And here we are.
Cricket is still happening. Most series have been called off — including the IPL — but there is still cricket. There is always cricket. The Pakistani Super League. The West Indies Championships. Domestic leagues in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. But, for the most part, the world of cricket has grown dark, quiet, as we all move inward, to a place of retreat and safety, until the worst of this hopefully, some day, passes us by.
The anxiety around COVID-19 has been palpable over the last few weeks here in St. Paul. But now it is here, and with that there is some comfort. It’s here, we can stop worrying, and start acting, even if all the action we have is staying inside, and checking on those we love. And reality is never as bad — or as good — as we think it is going to be. There’s comfort there, if you want it.
What I would truly find comfort in, however, is the promise, the reassurance, that things will get back to normal. Hopefully sooner rather than later, but back to normal at some point. That in a few weeks time the County Championship will be in full swing. Baseball will be back on the radio on top of the refrigerator in my kitchen. And the patios will be full again in the early evening, full of laughter, full of ease, like none of this ever even happened. But no one can make that promise, because no one could keep that promise, because no matter what happens, things will be different from now on. Cricket will come back, but it won’t be the same.
And maybe that’s what we are all mourning. The end of what we knew before this. Often I grieve for the cricket I never knew. The cricket of the 70s, the 80s, even the 90s, before the game changed irrevocably with the invention of the T20. Now I grieve for the cricket I knew, that I might not ever know again. Bloated world cups, endless franchise T20 leagues, mercenary sloggers, the slow ebbing away of the County Championship, as well as some of the best cricket the world has ever seen. I will miss it. I will miss all of it. Cricket will come back, but it won’t be the same. And right now we don’t even know how it won’t be the same, we just know it will be different.
Those differences though, might be all right. The game will take on a new shape, a new form, but the changes might be a net positive. Instead of a taking away, a changing, a morphing into not what cricket was in 2019, but into a hasty marriage of what it was in 1959 and 2019. A quiet game. A game that no longer takes itself for granted. A game that understands that it can all change in a heartbeat, and that we need to hold it close, take care of it, treasure it.
Right now, millions and millions of dollars are leaking out of the game, gone forever. And while that is a tragedy for those that rely on the game to make a living — not players, or broadcasters, or administrators, but the guy pouring beer at Lord’s, or the woman taking tickets at the MCG — maybe cricket will be better off in the end if there is just a little bit less money on the line. The game can be played for the game, not for the TV contracts.
Of course, I am being rather Pollyanna right now. Things are hard, and they will get worse, and more people will die. But I also think that one of the other reasons we are all suffering is that, collectively, we no longer have anything left to look forward to. Sports, movies, trips, plays, graduations, weddings. All of it is now tainted with worry and fear. And I am in the same boat. My brain is a mess of bad wiring as it is, and this has made it even worse. But I am looking forward to the new cricket, to what cricket brings next.
The game has survived two World Wars. The Spanish Flu. Famine. Fire. For almost one and a half centuries it has soldiered on. Reinventing itself over and over again, as the world around it burned to the ground, rebuilt, and burned to the ground again. And with each reinvention came hand wringing, but also brilliant moments of cricket none of us will ever forget. I am choosing to look forward to that.
I am also choosing to lock back at the cricket we once knew. The only cricket I knew. The cricket of 2007 through today. When the game creaked and moaned to a place where everyone was unsure if they even wanted to like the game any more. And now look at us. Mourning the death of the era we so despised. “You can miss anything” is something I used to say at college parties to impress girls. And it’s true. We can. And it’s bearing out right now, as we all are already missing what many called cricket’s darkest age.
And we will miss this. This. Right now. We won’t miss the death and the fear, but we will miss the camaraderie. The coming together. The promise of new, of change, of reinvention, of resilience. We only have this one planet. And we are all in this together. And there’s only one way out. Maybe, just maybe, COVID-19 will remind us of that for the rest of our lives, making each of us a little kinder, a little more patient, a little less critical and a little more appreciate of our now, this moment, what we have. Because what we have is always pretty great, and we will always miss it when it inevitably goes away.
So for the new few weeks, I will be using the blog to write about the only era of cricket I have ever known, one that is gone now forever, for good or for bad. The era that stretched between the 2007 World Cup, to the last gasps of the game before it, like so many institutions, went dark for a while, until this — like all things — passes.
I have plenty of time to write, and I bet you have plenty of time to read. And I hope everyone shares their own memories in the comments. It will kick off in the next couple of days with a post about where it all started: the farcical, laughing stock that was the 2007 World Cup.
For me, cricket has always been a lesson in social distancing. Aside from two occasions — the 2007 World Cup final and the 2019 World Cup final — I have only experienced cricket alone. But it is has rarely been a lonely endeavor, thanks to this blog, and to Twitter, and to all the other marvelous cricket blogs. Hopefully in this time of quiet and dark, we can band together once again, safely distanced, and talk about this game we love, and the era we have shared together, that is now lost to history.
Until then. Take care. Wash your hands. Be there for each other, and let others be there for you. Soon the lights will be back on, and the fires will go out, and cricket will be back.