The transformations the game of cricket has gone through in the past two decades alone keep striding further away from the regular. Change, it is said, is the only thing constant in society.
Every dictionary in the world, except the ones found in the minds of Indians, first defines ‘cricket’ as ‘a leaping insect; male makes chirping noises by rubbing the forewings together’. And then it explains to us about the bat and ball of it all. The ICC and various ambassadors of the game have been trying their level best to change this, and put the sport in the forefront of every human being’s perception of the word ‘cricket’. But for now, go to Italy and talk about cricket, chances are you’ll end up scavenging at a zoology lab.
The real deal with the cricket gurus around the world is that prestigious billing of being an ‘Olympic sport’. The game will be able to stretch its reach beyond its limited borders, but whether or not it will make the sport, in the traditional sense, ‘popular’ raises more than a few eyebrows. Swimming is a prominent part of the Olympics, however the only swimmer everybody knows about is Michael Phelps. Cricket is more than just reaching out to a few billion more eyeballs, it’s about making it viewer friendly and accessible.
Six day Test matches have become five day Test matches. 60-over games are now 50-overs, and when you’re bored of that there’s always a quick dose of the T20 extravaganza. Cricket is changing and fast. But in colloquial and the most simplest of terms, cricket is ‘selling out’. We’re reducing the number of overs, risking the quality of cricket and bringing in external elements to spice up the game.
Cricket historians and poets will plead and wail about how the modern game has gone too far deep into the dog’s mouth, and how we must save ourselves from the possible predicament of the straight drive being subjugated to being pretty pictures in their heads. They’ll raise their voice and a stink, but how much ever of a hue and cry they build up the fact remains; nobody is listening.
The success of the T20 formula is unparalleled and finally, the game is getting recognition elsewhere around the world. Who knew the cheerleaders would have such an effect? It’s shorter, nowhere near sweeter and a more enjoyable game for the masses.
While the length of the game is being cut short brutally, it seems to be taking its toll on the players too. Michael Clarke recently expressed his views on late retirement, and made it clear he won’t play after the age of 36. And in one of the shocking bits of news this week, Kevin Pietersen announced his retirement from the limited over format of the game to prolong his test match career. Whether or not that is a smart decision, seeing the massive rise of the twenty over game, remains to be seen but the riddle now hangs loose in the air. With the length of matches becoming shorter and everything about the game becoming quicker, are the lengths of cricketers’ careers beginning to stunt?
With jam-packed calendars threatening to ruin players’ sleep pattern, the modern day cricketer is a machine which is prone to breaking down from excessive use. Would Sachin Tendulkar have been able to last for this long had his career begun in the 2000s is a question which we can only ponder upon. Players get injured every now and then, and while grandfathers around the world will blame the brittle bones and poor modern day techniques, it’s more to do with the sudden change in pace of the game. You’re used to hitting drives in the nets and all of a sudden you’re expected to scoop the ball over the keeper for a six in the most intense of situations.
Many argue about how cricket is a ‘lazy man’s sport’ and how ‘you never see a fat man playing football’. Cricket is psychologically a tougher game than any other, most definitely football. And with the sudden surge in physical and fast paced activity for players, they are left squandering for health and fitness. Ask Munaf Patel.