Musings on Pork Chops, Legends and the State of Cricket

Imagine if you’d actually witnessed Ned Kelly at the siege of Glenrowan.

Then imagine that you’d been transported forward in time to the 1970s when the prevailing image of the legend that was Ned Kelly was Mick Jagger’s egregious screen portrayal.

That’s how I feel when I watch Shane Warne performing in the BBL. It’s like watching a battery-operated Ken Doll going through a pre-programmed routine of actions and antics that the real-life Warnie used to do when he played real cricket.

The timing of his “pork chop” behaviour the other night was particularly poignant for me as I realised that it had just ticked over 20 years since the famous last day of the 1992 Melbourne Test against the West Indies when the chubby, peroxided 23 year old (a mere baby by leg spinner standards) first announced himself to the cricket world as a star of the future.

Along with the rest of the Australian attack, Warne was belted to all parts of the ground in the early overs by Richie Richardson and Phil Simmonds as they launched a spectacular assault on a victory target that had looked impossible on a slow, low, difficult pitch.

Ten minutes before lunch, Australia was in disarray, having conceded over a third of the runs required without a breakthrough. Then Warne delivered – as he was to do so often through his career – the ball. On this occasion it was the “Richardson ball”, a wicked low bouncing flipper that cannoned into the stumps just a few inches off the ground.

Whilst this ball might have been aided by an ounce of luck from a rogue MCG pitch, what followed over the next two hours was nothing short of a pure leg-spinning masterclass as Warne turned a bold victory charge into a rout, claiming seven wickets and giving Australia a real chance of being the first side to beat the mighty Windies in a Test series for over a decade.

There were no silly antics from Warne. His pyrotechnics were all delivered from that magic right arm. Indeed as each wicket tumbled, he celebrated with a captivatingly innocent sense of disbelief that this was really happening.

Nor was there any need for the manufactured hype that bedevils so much present-day sport.  The game spoke for itself, as great games always do.  It was a day for cricket purists to watch and savour quietly and at length as the significance of what we were witnessing unfolded.

So it is with sadness that I watch the 2013 version of Warne going through the motions of T20 – sadness for the young supporters who will only ever get to witness this legend of the game in the form of a rather pathetic caricature.

I am equally sad for the fact that T20 – a truncated pastiche of a game that can only express itself fully over time – is being marketed globally as the way of the future.

There is nothing novel about this form of the game except for its speed. The tired gimmicks being used to lure fans have all been shamelessly stolen from other sporting codes.  Cheesy team names – check; rock n roll riffs between overs – check; fireworks after wickets – check; obnoxious hyped-up ground announcer – check.  The result is simply another dose of bland corporate marketing sludge with any attempt to promote cricket’s points of difference studiously ignored as though they are slightly embarrassing anachronisms.

I may sound like an old fogey who can’t accept change, but I actually have no intrinsic objection to shorter forms of the game. However, cricket is ultimately a game demanding technique, discipline and patience, which are qualities best honed in the longer forms of the game, then adapted to the short form, not the other way around.  My concern is that T20, with its big money inducements, is cannibalising the game by marginalising its other forms and luring the stars of the game away from, particularly, Test cricket (are you listening Lasith Malinga?) on an unfounded theory that this form of cricket will be a long-term success and that its success won’t come at the expense of other forms.

If the 46,000 fans who attended the BBL the other night shrink to half or a quarter that number in 2-3 years, where will we be then?

Here endeth the rant.

About Sam Steele

Stainless (aka Sam Steele) started following Richmond in 1970 when he was 6. This occurred when his mother, under instructions to buy him a Melbourne jumper, found they were out of stock and purchased a Richmond one instead. Despite the decades of heartache and turmoil this fateful decision has brought on Stainless, he is grateful to his mum as he has at least seen his side win a couple of Premierships. After 30 September 2017, his mum is now officially his favourite person.

Comments

  1. Peter Schumacher says:

    Couldn’t agree more!

  2. Jeff Dowsing says:

    It would appear that those singing from this hymn book (I am one) are too often painted as old fogey traditionalist cricket fans.

    I too initially liked T20 but the marketers dumbed it down so far as to turn off a large cross section of their potential market. The game sells itself, if one doesn’t have the patience to watch T20 without all the BS distractions then cricket administrators should have the wherewithal to realise the dolts that lap it up won’t be around beyond a couple years when the next shiny thing takes hold of their goldfish-like attention span.

    Unfortunately the collateral damage in all this is the form of cricket (forms plural if you still believe in ODI’s) that have captivated millions for decades.

  3. Well said Jeff. Again.

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