Monday, June 16, 2008

Darwinism and Cricket

Here's a bit of commentary I read on Cricinfo:
This has set up an intriguing final day's play with West Indies needing 240 and Australia seven wickets. Can a Twenty20 game give you all that? I think not.

I've heard this rhetoric over and over again. People constantly trying to defend Test cricket in a time where IPL and Twenty20 have (temporarily) garnered all the attention. Frankly, I'm getting sick of the rhetoric.

Why does anything successful that is not Test cricket have to be viewed as a threat, or a forbidden love? So much talk of selling cricket's soul (re: IPL and Stanford). Get over it guys!

Test cricket survived the onslaught of ODIs and Kerry Packer. In fact, it flourished once ICC and cricket boards made ODI cricket a victim of overplay and greed (roughly mid-90s and beyond). And Test cricket actually benefited from ODIs - players picked up the pace, and teams wanted positive results.

Here are the percentages of non-drawn Test matches in the last few decades:

1970s: 114/198 = 57.6%
1980s: 143/266 = 53.8%
1990s: 223/347 = 64.3%
2000s: 306/399 = 76.7%

(stats extracted from Cricinfo's Statsguru)

That's a significant increase in positive results. And ODI cricket is definitely a reason for it. So, ODIs have complemented Tests, and both have manged to peacefully co-exist.

There is no question that Tests provide the biggest challenges, the most skill, and the greatest duels, in all of cricket. And that's why Test cricket will endure. But at the same time, Twenty20 will also have its niche. And if crowds like that, then why is everyone so scared?

Outside of England, Australia, and India, Test cricket doesn't attract crowds for the most part - that is the reality. ODI attendance has also waned in certain countries thanks to so many meaningless matches. T20 attendance is up, primarily because of the short time commitment.

Remember what Brian Lara asked the crowd after his last ODI match, in true gladiator fashion - "Did I entertain you?" Lara understood that cricket is as much about skill, as it is about entertaining those who watch it. People want to see competitive, meaningful, engrossing, and result-oriented cricket.

Like almost everything else in this world, cricket is governed by Darwin's Law of Natural Selection. Test, ODI, and T20s will complement, and compete with, each other. But if there are signs of extinction for a certain type (e.g. crowds don't attend, players have no heart, diminishing financial returns), then it better adapt quick, or it will not survive the battle of the fittest.

Make your pitch on this post...

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9 Pitched:

  1. Gaurav Sethi said...

    sledgehammer, like Lara this one entertained.

  2. Anonymous said...

    Well made point.

    These guys are concerned about preserving their jobs.

    Thats why they are trying to talk up Tests match.

  3. Unknown said...

    It is my dream to play a test match :)

  4. Q said...

    I completely agree - there will always be crowds who enjoy all 3 forms of the game nd there will aways be those who enjoy only one of the formats.

    All 3 can coexist with their own market.

    As someone put it - fine dining, everday meals, and fast food all coexist.

    As do marriages, live in relationships, and one night stands!

  5. Q said...

    Asad, it is my dream too.. I would love to play a 5-day match where I know can bat forever :-)

    I think this what the international cricketers feel like as well. Though they enjoy the ODI and 20-20 format, they still want to play tests.

  6. Homer said...

    Obviously not getting the rights to cover the IPL continues to rankle :)


  7. SledgeHammer said...

    @Q: "As do marriages, live in relationships, and one night stands!"

    Now, can one single person enjoy all three varieties at the same time? If so, let us all know the secret! ;)

  8. SledgeHammer said...

    @homer: you have a point there!

  9. Q said...

    Haha, Sledge I'd like to know that as well ;-)

    The food anaology was one where 1 person enjoys all 3, while the relationship one was for different people for different formats.

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