Almanac Cricket: Cricket’s Hat Trick Of Revolutions

 

The Hat Trick

 

Cricket is a game which originated in England and slowly spread to parts of the British Empire, or what is now called the British Commonwealth. Over the years a number of other nations took up the game, something which was mainly played by expatriates. The last two or three decades have witnessed fundamental changes to the operation and architecture of the game, changes so radical – so revolutionary – that it will be gently suggested that we have been unable to take in and comprehend the enormity of what in fact has occurred.

 

In Crickonomics: The Anatomy of Modern Cricket (2022) Stefan Szymanski and Tim Wigmore document how the control of cricket was snatched away from ‘the snooty Victorians’ running the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) by a combination of Asian nations – India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – in the mid-1990s. They had a different, more expansive notion of the future path of cricket. This in turn was associated with the International Cricket Council (ICC) moving its headquarters from Lords to Dubai in 2007. The ICC has provided financial support to nations were cricket has had a low profile to enhance the spread and growth of the game across the globe.

 

In 1997, the ICC reported that its membership comprised 45 nations. By 2022, it had increased to 104 nations. This more than doubling of its membership in a quarter of a century should be seen as noteworthy, if not remarkable. What was once a ‘plaything’ of members of the British Commonwealth has been transformed cricket into an increasing global phenomenon and constitutes the ‘first ball’ of crickets revolutionary hat trick.

 

The ‘second ball’ is Twenty20 (T20) cricket. Introduced at the professional level by the England and Wales Cricket Board in 2003, it has become increasingly popular. In 2021-2022, international T20 games occurred between teams of male players from 62 nations, and female players from 51 nations. In addition, there are 37 domestic regular T20 leagues, involving both male and female teams.

 

There is a second, possibly more important way in which T20 has revolutionised cricket. In the past, leading cricketers represented their respective nations in international competitions. A handful would pick up contracts with overseas clubs during their respective domestic off seasons. T20 cricket involves an increasing number of players moving across the globe in picking up gigs with an increasing variety of clubs and/or franchises. This means players are exposed to more coaches with different ideas and approaches to those that they have been hitherto.

 

In addition, players mix with a wider range of talented players from different parts of the globe; players who they may rarely meet, if at all, with different traditions and approaches to batting and bowling. They can discuss finer points of the game with each other. More importantly, they can observe the different ways these different talented players perform their skills and seek to experiment with and utilise the same techniques themselves, thereby spreading such innovations across the sport. Obvious examples are switch-hitting, the reverse sweep, the scoop, the ramp, reverse swing and different ways of holding the ball. It is this embrace of diversity which keeps pushing the game forward.

 

The ‘hat trick ball’ is the growth of women’s cricket. Marion Stell in The Bodyline Fix: How Women Saved Cricket (2022) documents how a team of English women toured Australia in 1934-1935; with a reciprocal tour of Australia to England in 1937. Both groups of tourists were amateurs who financed and organised the tours themselves. These two tours kickstarted top level women’s international cricket.

 

In 1958 England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Denmark formed the International Women’s Cricket Council (IWCC). By 2005 its membership had increased to fourteen. 2005 is also noteworthy because that was when the IWCC decided to merge with the ICC. Like a number of female sports, women’s cricket has become increasing popular across the globe, especially in the last decade, with the formation of the Women’s Indian Premier League being a conspicuous example. As already reported above, international competitions occurred between female teams from 51 nations in 2021-2022.

 

 

The ICC Should Do A FIFA

 

The ICC holds an international T20 World Cup approximately every two years. The 2021 contest involved twelve teams of eight automatic qualifiers (of full member Test playing nations) and four qualifiers from less well performing full members and associate members. These twelve finalists are divided into two divisions of six teams who play each other in a round robin competition, with the top two teams qualifying for semi-finals, followed by a final. The finalists will play a total of seven games.

 

The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) organises football’s World Cup. It involves 32 teams which are separated into eight groups of four teams. Teams play off in a round robin competition, with the top two teams of each group qualifying for a series of knock out games, the last 16, quarter and semi-finals and the final. Like the T20 World Cup the two finalists play seven games.

 

The ICC may wish to consider adopting a World Cup structure similar to FIFA. Such an adoption would not alter the total number of games played by the more successful sides. Rather than highlighting the cricketing skills of twelve teams (plus four other nations that qualify for the play offs as occurred for the 2021 tournament) a FIFA styled tournament would showcase 32 nations and help to enhance the growth of cricket in these ‘additional’ nations who would otherwise have not had such exposure. It would also presumably enhance broadcasting rights and other revenue raising sources for the ICC. Such a tournament could presumable be played over two weeks so as not to interfere with the playing schedules of Test playing nations. Play offs between nations seeking to qualify may also provide additional broadcasting and revenue raising opportunities. Such a proposal has the potential of further enhancing cricket’s growth and international appeal.

 

 

More from Braham Dabscheck can be read Here.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Braham, in my world view one always divides into two. You’re correct about these advances in cricket, something which has changed immensely in my time on earth. But have these changes all been positive, what are the costs?

    I can no longer see cricket as solely a sport, rather it has an important place in the entertainment industry . The growth of India not just in its role of controlling world cricket but as strong economy with a huge populace has had a major impact on how cricket is viewed, sold. This has manifested itself in a myriad of ways but the vast reach of televising so many matches has been phenomenal. Nothing wrong with that.

    However the state, provincial, first class matches are now almost irrelevant. Here in Australia the Sheffield Shield was long considered the nursery of Australian cricket. Over the last few decades the number of test players competing in the Shield has long dropped, now we have a broken, truncuated season to fit in the BBL a game designed for TV audiences.

    Test cricket beyond Australia, England and India is in a parlous state. With so much money available in T20 many players are happy to take the extravagant money T20 offers, turning their back on much international cricket. I know there’s a Test ‘competition’ with a final to devise the best team but one wonders about this .

    ODI’s, the 50 over, previously over 40, 55, or 60 overs is seemingly raging against the light as its relevance quickly fades away. A few decades back ODI’s were the real challengers to the dominance of test cricket on the international arena. How times have changed.

    Where to the next few decades?

  2. Daryl Schramm says

    There is a lot to unpack here. The article prompted a bit of thinking, but Glen!’s response prompted a bit more.
    . Cricket is still a sport to some. I refer to those playing O50s, O60s O70s etc. where the spirit of cricket is front and centre. I suspect it is the same for the veterans of other sport/businesses. It is also a major growth area for the game.
    . State, provincial and first-class cricket are not almost irrelevant. Without this level, the “business” of cricket would die a death. And I think “the business” knows that, otherwise it would not be propped up to the extent it is. Their relevance is not (nowadays) based on attendance and the cost of administration. Who knows what the stats are on people following, or even watching on-line down to club cricket level. This does raise the issue of CA and state allocations to grass roots clubs. I seem to have heard that somewhere before (Australian Football). Clubs exist to provide an environment for juniors and others to develop into “next level”.
    . To me, this about red ball v white ball cricket. To try to explain, I was witness to a recent interview with Barry Richards. You can add the USA into Braham’s FIFA style future. When (not if, in the great man’s view) white ball cricket takes on there, it will open a substantial new(ish) market. Furthermore, I personally would like to see administrators endorse a second version of 50 over cricket, with a red ball, the way it started. We had a situation in Adelaide towards the end of last season where the last couple of rounds were reduced to one day matches due to Covid concerns from one week to the next. Out came the colored clothing and the white ball. Finals were played as two days over a weekend with a red ball! It just seemed short sighted. You are allowed to play a one dayer with a red ball. It happens in many O50s plus comps throughout our land.

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