The ignorant fear change

An important ‘though unwritten rule in the world of journalism is ‘never criticise your colleagues’. Even when that’s ostensibly the point of the exercise, as in a televised debate or a radio talk-show. Or a personalised column, like this one.

But sometimes rules and laws just have to be broken – otherwise we wouldn’t need them.

What a load of crap has been written about the Pro20 competition, and about the format in general. Pretentious, uninformed impractical twaddle has flown from the keyboards of my mostly esteemed colleagues. In my opinion, that is.

Innovations like Pro20 will save test cricket, not kill it. It will attract new audiences in the way that basketball ‘slam dunk’ competitions appeal to the young, ‘happening’ dudes of the world.

Jack Nicholson might appreciate great defensive work around the basket but most of the audience is there to watch a two-metre tall man-monster fly through the air and crash the ball through a hoop nine feet above the ground. And if that’s what they want, and they’re willing to pay for it, then put the show on. What the hell the debate about?

Maybe too much slam-dunking will breed lazy players, perhaps their techniques will be affected. Fine – then they can clear off and find a job as a nightclub bouncer or debt collector. This is professional sport we’re talking about and if you can’t remember to play a defensive shot in a test match because you’re trying to hit every ball for six, then peel potatoes for a living.

Rugby Sevens has long been sneered at by 15-man ‘purists’ but the short version of that game has done wonders for the sport in South Africa.

A year after Andre Pretorius and Brent Russell were named Sevens Player of the Year, both became Springboks. They learnt to attack, to run, to score tries…and to entertain. Russell is one of about three players in the country that people actually pay money to see.

The really sickening thing about criticism of Pro20 and a hankering after the good old days is the complete failure to appreciate that, in the good old days, there was no television – let alone five sports channels to provide alternative viewing. Whether you like the idea or not, half the people that used to watch Transvaal play Currie Cup cricket at the Wanderers in the 1960s were probably bored out of their minds and only there because that’s where their mates were going and there really wasn’t much alternative.

A three hour cricket match is the most exciting innovation the game has undergone for two decades. Apart from the attraction of certain, brilliant individuals, it is the only change made to the sport which is likely to put bums on seats.

Three messages, the first to the game’s administrators and sponsors.

Well done. (Not many people say that to them.) The second is to everyone who has never been to a cricket match (and therefore won’t be reading this, so I’m relying on other people to pass the message on). Give Pro20 a try. It’s only a little longer than a rugby match which at least means you’ve got time have a couple of beers and a wors roll before it’s over. If you like it, try a 50-over game. Test cricket is the best of the lot, if you fancy giving that a go.

Finally, to my colleagues who have seen fit to take the piss out of the competition: Think about it. The ignorant fear change.

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