There’s a lot to unpack in this article. First and foremost is the that darts is finally, as the headline says, getting its stats revolution.
Most sports already have had theirs. Especially the repetitive games such as baseball and, yes, cricket. The latter is weighed down with so many numbers it becomes almost a caricature of itself. It’s a laundry list of scenarios and qualifiers that bordera on the ridiculous: he’s scored one fifty in a day-night Test in Asia when the moon was full and the other team had a person named Isaac playing and there were exactly 1,156 people in the crowd, not counting ground employees, and 145 of them were legally drunk.
That’s a joke, of course. But it’s not too far off the truth. But since cricket has always been stats heavy, they really never had their revolution. The moment when the old guard who talked about guts and clutchiness and good locker room guys and hustle, bristled against the young whipper snappers and their stats that turned their game, their beloved game, into a math problem. Stripped the soul out of it. That happened in baseball. The players — like the dart players — weren’t on board at first, but they got there, and now stats are part of baseball’s DNA. But it never really happened in cricket. You can’t have a revolution if the game has always been analyzed the same way. Sure, there are new stats, new benchmarks, but nothing that has anyone up in arms. Sabermetrics and its spawn changed baseball forever. Cricket has changed, too, but not in the same way.
Which brings me to the second part of Liew’s article that stuck out for me. Quoting now:
Perhaps the rise of the analysts is merely a sign that darts, the game of the English pub, is evolving into something else entirely.
Maybe cricket never really happened in the USA because there was never a revolution. The game just soldiered on. There was never any reason for 20something stat heads to collect data and make suggestions based on that data. Cricket already did that. Americans aren’t interested in cricket because they haven’t figured out how to bring capitalism to it. In fact, cricket is doing that all on its own just fine, with the T20 and the 100 and etc.
This is all just conjecture. But when I see games like darts start to take off in America, it always confuses me. What is it about cricket that makes it impossible for it to make inroads? This is just one more theory. Darts, the British pub game, is now a worldwide phenomenon. Who would have thunk it? Not me. Not before cricket finally made it here anyway.
There are literally scores of reasons and theories about why cricket hasn’t happened here. I have written about most of them. No half-way decent national team. Racism. Not in the Olympics. Expensive equipment. And on and on. And it’s probably a combination of all of them. You can add “lack of statistical revolution” to the pile now, I guess.
The game has evolved though. More so than any other sport, it races toward change in the hopes that the next big shift around the next corner will be the thing that finally makes it thrive and puts it up with the big time global sports: the NFL, soccer. But it hasn’t found it yet. So the old guard continues to bristle, as the new guard continues to ignore the game. And maybe that’s the change cricket is missing: young people changing the game to suit their desires. Like baseball. Like darts. Instead cricket is the old guard making changes that their peers dislike, and so the game exists in some sort of horrible feedback loop.
Cricket changes for the sake of change, it seems. While darts has changed for the sake of modernity. Maybe that’s the difference. Not the stats, but the injection of new ideas from young minds. Cricket has never had that. Maybe someday it will. But ideas like the 100 and countless T20 franchise leagues aren’t gonna make it happen.
That’s what I am on the lookout for though. A young person doing something in and for the game that’s never been done before, that turns the game on its head, even though the game remains the same. That doesn’t just make it shorter, or faster, but makes it better.