I admit it freely, I’m a complete cricket nut. It’s always a shock to my UK colleagues when the subject comes up; apparently, although the first ever international match was played between the US and Canada in NY, and the first UK international tour was of North America, it is assumed that Americans have never heard of the sport. I started watching classic one day matches on the old “Fox Sports World” channel in the states, long before I moved to the UK, and after receiving as a gift the book “A Mathematician’s Apology.” So forgive me for this brief sports-related interlude, but it’s going to be an exciting cricket-y summer here in the UK.
Given today’s rainy weather, I’m not sure there will be new cricket news coming out of the world Twenty20 today, but the news the last few days has been pretty exciting. I was completely shocked yesterday morning to find that the Netherlands, a country in which cricket is listed as the “25th most popular sport” (I dare you to come up with 24 other sports…), stunned the English at Lord’s in the World Twenty20 tournament opener. The press coverage of the defeat was alarmist, to say the least:
Now as an Aussie cricket fan ahead of the Ashes, I was feeling pretty good, for about 4 hours. Until the Aussies got totally crushed by a resurgent West Indies team (the same team that beat England in a recent test series, albeit one marred by poor pitches and draws).
I was secretly delighted in both results. Clearly there is some ambiguity ahead of the Ashes matches between the UK and Australia later this summer, with both teams in mediocre form. But more importantly, as a fan, I think it’s good for cricket to see some matches won by the underdogs. And there is no better underdog result than the Dutch one. And I’m not just saying that because of my grandmother’s link to Dordrecht. The sport needs to expand to survive; for all the criticism I’ve heard about the US and its “world” titles in sports in which few other countries compete at a professional level (Am. football, baseball, ice hockey–although the case for international baseball is better than for the others) cricket suffers from having only about 8 sides competing at the world level. Twenty20 brings the opportunity, just as the one-day game did earlier on, for teams to get involved in a shorter form of the game, thus requiring less investment than keeping a professional test side. After all, the Dutchmen who humbled the English on Friday are part-timers. And they won’t easily forget their win at the spiritual home of cricket. I say it’s good for the game. Now if only the Americans would get their act together and join up.