Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Glimpse Into Cricket

Some time ago I asked for someone to help me out with information about the sport of Cricket. Here in the United States many don't follow it but the sport has a very dedicated following outside of this country. Fortunately for me, the call for help was answered by a fan of the sport. Katharine Sinderson volunteered to help me with this post about what is going on in the sport today. She hails from Grimsby in the north of England which she proclaims is not very interesting. Having never been there I’ll have to take her word on that. She is quite the sports fan, particularly of cricket and has helped me with some of the latest happenings in the sport. She first contacted me to say that:

“The Indian Cricket League is actually a new league which is considered an unsanctioned one by the Indian cricket authorities, the BCCI. There is also an official league called the Indian Premier League to which the Board of Cricket Control in India have given their blessing. Both of these leagues, which are effectively in competition with each other for the time being, feature the shortened version of the game known as Twenty20 cricket. This involves matches which are similar in length to baseball games, rather than the more traditional forms of the game which take all day, or several days. Twenty20 competitions have been springing up all over during the past few years, basically since people started realizing that there was money to be made from them, not least, if I am going to be cynical, by attracting as spectators people who are not necessarily interested in, or knowledgeable about cricket, or even sport.

It has been up until now the international game, country against country which has been considered the most important aspect of cricket, and domestic teams are expected to release players for the national team in way that would make MLB managers apoplectic. Increasingly, the top teams in England are essentially 'farm' teams for the national team, and since it is an honor to play for your country, equally it is an honor to have 'your' player picked to play for the national side, even though you lose him for most of the season. Nowadays, most players are essentially owned by the national side if they are picked to play for it; this is the case in England where most national team members are now 'centrally contracted' and the national team coach has to give his permission for a player to play for his domestic team. Such a situation has only really been the case for the last few seasons and there are still rumblings of discontent about it, not least from some fans, but since everyone basically wants the national team to win and the upshot of that is that England must call the tune, it has been grudgingly accepted.”

I had to know more. I had no idea that so much controversy surrounded the sport. I also didn’t realize there was so much money and politics were involved in the sport. I had to know more so she sent me a note that said:

“There is a series of unprecedented exhibition matches about to be played in the Caribbean, to which equally unprecedented sums of money have been attached, and which has caused some controversy about the direction the game is taking.”

I asked her to help me out further by writing more about this particular set of events. Lucky for me, she obliged:

“It is not so long ago that when a national side from overseas started their tour of England, they first played a fixture against the exotically named Lavinia, Duchess of Norfolk's Eleven. Yes really! This would be an invitational team, probably including a couple of players who had recently retired, and was really just intended to get the tour underway before the serious business of international contests began. Nobody pretended that such a match had any real cricketing significance. It was just a fancy exhibition game. When the series of games known as the Stanford Series got underway Saturday 25th October, it could be argued that these also have about as much cricketing significance as those involving Lavinia, Duchess of Norfolk's Eleven, but with 'filthy lucre' attached.

When American businessman Sir Allen Stanford offered the England team $1 million a man to play a game against the 'Stanford Superstars' there were those who believed that the England and Wales Cricket Board should have nothing to do with it. The BBC cricket correspondent, Jonathan Agnew called it "a vulgar and completely unnecessary exercise". Yet, after negotiations looked like coming to nothing, a series of games, leading up to the big one, where the winners will receive $1 million each, but the losers get nothing, is about to get underway.

Compared with the top American sportsmen, cricketers are not well paid, although the leading players are comfortably off. Kevin Pieterson, the charismatic England captain who was appointed in the summer, has already said that he will give a portion of his winnings, presuming there are any, to charity, though he will put no pressure on his team mates to do the same. He has also said that in the current economic climate, with people losing their jobs and homes, there will be no overt celebrating in the event of an England win. Named in the Stanford Superstars team meanwhile, at the other end of the cricketing scale from experienced international players, is one Lennox Cush, a member of the United States team, whose regular job is as real estate agent in New York.

There is no doubt that these games will attract some publicity and are going to make some people pretty happy when they realize that they are suddenly dollar millionaires for around three hours work. The shortened form of the game, which has taken cricket by storm recently, is still not the real thing to the many purists however, and it is the upcoming tour of India and the home series against Australia, playing 'proper' cricket, over several days, that is the real cricketing concern of players and fans. And it remains to be seen just how "divisive", to use Jonathon Agnew's description, these games will be, when the dust settles, between the newly created “haves and have-nots” among England players.”

There has been a lot of negative publicity around the event and many wonder how the investor will recoup his money. Any way you slice it, the matches are an interesting drama in the sporting world that I am grateful were brought to my attention.

Thank you to Katherine Sinderson of Grimsby for diligently sending me all of this information. I am now even more curious about cricket and hope that I have done justice to all of the investigation that you have sent me.

What do you know about cricket? Does anyone else follow the sport?


Lindsay said...

I don't know a lot about cricket, but I've always been interested in it. I used to watch students play it in college - they were all international students and would meet on Friday nights to play, probably the only time they could get the space reserved. I always admired their dedication to the sport.

Apryl DeLancey said...

I find it very interesting. I'm so glad that Katharine was able to help me understand it a bit more.