There’s cricket happening.
In our hemisphere.
The English are in the Caribbean for three Tests, five ODIs and a T20 against the West Indies, with today being day one of the first Test.
This such a rare treat. Well, it happens every winter about this time, but it is still nice when it happens. Bridgetown, Barbados — where the first Test is — is only two hours ahead of me here in St. Paul. So I can follow the match like a person is supposed to, rather than some creepy night owl.
I have written about this before. But when people ask me if cricket will ever work in America, I usually say no, because the time differences just aren’t conducive to people taking in the best the sport has to offer. London is six hours ahead of my watch. Mumbai 10 and 1/2. Melbourne 17. Sure, sometimes it works out — the first session or so of Test matches in Australia are on during Prime Time in the USA, for instance, and day/night matches in England take place during non-insane hours — but mostly international cricket takes places while most of America is sound asleep.
Except for those matches in the West Indies.
I fell in love with the game during the 2007 World Cup. Most right thinking cricket fans think that’s insane when I tell them. The 2007 World Cup was a bloated, wet mess that stretched on for weeks and weeks and weeks — with most matches happening in front of maybe two or three bored fans. But! I say, it happened in my hemisphere. I could show up at the office and put on my headphones and listen to entire matches via the BBC at my desk. If the World Cup had been happening in any other Test playing nation, I might not be writing this today.
And really this is the biggest challenge of following cricket. The time zones and, quite simply, the length of the matches. So much of the game will happen while your asleep, or in meetings, or putting gas in your car. But once you are aware it’s happening, you fall into a bit of a pace with it. You can’t watch, but you know it’s happening, and you know to check the scores when you wake up, or when you get out of a meeting, or when finish dinner. You can almost sense the cricket in the background, running alongside you, quietly keeping time like a metronome as bowlers steam in again and again and again. And then it’s lunch, and tea, and drinks, and stumps. The pace of the day matches your own, and you begin to understand the amount of space and time a Test match can fill. Only so much can happen during a two hour football match, but during a Test match the whole world can change, whether you’re watching or not. And with that understanding comes the knowledge of just how difficult it can be to not just win in the game’s longest format, but win over and over again.
But if you want to watch, here are some tips:
- Matches in the West Indies are your friends, savor them. The West Indies might not win a ton of matches these days, but they play disciplined, interesting cricket, and have a good sense for flair.
- England is fine too. Test matches start at 5 a.m. CT and lunch is at 7 a.m. with the second session starting at 7:40 a.m., so you can take in most of the day without losing too much sleep. ODIs are good too, with the chases starting at 8:30ish in the morning for a day/day match and 11:30ish for a day/night. This bodes well for an enjoyable World Cup for US based fans. New to the game? You’re in for a treat. Just don’t get used to it.
- South Africa is two hours ahead of England so it can get tricky but I’ve taken in a lot of great ODI chases from down there over the years.
- Australia, as mentioned, and New Zealand, are great during December and January, as they play lots of Tests during those months, and the first ball is in the heart of American Prime Time. ODIs and T20s can be problematic, but I watch more Test cricket beamed from those two countries than any other. However, I was forced to stay up all night to watch the ODI World Cup final in Melbourne in 2015. You might have to get used to doing that.
- Now is when it gets difficult. India is 11 hours ahead of St. Paul, so the first ball of a Test match happens just as I am getting ready for bed, and then day/night ODIs start in the middle of the night. I occasionally will catch the end of a chase first thing in the morning, but most cricket in Southeast Asia happens as I sleep. Which is a shame, really, as they play a ton of great cricket in that part of the world, and the sport is more popular there than anywhere else on earth. (The exception here is the IPL — the Indian Premier League, a domestic T20 competition that attracts the best in the world but can also be a bit of a circus — as the chases for that league kickoff in the mid-morning US time. It’s worth tuning in. They can be a little much, but they can also serve up some great T20.)
And that’s your lot, more or less. It’s not the easiest sport to follow, and you might find yourself yawning a lot, but some nights? It’s so, so worth it. Here’s a piece I wrote about staying up late to watch a New Zealand v England Test match. There’s something to be said for being up in St. Paul in the dead of winter watching the conclusion of a classic on the other side of the world, where it’s summer and green and blue, all while America is asleep.
*Update from reader Tim @ 6:11 p.m. CT:
“The CPL and the T20 Blast in England are two other great competitions you didn’t mention. The CPL games are in prime time ( some are played in Florida and you can go and watch them live, which I have done), which is great if you are a Mets fan and they have played themselves out of contention by August. The T20 Blast games start around 11 am to 1 pm ET, perfect for the weekend and good for killing time at work. Finals Day in the T20 Blast is hands down the most fun sports day on my calendar since I discovered it. Two semifinals and a final all in the same day, plus a mascot race after the first game. I definitely want to attend one of those one day.”