Fair is Fair

Today Wigan beat Manchester City 1-0 to win the FA Cup. It is a massive upset. Lowly Wigan, who are about to be relegated and who play their home matches on a rugby pitch, beat the richest team on the planet save maybe PSG.

It just goes to show that “any given Saturday” still exists in football – that the idea of the upset, of the giant killing, is not extinct. Wigan were organized, they made their runs, they scored a good goal despite wasting earlier chances, and they surprised us all.

Manchester City showed us something most of us know already: it takes more than money to win championships. Passion is still important. So is playing as a team.

I am reminded of Cree Indian proverb:

Only when the last tree has withered, and the last fish caught, and the last river been poisoned, will we realize we cannot eat money.

Someone should post that in Manchester City’s locker room.

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I am also reminded of this passage from Gideon Haigh’s “Ashes 2005”:

“…for all the blah about glorious uncertainty, Test cricket is utterly, massively, viciously fair.

Over four innings, five days, fifteen sessions and a maximum of 450 overs, virtually every player has the opportunity to make an impact, and usually several chances to do so, so that in only the most exceptional circumstances does the superior outfit not prevail.”

Test cricket will never deliver days like we had today. Even the rare upsets are not entirely without some indication of a tide turning (Kolkata 2001, for instance). So while I love a game that can deliver moments like we saw today at Wembley, I simultaneously love that there is Test cricket where 99 out of 100 times, the better team wins. There are no freak goals, no shady red cards, no dubious penalties that decide a match. You can’t set up shot and hope to grab one on the break. You can’t put 11 men behind the ball and cross your fingers. Sure there are poor lbw calls, and defensive strategies, but rarely, rarely, do they turn a match on its head or even affect the outcome.

The best way I can put it is to keep using football as an example. For me, personally, the European football league format is the fairest way to crown a champion. Every team plays every other team twice, once home and once away. You get three points for a win, one point for a draw, and zero for loss. The team with the most points at the end wins. It is the single best away to ensure that the best team gets the trophy.

And that is Test cricket. It is a true Test of which team is better.

Sure, you might never get a Wigan winning the Cup, but you also will never get a Greece winning a European Championship. A fair trade in my book.

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Match report on the YB 40 match between Northamptonshire and Sussex tomorrow.

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2 Responses to Fair is Fair

  1. Alex Braae says:

    I really enjoyed reading this, but then again, I enjoy reading about any football match where the wealthy team doesn’t win. I think that speaks to another way in which test cricket is very fair, that there is no open market from which players can be bought, and therefore it is much more difficult for money to create an uneven playing field. Barring a few exceptions, Irish players in the England team, countries are stuck with and must make the best of whatever players who hold citizenship. Long term that means that talent doesn’t concentrate in a small number of teams in the same way that it does in football.

  2. Chrisps says:

    99 out of 100 times the better team wins; but two weeks later roles are reversed. This is a fascinating feature of recent Test cricket: teams exchanging crunching victories/defeats (even by an innings – India v S Africa 2008) in a series.
    (More on Declaration Game about this: See-Saw Series)

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