Cricket for Americans: 26 May 2019: Is cricket hard to understand?

That’s been the debated topic over the last week on Twitter. It all stemmed from a press release from the ECB on The Hundred — their new format coming to a stream near you next summer — which stated that the format will be easier for non-cricket-aficionados to understand.

Now, most people think The Hundred is at best a joke and at worst the end of all cricket as we know it, so everything that even smells of it is roundly dismissed. So while the reaction was colored by this, it was still pretty on point: cricket is not by any means a complicated game. Or, at least, more complicated than other sports. You bowl, you bat, you score runs, you take wickets. I think it is far simpler than rugby or Aussie rules or gridiron football — as hardcore fans of those sports that I know actually prefer to watch them on tv so they have a better clue what is going on. But even those games can be understood by even the biggest sporting novice after an afternoon or so.

Cricket is simple enough, it doesn’t need dumbing down. But even if it did, I am not sure how The Hundred accomplishes that.

Then again, it is really complicated, once you start exploring the nuances. I have never known a game with so many nooks and crannies, back alleys, tunnels, underground roads. The game is ceaseless in its ability to surprise and delight even the longest term fan. That’s what keeps us all coming back, day in and day out. It’s terribly complicated. You can spend a lifetime studying the game and still not understand it all, still be dumbfounded by it, still get things wrong every day of the week. And that is what makes the game great. And that is something that The Hundred does accomplish. By further shortening the game, you take away its ability to surprise, you take away more of its nuances and back alleys. And yeah you make it less complicated, I guess, but not in a good way.

A lot of the ECB’s yes-men — I am looking at you, Michael Vaughn — are on board with the tournament, Mostly, it seems, because they like the idea of an eight team, city-based competition. And I get that. I think that part of The Hundred is actually kind of okay. Despite the fact that it removes promotion and relegation, which is one of the things about European sport that really sets it apart. It provides a level of danger to the sports that utilize it that other sports are missing. But I digress. The fact that it’s city-based is really the only thing going for it. Otherwise, it’s dumb, and it will — I think — have a profound and negative impact on the game, both in the UK and around the word, All for the sake of dumbing it down, making it less the game that we love. It simply does not need that. Sure, you might attract a few more people, but they won’t stick around, because the new format takes away the thing that keeps people around.

I hope I am wrong.

It’s not complicated, but it also is, and that’s what makes it great.

Until next time.

**

Update, it appears the World Cup is available for streaming on Hotstar US. I got a free subscription via my subscription to Willow to watch the IPL, and it seems my subscription is still valid. So there you go,

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