Cricket and the Giant Killers

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:

Never in the error-strewn history of English cricket, never in the rich 195-year history of Lord’s, has there been a day as dark.

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.

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5 responses to “Cricket and the Giant Killers

  1. Man, I should have read this post before I picked you up this afternoon! Finally someone who can explain this game to me with out me looking like a complete tit.

  2. As much as I enjoy cricket, I just can’t get into the Twenty20 format. But I’m glad that Australia lost. They seem to be experiencing some rough weather after their star players retired last year. Let’s see if their downward spiral is temporary or not.

  3. Only 8 teams competing at a world level – England, India, Australia, S Africa, W Indies, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and New Zealand – equates to 1.5 billion people plus Bangladesh(cricket mad and now also playing at world level) so I think the future of cricket is safe for the time being.
    However, the USA has only around 300 mil and is absorbing millions of soccar-mad south americans every year, so baseball and american football fans have every reason to worry for the future of their games.
    Amit, I also cant get into Twenty/20 – the subtlety and beauty of the game is lost when it consists of ‘slog it and run”. I once saw a Test Match (India V Australia) in Calcutta – is there another sporting occasion in the world that has the atmosphere of a Test Match in India?

  4. It’s wonderful when a minor team beat a major one, isn’t it? It’s what cricket (and sportsmanship) is all about. I do hope the Netherlands’ victory will do much to promote the game in that land.

  5. I meant ‘beats’.

    For your those of your readers more familiar with baseball, I hope the following might be useful as a guide to cricket, NFAH:

    http://static.cricinfo.com/db/ABOUT_CRICKET/EXPLANATION/CRICKET_EXPLAINED_AMERICAN.html

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