Of course, that sounds like hyperbole. But it’s not. I am watching him bat right now. He is disciplined and calm but expressive and swashbuckling, talking to himself after every delivery, gold chain glistening in the Caribbean sun, leading his team to a respectable total after Jimmy Anderson ripped through the West Indian middle order yesterday evening, and doing it all with this powerful sense of real joy, like he is really enjoying himself, that he understands just how much fun cricket can be, there in the sun on a Thursday morning in Barbados.

But more than that. As Vithushan mentions above, his batting style is simply just gorgeous to watch. Fluid and clean like a clear stream in summer. Inventive and interesting and creative and smooth. Like a ballet dancer or a jungle cat. A human being completely at ease in their own body, making something so incredibly difficult look so incredibly easy.

A Test batsman coming of age in the age of the Twenty20. And only 22 years old. Are we watching the future of West Indian cricket? Are we watching the future of Test cricket? Are we watching the future of cricket!? I might be jumping the gun here a little, of course, but it’s a real joy to watch a young West Indian batsman raised on T20 and the NBA plying his trade so magnificently against one of the best attacks in World Cricket.

It’s been said before, and it will be said again, but Test cricket is not dead, despite all the opinions to the contrary. And batsmen like Hetmyer are proof of life. Sure, it’s dying, but it’s always been dying, always battling against time, against progress, but it’s players like Hetmyer that continue to breathe life into this funny old game.

I look at players like Virat Kohli, who made his national team debut in the middle of the T20 generation, a wonderful cricketer, an aggressive and ferocious batsman, who can carry a team across the line in both forms of the one day game. He can hit for six like no one on earth, blasting ball after ball into the seats in the middle of the IPL circus. But then he put on the Test whites and ground out centuries and double centuries and lead his team to victory in the longest format everyone on earth, and he just won Test Cricketer of the year.

Sure, it’s dying, but it’s always been dying, and players like Hetmyer are here to make sure it stays on this side of the mortal coil.

Cricket for Americans: 23 Jan. 2019: Time zones

There’s cricket happening.

Test cricket.

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.”

Cricket for Americans: 22 Jan. 2019: Jet lagged

This summer Australia will fly to England for the World Cup and, later, the Ashes. It will take about, oh, let’s say, 22 hours, with probably a stop or two. They will cross through 11 time zones. So the 22 hour flight will actually land them 33 hours into the future. Almost half an entire day. Oof.

They are used to such travel, though, surely, and they will probably be able to sleep, and it’s not like they will be flying in the cattle car that we are all used to. And since they are a professional sports team, they will have doctors with regiments prepared to get them over the jet lag as quickly as possible. But, still, it’s amazing, when you think about it, that you fly to the other side of the world and then have to play cricket at the highest imaginable level just a few days later. I supposed at some point time becomes a little meaningless. They eat, sleep, play cricket. All that matters is answering the bell when it rings, like boxers in a 15 round marathon.

But it’s still better than it used be. When England first traveled to Australia to play cricket in 1861, they sailed from Liverpool on Oct. 20 and didn’t arrive in Melbourne until — gulp — Dec. 24. 65 days! Just to play a little cricket. One famous story I found is that the England team had to wait in quarantine after a breakout of typhoid — typhoid! — on their trip over in 1920. An boat travel didn’t disappear when Lindbergh skipped over the Atlantic in 1919, it was the go-to travel option up until the 1960s when jet travel finally made the journey at little easier.

But here’s the deal: I have been home since Saturday but I am still jet lagged and a little sick and travel is one of those things that I adore but every time I do it I’m like: humans aren’t supposed to do this. Like, our hunter-gatherer brains simply can’t handle the whiplash of intercontinental jet travel. I hope to remember how I feel right now when the Australian openers head out to the crease on June 1 in England against Afghanistan. I am going to bet they wished they had spent 60 days on boat instead. (Probably not, but you know what I mean.)

And all this travel is further reminder that cricket is not a sport dominated by domestic leagues, like every other team sport. It is a sport of nations. The rivalries aren’t between two teams in London, or two teams in Ohio, but between two countries 6,000 miles apart, one the colonizer, the other the colonized, the rivalry so intense teams would take to boats and travel across oceans for two months just for the chance to school them on their own patch. That’s pretty cool, I think.

Cricket for Americans: 21 Jan. 2019: MLK Day

Today is Martin Luther King Jr Day in the United States. Officially, it is a day for all Americans to “reflect on the principles of racial equality and nonviolent social change espoused by Martin Luther King Jr.”  That language is from the law signed by Ronald Reagan in 1983.

Cricket, like all institutions, has racism embedded in its past, its present, and — sadly, probably — its future.

It was, in its earliest forms, not just the sport enjoyed by a colonizing white Empire, it was also their weapon of colonization, used to subdue native cultures and teach them proper English gentlemanly pursuits. And so when the West Indies came to England in the 1970s and 1980s and pummeled their former masters at their own game, the symbolism was not lost on many.

Cricket is also the sport that made South Africa a test playing nation in the 1880s, only to suspend their status in 1970 when the true horrors of Apartheid came into the international light. And while most boards agreed to not travel to South Africa for matches, players still organized what were known as “rebel tours” of the country. Thumbing their noses at the ICC, their national boards, and even the United Nations. England, the West Indies, Sri Lanka and Australia all participated in these tours. The players received bans and some had their careers effectively ended, but others were rewarded with captainships and long careers in the national side. Slaps on the wrist, in other words, for agreeing to play cricket in a nation that practiced institutionalized racial segregation for almost 50 years.

In the present day, the large scale racism of colonization and apartheid have, for now, disappeared into a recent past that we should try our best to collectively remember. But there is still racism in the game. It took, for example, until 2011 for the first Muslim, Usman Khawaja, to play for Australia at the international level, and there is still talk of the difficultly facing players of color in the Cricket Australia system. Which shouldn’t surprise too many, as Australian fans in Melbourne just had to be told, in two-thousand-god-damn-eight-teen, to cool it with the racist chants.

And then there are the little moments that remind us that racism is alive and well in cricket. Geoffrey Boycott — one of the cricketers who participated in a ‘rebel tour’ — and his “black face” comments, Dean Jones calling Hashim Amla a terrorist, and on and on and we’ll go, with no end in sight.

Are things getting better? Maybe. A little. But for me many of the punishments for racist behavior are too light, and while the ICC and the national boards talk a good game about zero tolerance and the like, most incidents — like the racial chants in Melbourne — are smoothed over and pushed aside, while silliness like ball tampering is punished with extreme prejudice. It’s almost as if the ICC is still afraid to touch the subject. Too many old racist white men on their boards? Maybe. Maybe not. But it certainly feels that way. I read a great article in The Guardian a few years back about how the Marylebone Cricket Club is killing cricket, as it caters solely to white upper class men, and tells us all that “cricket is an inward-looking and exclusive sport. It says to ethnic minorities and the working classes that they are not welcome.” The MCC owns Lord’s Cricket Ground, the hosting ground of the Cricket World Cup final this summer. So maybe we haven’t come that far after all.

Cricket is a global game, which is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to combatting racism. The optics of 11 white South Africans playing cricket against 11 black Zimbabweans are not the greatest. But the upside is that, as I wrote about yesterday, it gets us out of our bubbles and challenges us to learn more not just about people who look and live like us, but all people, everywhere.

Looking forward, the best that people like me can do, is listen. Listen to the stories from people of color and how they have encountered racism in the game, or anywhere. Listen and learn. When people who look like us start up with racist nonsense after a few too many Foster’s, then we can talk, tell them to shut it. But until then, we listen.

The comments are open.

Until then, I recommend watching Fire in Babylon, the story of those West Indian cricketers mentioned above, who threw off the shackles of their oppressor, sailed across an ocean, and showed them how to play their own game.

Cricket for Americans: 20 Jan. 2019: What did I miss?

Okay, so what did I miss?

New Zealand continued their winning ways with a T20 win over Sri Lanka, South Africa beat Pakistan in a Test match and in a One Day International, and Australia lost two ODIs to a rampant — rampant — India, an India who appear to grow into World Cup favorites more and more every time they take the pitch.

Plus there were matches in the ACC Western Region T20, the CSA Four Day Franchise Series, Three-Day Provincial Cup and One Day Provincial Cup, the Sri Lankan Premier League, the Ranji Trophy in India, the Bangladesh Premier League, the Big Bash League, Super Smash League, and a whole lot of tour warm-up matches across the globe.

And those were just the men’s matches. Last week alone saw action in several women’s international series and domestic competitions — T20Is between Thailand and Nepal, and Myanmar and Hong Kong, and Indonesia and the UAE and more in the Thailand T20 Women’s tournament; and domestic competitions in South Africa’s Women’s Provincial ODI and T20 leagues, New Zealand Cricket’s Women’s T20 League, and the Women’s Big Bash League in Australia. It’s a post for another day, but the Women’s game continues to grow in leaps and bounds, as does the mainstream press’s coverage of it (though that’s a bit of a ‘chicken or the egg’ situation) and therefore must be part of any conversation with regard to the ‘future of the game.’

Off the field, there was news off a new CEO at the International Cricket Council (ICC), Scotland got themselves a new coach, Darren Bravo announced his return to the West Indian fold, there was lots of talk about MS Dhoni’s role in India’s World Cup squad, and the news that Logan Cup matches were called off due to civil unrest in Zimbabwe.

That last part deserves a little more attention.

In my last post before my vacation, I wrote about how Cricket was not a European sport, but the sport of a dead Empire. And because of just how vast said Empire was, cricket is popular in every corner of the globe, including in several places that aren’t entirely safe, are deeply corrupt, and that do not maintain the infrastructure — physical or economical — needed to fix those things. Zimbabwe is one of those countries. There have been general strikes happening throughout the country due to fuel shortages and rising costs of living, and with the announcement that the government would be further taxing gasoline, travel within the country has become dangerous and in some cases due to the lack of commuter Omnibusses, downright impossible. Furthermore, the government has suspended access to the internet in the country, making communication with outside organizations like ESPN — which has been trying to get in touch with Cricket Zimbabwe for clarity on the situation — very difficult.

And so while similar but far more innocuous protests in Paris receive global attention, the protests in Harare and its suburbs are largely under the West’s radar. ESPN is making efforts for information on what is happening, but is CNN, the BBC? Of course, they are, but it’s not news, it’s buried deep behind the American shutdown and Brexit.

This is why cricket is important: it is played just about anywhere in the same area code of a former English colony, so it sheds light on the corruption and poverty and government overreach that otherwise might go ignored by those of us in the West, including those of us who consider ourselves well informed. It’s a big old world, and there’s more than just Washington and London and Paris, it’s also Harare and Colombo and Lahore.

Cricket helps us remember that. It shines a light into dark places, and forces us to see the world from a broader perspective. Would I know about the problems in Zimbabwe if I hadn’t been a cricket fan? Maybe. But probably not. And that’s true for most Western-based cricket fans. Getting out of our bubble is important, and that includes the bubble of Western sport.

Cricket for Americans: 10 Jan. 2019: The Ashes

Oh, the Ashes.

It’s really the pinnacle of Test cricket, as far as I am concerned. Five Tests, Australia v England. A rivalry that dates back to 1882, when Australia first beat England in a Test match on English soil and The Sporting Times declared that English cricket had died, and “the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.” The following year England went to Australia in an attempt to regain the Ashes.

And the rest is history. To date, the two sides have played 330 Ashes Test matches. Australia have won 134, England 106, and there have been 90 draws. At the series level, Australia have won 33, England 32, and there have been 5 draws. And so if England can beat Australia this summer, they will draw level with Australia in Ashes series victories, something that would have been damn near unthinkable back in, say, 2003.

Australia are the current holders of the trophy, having dismantled England 4-0 during the winter of 2017-18 in Australia. But things are a little different now. First of all, there’s the fact that Australia has not won an Ashes series in England since the summer of 2001 — winning the 5th Test at the Oval in London two weeks before the towers fell — and furthermore England have just come off a 3-0 whitewash of Sri Lanka, while Australia just crumbled to a series loss to India on their home soil for the first time. And Australia aren’t just a shambles on the field, their clubhouse and front office are a bit in disarray too. And, finally, the last blow to the Aussies: they only have one final Test series before this summer: two tests against Sri Lanka at home. While England have three Tests against the West Indies.

Advantage, in almost every aspect: England.

But this is cricket — Test cricket. And this is the Ashes. And this is Australia. And this is England. And Australia will have Steve Smith and David Warner back from their ball tampering bans. And England will have already had a long hard slog of a summer by the time the coin is flipped for the first Ashes test on 1 Aug. at Edgbaston.

I could see it going either way. Right now I am thinking 2-1 to England. But literally any other result could happen and I would not be too surprised. 5-0 Australia? 3-2 England? Series drawn? I wouldn’t bat an eye to any of those outcomes.

The good news for people in the states is that all five matches of the series are available on Willow.TV.

Here’s the rundown:

1 Aug.: Edgbaston, Birmingham
14 Aug.: Lord’s, London
22 Aug.: Headingley, Leeds
4 Sept.: Old Trafford, Manchester (no, not that Old Trafford, soccer fans)
12 Sept.: Kennington Oval, London

Savor these matches. Drink them in. They are the pinnacle of what cricket has to offer.

Well, they are the pinnacle until we get the Pakistan v India Test series that we all deserve.



Cricket for Americans: 9 Jan. 2019: Looking toward summer

As mentioned a few posts back, it’s a big summer for cricket. There’s the World Cup, and the Ashes, both of which take place in England.

The World Cup uses the ODI — one day international — format. That is: one team has 50 overs — 300 deliveries — or ten wickets (outs) (whichever comes first) to score has many runs as possible. Then the teams switch and the other team has 50 overs or 10 wickets to best that score. The games take, you guessed it, about a day, or about 6-8 hours depending on if both sides use their full allotment of overs.

The best ODI team right now — using the ICC’s rankings — is England. Followed by India and New Zealand. These three are, more or less, the favorites. The reigning champions, Australia, are ranked a distant 6th, but, annoyingly, you really can never count them out of an ODI World Cup.

Format wise, it’s something of a joke among cricket pundits, but it shouldn’t be so bad. It’s a single group of ten teams in the opening stage, with each team playing every team once. The top four teams then advance to the semi-finals, with the winners of those matches playing each other in the final at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London on 14 July at 4:30 a.m. central time. Mark your calendars. (The first match is at the Oval on 31 May. That’s right, the tournament lasts for six — SIX — weeks.)

Other than the hosts, England, and other three squads mentioned above, the tournament features South Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and the West Indies. My guess for the semi-finals right now is England, New Zealand, India and South Africa, in that order. England will lose their semi, New Zealand will win theirs and then beat South Africa to lift the trophy. You heard it hear first.

There are some upcoming ODIs to keep an eye on as we move toward May: Australia play India in three ODIs starting on Friday, South Africa host Pakistan for five ODIs starting on 19 Jan., and England are in Caribbean for five ODIs against the West Indies, with the first one set for Feb. 20 in Bridgetown.

And then there’s the highlight series: New Zealand in India for their own set of five ODIs starting 22 Jan.

We will learn a lot over the next few weeks. Can England continue their strong run of form and beat up on weaker opposition? Can New Zealand win in unfamiliar conditions? Are Pakistan and South Africa good enough for the knockouts? What about India? Should they — and not the hosts — be the real favorites? Is Australia really in shambles, or are they just hiding in the tall grass?

We won’t get definitive answers to those questions, or course, but we will get close, and have a lot of fun along the way.

South Africa v Pakistan, Australia v India and West Indies v England are available for viewing in the States on Willow.TV, while India v New Zealand is on ESPN+ (formerly ESPN3).

At this point, I don’t know who is broadcasting the World Cup in the US. When I know, you’ll know.

Tomorrow: looking ahead to the Ashes. Until then.

Cricket for Americans: 7 Jan. 2019: Dukes of Hazzard

There are so many different plot lines in cricket that it’s impossible, even for someone paying attention, to keep them all in order. Pitch conditions, weather, light — all of these factors can affect play, and affect it a great deal. India have beaten Australia in countless series in India, but they just won their first Test series in Australia ever. Why? Playing cricket in Australia is simply very different than playing cricket in India. (Oh, and Australia are in shambles, but we can ignore that for now.)

Today I learned a new one:

The ball.

All countries use red or white Kookburra balls, except for the West Indies and England, who use Dukes balls, and India who use SG.


I learned it while listening to Virat Kohli talk about Australia’s chances in the Ashes in England this summer:

“Dukes ball buries egos pretty quickly,” he said.

Test cricket matches might last five days, but they are still games of inches, of millimeters. Every little thing can either be an advantage or a disadvantage. And it’s the teams that figure out a way for the formers to outnumber the latters that win matches.

Dukes ball? Who knew? I swear it’s something different every day.

Until tomorrow.

Cricket for Americans: 6 Jan. 2019: Time

There was a bit of a farcical end to that South Africa v Pakistan match I wrote about yesterday. Pakistan were finally bowled out with a 41 run lead at 6pm local Cape Town time — which was when play was supposed to end for the day. But the umpires had the option of offering the captains an extra 30 minutes of play. After a ten minute change over, that would have left South Africa 20 minutes to chase down those 41 runs and take the match and the series and give everyone two days off. (They initially were going to only have to chase down around 25 runs with 30 minutes or so left to play, but the final wicket was overturned due to a no-ball. The South African openers had raced into the dressing room to suit up for the chase, only to be called back onto the field. It was quite the scene. I had never seen anything quiet like it before.)

The umpires chatted with the captains after the final wicket was taken (for the second time) and it was decided that there just wasn’t enough time left in the day, and that play would resume the following day. (The groans from the commentators’ box mourning the loss of a day off in Cape Town were a highlight.) And, of course, South Africa did just that: chased down the final 41 runs — losing one wicket along the way — in a tidy 9.5 overs this morning.

And this is the thing about Test cricket that’s a little … off. At least it takes a little getting used to at first. We all think of it as this pastoral little game that exists outside the tyranny of time. A game from another age that is not governed by the almighty clock. But that’s not really true. Each day of Test cricket has a start time and a stop time. The latter can be a little loose, as long as one does not exceed the maximum number of overs that can be bowled in a single day.

“It’s not over until the full number of overs that are scheduled to be bowled that day, have been bowled.”

That’s from an infamous sketch from That Mitchell and Webb Look that is truly brilliant but if you’re new to the game, you might not get all the jokes.

It’s a little weird, at first, but then you get to know the game and understand the reasons why they have to limit the number of overs. They may be professional athletes, but you can’t grind them into the ground with limitless overs. It’s the same reason they got rid of the golden goal or endless cup replays in soccer. And, somewhat more importantly, trying to hit a dark colored ball in fading light is darn tricky, and so forcing a team to bat in that tricky light when the opposing team got to bat in bright sunshine isn’t exactly fair. (Cricket might be a lot of things, but one thing it is for certain is fair. Relentlessly, almost aggressively, fair.)

Aside from that, Test cricket does, truly, exist outside of the tyranny of time. Not as much because of how the days are structured, but because it’s this anachronism that has been declared dead for decades, yet still somehow soldiers on. 22 guys on a field flip a coin and play cricket for five days. But this soldiering on is not a new thing. Test cricket came of age not in pastoral old England, but in the middle of the Industrial Revolution. It was a respite from the soot and black and filth of the time, and it still is.

Despite days like yesterday in Cape Town, Test cricket is most assuredly a quiet place away from the modern world, where one can drift in and out as they please, a lazy weekday afternoon in the shade, the Times and a beer and a sandwich, letting your mind wander, as 22 men in white keep the darkness at bay. Some sports — especially American sports — do nothing to take you out of the work-a-day world of invasive tech and social media. But Test cricket does. You just have to let it.

Cricket for Americans, Jan. 5 2019: Neither here nor there

Day three of the South Africa v Pakistan Test in Cape Town is on in the background. It’s 4:23 in the afternoon there, and a balmy 74 degrees Fahrenheit. Pakistan is batting in their second innings there at the bottom of the world. I am sitting at my kitchen table in St. Paul, Minn. It’s 30 degrees Fahrenheit here at 8:23 in the morning.

Cape Town is 8,808 miles away. But the signal from Willow.TV is clear and clean and perfect.

It’s a big old world, but it’s also a magical one.

Sure, we were promised flying cars and jet packs and day trips to the moon, but this is pretty good too. I get to sit in my apartment in Minnesota and watch a Test match on the other side of the world, live and in color, with only probably a 30 second delay. If that’s not the future delivering on a promise, then I don’t know what is.


Pakistan are 214 for five. That is to say, they have scored 214 runs and lost five wickets. If they lose five more, they are dismissed. They only scored 177 runs in their first innings, while South Africa scored 431, so they have to score at least 36 runs to make South Africa bat again, and a whole lot more than that if they want to win the match or force a draw. In other words, it’s South Africa’s Test to win, but Pakistan is putting up a good fight here this afternoon, which is lovely to see. Pakistan has always been a favorite of mine. A friend once told me that while they won’t always win, they will always entertain, and I have always found that to be true. They are a real joy to watch, they play fun, swashbuckling cricket with a swagger and a smile. And their fight this afternoon is a great advertisement for Test cricket

If you are looking for a team to support this summer at the World Cup, may I suggest Pakistan. Their first match of the tournament is at 4:30am Central US Time on May the 31st.

Personally, I don’t have a team. I never really have. I have tried. But nothing has stuck. Pakistan, England, New Zealand, IPL squads, County Cricket teams, like water through my hands. But that’s never really taken away from my enjoyment of the game, in fact I think it only adds to it. I am a true neutral, and therefore while I never enjoy the highest of the highs, I also am never forced into the lowest of the lows. All I care about is if the cricket is enjoyable or not.

The game also just has so many wonderful personalities, and each match it seems a new cast rises to the top for us all to savor. And, in that way, it’s similar to golf or tennis — almost an individual sport in the guise of a team one. You can have your favorites and it doesn’t matter which uniform they are wearing. And while I am a neutral, this is true for most fans of the game. If a player scores a beautiful ton or double ton away from home, the opposing home crowd will applaud the effort, express the appreciation for his wonderful batting. It’s one of those little cricket intricacies that I love.

In Cape Town, Pakistan are collapsing to 221 for 7. They have three wickets left and 33 runs to get. The match is slipping away from them and there’s nothing they can do. South Africa is running downhill now. But I am neither overjoyed nor am I miserable. I am simply enjoying the cricket, the shadows long in the late afternoon at the bottom of the world. The crowd murmuring, bits of song, voices rising with each potential wicket. Players in white against the green of the Newlands’ turf. The sound of bat defending ball, of bowlers racing in, of batsmen tapping their bats against the hardness of pitch. The commentators droning on, their voices like music. Pakistan fighting on despite the odds.

Saturday afternoon in Cape Town.

8,000 miles away.