World Cup (of Cricket) 2019

Photo by Patrick Hendry via Unsplash

Photo by Patrick Hendry via Unsplash

Around this time tomorrow, the World Cup of Cricket, a once in four-year extravaganza will be underway. England, the hosts, will be squaring off against South Africa. To a majority of the residents of the planet, cricket means nothing. To about a billion-and-a-half people, however, it is life and death. I grew up as one of those cricket crazy fans.

These days, I reserve my sporting enthusiasm for the vagaries of baseball, another game of bat and ball. The 162-game long season, the injuries, the disappointments, the last minute victories, the home runs, and the unlikely heroes — baseball is a sport that has nuance and drama. It also allows me to indulge my love of data and participate in fantasy baseball leagues.

But back to cricket. Most people think that cricket is a slow game that lingers over five days and more often than not, the result is no winners. And most would be right. That’s test cricket, the purest and the original form of the game. It is languid. It is chess. It is poetry. It is a game that needs mental fortitude and a desire to put in the hard yards to inch edge. Test cricket is like none other. And while it feels so out of place with today’s world, it is also a reminder of nothing worth winning comes easy. However, it can be boring to watch on television. I know — I tried and gave up.

So they came up with another version of the game — which ended in a day. It is called One Day Cricket. In this form of the game, each team gets roughly 300 pitches (50 overs, where each over has six balls (pitches)) and 3-plus hours to either take the field or bat. It was in 1971 when Australia and England played a version of the modern one day game. I was five years old. During my childhood, I saw a World Series of Cricket competition being established — a rebel professional league in Australia started by TV magnate, Kerry Packer. That changed the game.

During the eighties, nineties and the aughts, one day games looked pretty exciting — after all, we had not become addicted to our cellphones. The dopamine rush wasn’t yet a global affliction. Sports, you see, is a reflection of society and its time. We all like to think the game is above us, but the game is us. Baseball, like test cricket, became popular because it was a pastime for a different era — newly Industrial Age when television hadn’t started to consume our waking hours. Test Cricket and it’s American Cousin were stars of the golden age of radio — when words kept the fans fixated. American Football was a creation of the television, and mostly the weekend. It was a reflection of society changing, becoming faster. It was ideal fare for the TV networks.

Fast forward to today, and we have a whole new rhythm to our world. We move at the speed of the network, and as such, we don’t have the patience for slower games. There is a reason why people are losing interest in baseball and football (American) — because who has the time, right. Instead, the whole planet loves the whizzing, spinning and heart pumping, vein throbbing action of basketball. At the end of a game, you have an answer. During the game, you don’t have time to think about life and its vagaries. It is just the game, the action and the joy of winning, or tears of sadness. And then we move on to the next thing, like dealing with emails, fighting on Twitter, and trolling our friends with our best life on Instagram. It is why the NBA is so popular around the world. It is a sport of our times.

And there is another sport of our times — it is called T20 Cricket — a game that combines the intensity of a basketball game, the nuance of baseball, the art of cricket and the spectacle of American football. And it lasts about four hours — and every single minute is jam-packed with action. Yup, you guessed it — I love it. It is perfect. There is so much data. There is analytics. There are heroes. The egos. The stupid outfits. The loud music. You can’t stop watching. It is cricket which Americans can love. Just wait and see — it is the cricket of our times.

Test Cricket is poetry. T20 is rap. Not better, just different, and more reflective of our reality. ODI, on the other hand, is disco — its time has come and gone. And that’s why when I think of the World Cup of Cricket, I try and stifle a yawn. A game that lasts the whole day — who has time? A tournament that lasts almost two months? Do they not know that our attention spans have been altered forever?  I have an attention span of a gnat, and you want me to care for that long? They have changed the rules of the game so much, that sometimes I wonder why pitchers — sorry, bowlers — even bother to show up. Ten years ago, I gave a shit about this tournament. Today, bring me Indian Premier League any day!

My World Cup Picks Australia vs. England in the final, and I predict that West Indies and New Zealand will be the losing semi-finalists. It won’t make me popular with my family and Indian friends, but I think it will be a World Cup to remember for India for all the wrong reasons. I would be happy to be wrong, but remember, I don’t care. I want to get back to T20 — I can’t wait for the next season of IPL to come around, so I can get back to waking up early to turn on my iPad.

PS: If you want to learn more about the differences between Cricket and Baseball, I recommend this website. And of course, Wikipedia and Quora.

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

A letter from Om

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