It has taken me a couple days of reflection on the news out of the ICC earlier this week in order to form a semblance of an opinion.
I have always been an optimist when it comes to Test cricket’s future. The game has been around for 130+ years. It has seen action in three different centuries. It has survived two world wars, the introduction of the helmet and DRS. It has seen half its member nations go nuclear, two of which against the better wishes of the international community, and still it soldiers on. It has survived the introduction of two new formats, the IPL, the Big Bash League and dwindling attendance records. It has weathered the storms of Kashmir, the Mumbai and Pakistan terror attacks, and countless other attempts to derail it – both external and internal.
Cricket will be fine, I always say, even Test cricket. It has battled against history and time throughout its entire existence. It can handle whatever you want to throw at it. Do your worst, cricket will still be standing.
And cricket supporters, as @dbackwardpoint mentions, do a lot of crying wolf when it comes to the death of the game’s oldest format:
It’s for times like these that I’ve been begging people to dial down the “test cricket is dying” outrage. [1/2]
— Devanshu (@dbackwardpoint) January 19, 2014
I remember when the ICC planned to kick the Associates out of the 50 over World Cup and supporters the world over were up in arms. It was the death of World Cricket, they said. But it wasn’t. The ICC heard the fervor and reversed course and the most powerful Associate member, Ireland, is stronger than ever.
And so I admit, my first reaction to the leaked revamp paper was “relax, everyone. It’s cool. Cricket will be fine. Just like it always is.”
But for some reason, after a few more days reading and reflecting, I realized that this time things were different somehow. The Internet was not littered with “the sky is falling” loonies, it was instead my favorite cricket journalists and bloggers writing logical and reasoned pieces on why this could really and truly be the final nail in the coffin of this game we love. It was reasonable people whose opinion about the game I deeply respect, figuratively dropping to their knees and wailing in despair for the future of this game that has brought them so much joy.
It comes down to this: one of the biggest problems in world cricket is too much power in the hands of too few. And the leaked proposal puts even more power in the hands of even fewer people.
And that spells death knell.
And so now that we have decided this is a problem – what can we do to fight it?
Step number one of course is hoping that cooler heads prevail and the proposal is sent to the incinerator where belongs – but what’s step number two?
The always brilliant Jarrod Kimber – cricket’s white knight if it ever had one – suggests, as he always does, just doing something simple: writing to the heads of CA, the ECB and BCCI. The links to their contact pages are here, here and here, respectively. I have done so, and suggest you do the same. It takes all of 15 minutes.
As Kimber says, the ICC is counting on our silence, but now is not the time for silence. It is the time for action. I cannot do what I have always done and just assume the game is going to be fine. It needs our help to continue.
The good news? Again as mentioned by Kimber in the piece for Cricinfo above, there are a lot of good people working to help keep the game alive. Let us not stand idly by as they carry this weight alone, let us – the collective massives – help shoulder their burden.
For the game does not belong to England, India and Australia. It does not belong to the Test playing nations and it does not belong to the ICC. It does not belong to the advertisers or the TV networks. It does not belong to the players. It doesn’t even belong to us. It instead belongs to our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren. We are all stewards of this game, and we must act accordingly.
So what else should we do to help preserve this game? Well, based on some inspiring tweets from the aforementioned DeepBackwardPoint, I suggest that we all find a way to support cricket in all its forms and at all its many levels. Don’t just watch Tests between the big three. Watch and support the Associates and the Women’s game. Financially support your local club, or better yet sign up and start playing. Contribute a few bucks to your favorite blogger or buy one of their t-shirts. If you live in the States, pay $15 a month for Willow and watch legal streams of Ranji, County Cricket and lesser Test nations.
Personally, I am going to make an effort to learn more about the Associates and the Women’s game – and in turn write more about them. First step is making sure I add their matches to the Internet Schedule for US Viewers. It is not updated accordingly yet, but I hope to have it done soon. Hopefully this will be a tool we can all use to support “outsider” cricket. Bookmark it and check back often, as it is updated every Sunday. And then take in a ladies Test match, or maybe a First Class match between Ireland and Nepal. There is lots of cricket out there, and the best way to ensure it stays that way is to not ignore it as too many of us have been doing.
The other day I talked about finding the little things in the game, and using those to inspire my blog posts. Along those same lines, there are dozens of cricket matches every day of the week on every corner of this big old world, and there are dozen stories in each them just waiting to be told. And those are the stories I want to tell. And hopefully by telling them I will be doing something tangible – in my own small way – to make sure those stories are there for the telling for the next thousand years.