricket Team that trains in England and whose home matches are at English grounds – and a New Zealand cricket team who calls New Zealand home and a South African side that calls South Africa home and so on – but just like how the New York Yankees are not forced to field all New Yorkers, the English cricket team can recruit and buy players from all over the globe, sign them to a contract, and give them a kit with the Three Lions on the left breast.

There will be an outcry from the supporters at first – they will come across as hypocrites because they have been cheering on Kevin Pietersen since 2005 – but sooner or later they will get used to it – just like Minnesota Twins fans don’t care that most Twins players couldn’t find St. Paul on a map, and just like Brits the world over couldn’t care less that Mo Farah was born in Somalia and trains in Oregon. He was wearing the right colors, so they cheered themselves hoarse for him.

It’s 2013, let’s give up on the ill-fated 20th century dream that was Nationalism and find another ism that is better suited to our modern world.

Sure there will have to be financial fair play rules put into place, and maybe some revenue sharing, or something like that, but let’s give up on the joke that ICC and ECB eligibility rules have become and let’s have the best cricketers play the best cricketers. Let’s not make the West Indies wait 20 years to field another competitive side – because waiting that long has all but killed cricket in the Caribbean.

The world has moved on. It has moved away from borders and nationalistic fervor, and sport needs to move on as well. Maybe this an area where our favorite anachronism, the game of cricket, could the lead way for all international sport.

Hey, a guy can dream, right?


“(b)e comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world…” – Paul Harding, Tinkers


I pulled up Cricinfo this morning looking for blog post ideas. This is never a good sign, as it is a sign that I am out of ideas, and that the post will be a struggle.

When writing is a struggle, it is no fun, and this is supposed to be fun.

At a work happy hour the other night, a work pal was talking to another work pal about reading and how sometimes she felt obligated to read in the evenings – pleasure reading, mind you – and the other work pal said to her (sans benefit of diction), “honestly, if it doesn’t get you excited and you don’t have to do it, then don’t do it – life is too short.”

Lately writing here has felt like a chore – and so in that case I have thought about quitting. Just stopping. If spending time on this site isn’t fun then why stress about it – and I do stress about it – why spend time on it. Just stop. Move on.

In the past few weeks, I have found inspiration and joy in cooking, in Arsenal, in the great fiction I have been reading this summer, in bike rides, in my volunteer work. I have not found inspiration in cricket or in writing, and especially not in writing about cricket.

And so it should follow that it is time to hang it up. To go dark.

I thought long and hard about it this summer, especially since the aforementioned work happy hour discussion, and today I have decided to stick with it. To keep writing, to keep writing about cricket, to keep writing here.

And, yes, I can be a tad dramatic when it comes to this silly little blog, but this space means a lot to me – I am quite proud of I have done here – and nothing worth doing is ever easy. If it was, then everyone would paint and write and sing and bake perfect scones and run triathlons and play baseball professionally. But we don’t all do all of those things. Because doing just one of those things is hard. They are supposed to be hard – that is one thing that makes them worth doing.

If I could come here every day and dash off 1,000 words with ease, then I would be bored within six months. But the struggle, and the work, and the difficulty is what keeps us coming back to these things we love: be they writing, or painting, or fixing up old cars. I need to just remind myself of that every once in a while.


Yesterday I was in a bike accident. I am fine, physically, but I have been a real state of melancholy ever since. When I fell I was shocked by how few people stopped to ask me if I was all right. Completely shocked. I was curled up in a ball in the middle of the street, bleeding, and cars just drove right by. I found their lack of compassion for a fellow human utterly disheartening.

Two people did stop, though. They made sure I was okay, got my bike out of the street, and offered me a ride home. I think about their kindness and I get a lump in my throat. And the anger I feel about those who did not stop disappears.

We are all connected, and the world runs on the energy and the compassion we put back out into the world. I think about those two people, those two complete strangers who stopped, and I think: that is the kind of compassion that keeps the earth spinning around. I have been trying in the last year to be a better person, to forgive a little more freely, to check my anger, to say hello to strangers, to smile at passers by – and I like to think that the positive energy I have been trying to muster came back to me yesterday.

The preceding three paragraphs sound like a digression but they are not. The world runs on our energy. It runs on us creating, and struggling, and putting our creations and our struggles back out into the ether. And so while writing a cricket blog might seem completely inconsequential, it is not. It is a small cog in the machine that makes being human worth it – that allows for us to see a fellow human in trouble and stop and make sure they are okay.

That goes for all of you fellow cricket bloggers out there – even those of you rolling your eyes at me – you sitting down and struggling and getting a post out is what helps keep the stars from going out.


I guess what I am trying to say is that you are stuck with me for a least a little while longer.