After Australia’s first Test win on English soil in 1882, a satirical obituary for English cricket was published in The Sporting Times. English cricket had died, it said, and “the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia” for burial. Hence, the Ashes.
Yesterday, after the Windies wrapped up the second Test against in England in Antigua, James Morgan, writing for his really great blog, The Full Toss, said, more or less, that the ECB had no interest in the long format of the game and that unless something changes, English test teams outside of England are screwed, and that there’s zero ambition from the board room to change that. Which is just a fancy way of saying that English cricket died yesterday afternoon at the Sir Vivi Oval.
Meanwhile, writing for the Independent, Jonathan Liew said that:
We frequently hear about players exploring the outer limits of their talent. We hear a lot less about exploring the inner limits. How long can you stay in the fight? How far are you willing to go in order to find a way? How much, ultimately, do you really, really not want to get out? But England don’t really seem that interested in those sorts of questions. Perhaps because they’re terrified of what they might find. Perhaps they’re worried that, if they deconstruct their games and search deep within, they might find nothing at all.
“In a sense, it’s a form of intellectual laziness,” he continues. “A fundamental inability to reflect, a fundamental absence of thought.”
And that’s just two sources. England cricket fans from the sportswriters to the average fans were collectively losing their shit yesterday. The gist of it is summed up in James’ post: the ECB doesn’t give a shit about anything but turning a profit, and are slowing strangling the Test game to death.
And he/they might be right. This might be the final nail for Test cricket in England. Writes Morgan: “(W)hat young player coming through the system wants to score 1,000 runs in the championship when they can make a lot more money in a hell of a lot less time by prostituting themselves to a shiny new Hundred franchise from next summer onwards?”
I don’t have an answer to that.
Wait. Yes I do. And his name is Shimron Hetmyer.
22 years old. Raised on the NBA and the IPL during a time of terrible West Indian cricket teams. But there he is, donning the whites and grinding out runs all the same. Why? Because the glory — the real glory — is in the five day game. Despite all the ECB’s efforts to the contrary, it’s Test cricket that turns heads, that makes kids want to be cricketers. It was that way before, it is that way now, and it will be that way forever.
This is a blip, not a trend. A speed bump, not a roadblock. English cricket didn’t die in 1882. And it didn’t die yesterday in Antigua. Yes, there are problems, and yes they need to work toward solutions, but an Ashes series win this summer in front of packed houses will inspire ten times the kids than next summer’s farcical “Hundred” will. Kids are smart. They see through the bullshit. They know the real heroes are the ones scoring those 1,000 Championship runs and winning Test matches all over the world.