When I started this blog, I set myself a little (unwritten) rule. I would never write “it was better in the old days”…
So I am going to struggle with this next post…but here we go.
Why is the Club game so slow these days? It wasn’t like this when I was a lad.
(I said it was an unwritten rule. Now it is broken.)
I umpired a game last Sunday. 40 Overs a side. Start time was 1 PM. And we finally got in to tea at twenty to five.
We started late. We lost a ball in a boundary hedge, and then spent time finding a suitable replacement. And there was a short break for rain, after which the ball required frequent drying. Oh, and the tenth wicket fell in the final over, so there was regular traffic of batsmen to and from the pavilion.
None of the bowlers took long run-ups. No-one seemed to be dawdling, and the captain did not make lots of changes to his field. The batsmen were generally ready to face the first ball of the over.
But being generous with the various stoppages (I did not keep a tally of the time lost), that still means that it took the best part of three hours actual playing time to bowl 40 overs. Or a rate of just 13 overs per hour. Not much faster than the mighty West Indies teams back in the ’70s, when they fielded four fast bowlers, all with frighteningly long run-ups.
At around the same time (mid- to late seventies) we would often bowl 21 or even 22 overs in the final hour of a Club game, if we were trying to win the game. Admittedly, we must have had some very compliant opposition batsmen, to allow us to get through that many overs. But I don’t think it ever occurred to any of us that we should play the game any slower.
Unless we were at school, or out of work, or able to take time off to sit in front of a television screen during the week, the only live TV coverage was the old JPL (John Player League, the original professional 40-over competition in England and Wales) with a little Test Match cricket on a Saturday, in between the horse racing on Grandstand. So we saw the County game played at a frantically fast pace – 40 overs in two hours and ten minutes – more than 18 overs per hour.
What has happened?
The Sunday game I umpired in is an extreme example, but not an isolated one. The League my Club plays in has successively extended playing hours in an attempt to allow matches to reach a conclusion, and at 1st XI requires a rate of at least 17 overs per hour. But in the lower XIs, without independent umpires to keep an eye on the time, games stall. And in Sunday friendlies, it seems that 35 overs per side is all that can reasonably be completed, at a rate of less than 16 overs per hour.
Has the game of cricket become a refuge from the fast pace of modern life? A place where dawdling is allowed?
No thank you.
I shall be drilling our Colts to get through their overs quickly, to have more chance to take wickets, to put time pressure on the batting side. It can even work in limited overs games – put on a hustle, and you can slip in a few overs before the batsmen even realise that the game is slipping away.
Now that is what I call “good cricket”…even if it was better in the old days!