Ambivalent

Rather than jot down some thoughts this lunchtime, I thought I’d rather take a seat in a quiet place and have a relaxation of the eyes. After all, you lot are doing all the talking for me.

Let me say a few things on the issues that seem to be exercising the minds of those on here, and those on Twitter. The thing is, I don’t care enough to get angry about them. In fact, I’m to be persuaded on many of them. The fact is, you don’t need to be stridently in favour of something to write about it. I think, sometimes, I make that mistake.

Take the associates. The attitude to them has been that they’ve been a blast of fresh air, and indeed, the games between them have been quite exciting, been well played and enjoyable. For that reason, they should remain. The reason they shouldn’t isn’t because of 2007 and the elimination of India and Pakistan after three games each. But let’s face it, all sport is about money. I’m never one for the person who believes fervently in something to say “it just is” as I tend to see when it comes to keeping the World Cup with a full quota of associates. Indeed I’ve seen sports writers who moan like billy-o when our precious England footballers have to play San Marino, who then go on about how wonderful the associate play is. I hate seeded draws, I hate anything that isn’t totally even playing field about sport. It drives me mad.

The key issue is that the game needs to spread worldwide, and yet there is a vested interest in keeping the status quo. If I were the West Indies I wouldn’t go near any of the teams below me in the World rankings with a barge pole. If I were England, I wouldn’t give a shit as we are one of the Big Three. I have no idea what the right answer is. What I know it isn’t is the status quo, and it’s not the line-up in 2019 either. But sorry, and leave the WIndies out of this for a minute, but I hate seeing teams have 400 piled upon them in World Cup cricket. I’m a batsman, I love great batting, but this is now so loaded in the batsman’s favour that when bowling is sub-par, it’s play-time for good players.

I don’t have the answers, but I’m not comfortable with seeing Australia wallop 417 against a clearly over-matched associate team. Start your engines, as I feel a tidal wave of dissent coming my way. I’m also not comfortable with the 2019 set-up as it is too long, and believe me, there will be dead games. I’m inclined to say there should be eight teams playing, but there should be a pre-qualifying tournament involving all nations. So Asia has a tournament with 10 teams, and three qualify for the finals – this gives a meritocracy, and also means the associate nations like Hong Kong, UAE, Afghanistan, Nepal, et al will get regular cricket against the big boys and have a chance to improve. It’s pie in the sky because no World Cup can conceivably go ahead without India, but let me dream.

I’ve not thought it through because others are doing all that. Maybe I’ll think some more. There’s just not a way through with the system as it is, and the lack of opportunity for associates to make that quantum leap across to get through.

As for bats, well it now makes the game similar to golf. With the development in golf club technology, classic old courses were becoming a joke to pros. Something needed to be done when the US Open, which was won with a score very close to Par over four rounds, saw Tiger Woods annihilate Pebble Beach and win with something like -18. St Andrews became a pitch and putt, Royal Liverpool didn’t require a driver. Old courses like Augusta were lengthened, and now the top championship courses are miles over 7000 yards as technology expanded the horizons. You can’t “un-know” these things.

In cricket we have stadia with pretty fixed dimensions so lengthening the boundaries isn’t an option. Nor is making the bat thinner, as the technology will get round that. So we need to think outside the box a little. Evening up pitches to make the contest fair between bat and ball is all well and good, but hardly definable. Loosening fielding restrictions will only increase those dead overs when batsmen milk 1s and 2s. Two new balls seem to mean the ball is harder to fly around the park at the end of the innings. Here’s a really silly suggestion. For ODI cricket, how about shortening the wicket a foot? Put in a fourth stump? Make the stumps a little higher? They are stupid suggestions, I know, but no more stupid than watching mis-hits fly for six, and so on. While I know a lot of you laugh at Scyld’s column, there’s something, sorry, rather dull than seeing some of this stuff. I am a massive baseball fan, but although I’m a batsman in cricket, I love the duel between pitcher and batsman. When the batters were juiced up, looking like weightlifters, the game went home-run mad. It was dull. It’s so much better to watch a 1-0 pitching duel, where scoring runs is hard, than seeing an 11-10 slugfest when it is easy. It’s a matter of taste. And for me, when it comes to evaluating innings like Warner’s 170-odd or Gayle’s 200, I look and think, that’s the equivalent of Sosa and McGwire back in the day.

I don’t expect you lot to agree, and given by your comments, you don’t, but I’m truly vexed on the issues. Maybe it’s because England don’t play that slugging game that I have the hump. Maybe it’s because I don’t like sporting bullying that I don’t know the answer on the associates. I haven’t seen the answers from anyone else.

Feel free to comment. I’m truly open-minded on the associates – and I do agree they need to play proper international cricket against full nations (for example, England, Scotland, Ireland and Netherlands play a European Cup – why not? Imagine the fun when we don’t win it…) – but I don’t think this format is the way, nor do I think the 2019 one is either. As for the bats…..

Oh well. I don’t pretend I’ve thought these through, so off you go….

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