The importance of meaningless cricket

TMG Digital


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

“A Trivial Comedy For Serious People,” is the second half of the title of one of the most celebrated sillinesses of 19th century British theatre.

What’s the first half? “The Importance Of Being Earnest”.

Both halves were written, along with the jolly farce of a play itself, by Oscar Wilde, who did not count himself among the great game’s aficionados.

“I never play cricket,” Wilde said. “It requires one to assume such indecent postures.”

Even so, both halves of the title of Wilde’s play could apply to SA’s next engagement.

As in, ahem, “The Importance Of Meaningless Short Format Series Like The One SA And Australia Are About To Play”.

Outside of the World Cup and the World T20, white-ball cricket is wallpaper; something to fill a lazy few hours, an inconsequence in the wider scheme of cricket things – except that it makes money.

Happily civilians like us do not have the suits’ problems: they have to pretend to like white-ball cricket because it’s good for business.

Not us. We can say a game is bloody boring and change the channel.

Your team lost? Not to worry. They’ll play another game in a day or three’s time, and still another a day or three after that.   

Yes, it takes skill and talent to numb your mind into bowling 10 metronomic overs all but devoid of bouncers and deliveries that veer a smidgen wide of the stumps, or to nudge and nurdle runs at faster than one a ball.

But enough players have said enough times that test cricket is where it’s at for even the most cynical among us to take them seriously.

So an International Cricket Council release on Wednesday would have sent shudders down many spines.

It quoted the chief executive, Dave Richardson, as saying: “Significant progress on the future shape of all international cricket has been made at the two-day cricket structures workshop in Dubai as members have explored how to improve the quality of bilateral cricket.

“The focus has been on solutions that will grow fan interest and engagement by delivering high quality cricket with the best players playing in an environment where every match counts.

“Encouragingly there is an appetite from the 10 full members for more context around all three formats of the game and we have consensus on a range of areas.

“This includes the details of ODI and T20 structures and principles around test cricket schedules, which include the concept of a test champion play-off every two years, and the opportunity for more nations to be involved.”

That’s scary stuff for those who believe fervently that proper and improper cricket should not breath the same air in the same way that saner Americans believe in the separation of church and state.

It’s simple, really, and in both politics and sport: one is sacred, the other profane.

Cricket will be on a shamble to oblivion if it tries to elevate ODIs and T20s to test stature.

That plan would have the opposite of the desired effect. It would tell us tests are to be considered no more special than ODIs and T20s, that one format is as trivial as another.

Seriously, people?

Earnestly, even?

That’s easily as indecent as anything Wilde tried to suggest.

Far rather we leave the significance where it belongs during the five ODIs SA and Australia will play from September 27.

And that’s as an opportunity to see whether Temba Bavuma can cut it – and drive, pull and hook it – in pyjamas like he does in whites, and whether Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius have what it takes to perform at this level.

We also need to see whether Dale Steyn makes as spectacular a comeback from injury to white-ball cricket as he has done in the test arena, and whether AB de Villiers elbow has healed.

Anything else? No. That would be farcical.

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