Now then, I have always had a deep love of cricket. I grew up listening to Laker and Benaud, and spent many an evening as a kid listening to my radio, picturing the scenes out in the Windies. At school all the others wanted to play footy of rugby, I would be the one asking if we could play cricket. Sadly, more often than not it didn't happen, due mainly to us not having a teacher who could teach us about it. Also we had a bloke called John Bevan (international for GB at both league and union) as our PE teacher so the oval ball was the order of the day. I learned all about broken teeth at quite an early age! I also got picked for the town at school boy level.
I've played for a few teams as a willing amateur over the years, now that illness and age have caught up with me, I umpire in a local league. So, I have always kept in touch with the game one way or another. It has changed massively over the decades. Most of it for the better. Test cricket was on the way out when I first started following it, and I remember Kerry Packer turning the whole thing upside down. Again, it is fair to say that his revolution drove the game forward, and limited overs cricket very definitely deserved to prosper. Full stadiums, global, superstars, colour and general media interest gave us the game as we know it today. Firstly 50 overs , then 40 overs, all seemed well to me. If our nearest star put in an appearance you could be confident of a result on the day, more often than not a close one. Sit in the sunshine for a few hours, enjoy the gentle meanderings of the games, and go home satisfied.
However, in recent times 20/20 cricket has trampled all over the whole thing. I'm not sure who gave birth to this "freeze dried" version, but my God I wish they hadn't. I have several reasons for saying that. Let me start with playing standards. At my level the game has definitely suffered. You now see youngsters turning up to play golf shots. Due to seeing Chris Gayle on the box all they want to do is try and launch every ball into next week. I can't believe the lack of technique that is spreading through cricket regarding batting. No patience, no thought of building an innings. The cricket I umpire is only 46 overs a side anyway, yet most of them have no comprehension of pacing themselves and nicking the odd run is almost repulsive to them. As for the bowlers, they have not got a chance at all.
Another side to the influence of this farce is the attitude of some people who are new and have started playing due to what they see on the box in the IPL or Big Bash, the latter fetches with it the most infantile commentaries you could ever wish to not hear. Because people can go and play after work, a new breed of cricketer is appearing. Those who have not played before. This is likely something that could be seen as a positive, believe me it is not. A lot of them are footballers and rugby players, fair enough they have spent their money on bats and kit, given up their time, and have lots of enthusiasm. What they do not have is any idea about "The Spirit of Cricket" .
I spent a whole season doing this form of cricket in midweek, then walked away. It is shocking. Tantrums, bad language, aggression, lack of knowledge of the laws of the game. All because they have never learned to actually play the game. Many times I have stood out in the middle thinking I have wandered into a wasps nest. Sure enough I have had ill tempered games in my other cricket but nothing like this. I honestly believe this is all down to 20/20 and nothing else. I just hope any members of the public who have been wandering by do not think that all cricket is like this.
As usual, the main reason for this shorter game is money. As you see on the telly stadiums are full. It gets wall to wall global coverage. It has even reached the point where players who should be gearing up for a Test series are allowed to be absent from domestic cricket while they earn big bucks in far away lands. This astounds me, and it is my opinion that bad habits are being picked up even at International level. Sure enough they score quickly, then they are on their way. This is not what is required in a test match. It now costs more to go to a 20/20 game than a forty or fifty over game, why should this be the case? Actually the answer is simple. It is all about getting as much money off spectators as possible in the shortest possible time. I am told that they search you on the way in now to ensure you are not sneaking your own stuff in! What is that all about? You can imagine the price of stuff in the grounds.
Just to confirm my dark suspicion about the cash grabbers who are ruining the beautiful game, some bright spark has now decided that 100 ball cricket is the way to go. Excuse being given is that this will allow parents to get the kids home to bed at a more reasonable hour. What utter complete nonsense. 20/20 games equal 120 balls per innings. So, twenty balls per side is being saved. 40 balls per game, 6.4 overs, Three minutes per over equates to about twenty minutes. Are we really expected to be convinced by this rubbish? Again, somebody somewhere is thinking of money and nothing else. No doubt money will still be made, viewing figures will be good on the telly.
The money made out of this greedy charade is the cost of killing cricket.