Cricket World Cup 2015: How Technology Is Changing Our National Summer Sport

For many people, cricket evokes idyllic scenes of the sport being played on a village green by players dressed in white, stopping for a break to grab some tea and a sandwich, but such traditional scenes betray the game’s more recent relationship with technology both on and off the pitch.

Video replays have been used to help umpires decide on run outs for some time, but many broadcast technologies like hotspot, snicko and hawk-eye are now used in matches as part of the Decision Review System (DRS).

India has been a notable opponent of DRS, but most fans, players and observers accept that technology has changed the sport for the better. For the International Cricket Council (ICC), innovations mean that more correct decisions are being made than ever before. (more…)


The Cricket Paper: A Pleasant Anachronism

It seems almost every week that we’re told that print is a dying medium, that it struggles to keep up with the dynamic, real-time content served up by smartphones, tablets and PCs. On the fact of it then, it would appear to be a strange time to launch a niche sports title.

But that’s exactly what Greenways Publishing have done with The Cricket Paper, the latest addition to its portfolio of sporting titles that already includes The Non-League Paper, The Football League Paper and The Rugby Paper.

For a country that has no equivalent of L’Equipe, Gazetta Dello Sport or even Sports Illustrated, a weekly paper devoted to sport holds something of a novelty value as sports coverage in the UK tends to be in the back pages of the nationals, with the only real exception being The Racing Post.


Cricket World Cup 2011: The Revival Of The 50 Over Format?

Two weeks ago, 50 over cricket was supposedly on its death bed and the 2011 Cricket World Cup was to be one last hurrah for a format that was soon to be superseded by Twenty20 as the dominant form of limited overs cricket.

Obituaries were freely written for a version of the game regarded as increasingly outdated and irrelevant while the ICC decided to exclude associate members from future World Cups in favour of expanding the fledgling ICC World Twenty20.

Previous Disappointments

Although the opening rounds of this World Cup have had their fair share of whitewashes, they have also produced enough surprises and epic sto suggest that there is life yet for this form of the game, while the performances of associate nations such as Ireland and the Netherlands have put pressure onthe ICC to reconsider its decision to contract the size of the competition.

The cause of the 50 over game had not been helped by the last two World Cups in South Africa and the West Indies, which were lacklustre, poorly organised and seemingly never-ending. Political issues plagued the 2003 event as England and New Zealand pulled out of games in Zimbabwe and Kenya respectively on security fears and forfeited points that could have permitted them to advance in the tournament, which lasted for a staggering six weeks.

The 2007 World Cup promised a carnival of Caribbean cricket yet is widely regarded as the worst organised in history as low attendances, high ticket prices and restrictions on what could be brought into the ground stifled the atmosphere. An unprecedented 16 teams entered which resulted in many one-sided contests and the early exits of India and Pakistan from another lengthy tournament.

The farcical nature of the competition was epitomised by the final itself after Sri Lanka were forced to bat the final three overs of the game in virtual darkness, having already conceded defeat in their run chase and the PA announcer declaring Australia the champions. Combined with the tragic death of Bob Woolmer, the tournament took its toll on players and fans alike who became disinterested and fatigued long before its conclusion.

Rise of Twenty20

Since the last World Cup final, Twenty20 cricket has witnessed a significant increase in popularity with three editions of the ICC World Twenty20 being held and the formation of the Indian Premier League. Indeed the 2009 and 2010 World Twenty20s were more entertaining than the previous two World Cups with the 2010 tournament in the West Indies providing a far more authentic Caribbean atmosphere than the 2007 World Cup.

It was in this climate of disillusionment that the 2011 World Cup began. After an average opening game between co-hosts India and Bangladesh, the tournament sparked to life in the clash between England and the Netherlands. The Netherlands famously beat England in the opening game of the 2009 WorldTwenty20 at Lords and the Dutch came mightily close to repeating the trick in 2011 as a Ryan ten Doeschate inspired side narrowly lost to England after posting an impressive 292.

More exciting contests were to follow as Bangladesh, a test-playing nation, were pushed all the way in their victory over associate member Ireland, while Pakistan beat Sri Lanka by just 11 runs. However, thebest was yet to come as two games both involving England would really set the tournament alight over the space of four days.

Billed as the biggest game of the tournament so far, England and India arrived in Banglore for a match that would reveal much about both teams’ tournament aspirations. Talismanic batsman Sachin Tendulkar scored his47th ODI century and his fifth in World Cups as India set England a daunting run chase of 339, the fourth highest in history.

With India firmly on top, England’s steady start gave the team belief and Andrew Strauss’ superbly crafted century undermined the Indian’sconfidence while the crowd became deathly silent.  England looked as though they were cruising tovictory, but India took vital wickets that thrust them firmly back into the ascendancy. As England looked as though they were about to throw the game away, Graeme Swann and Ajmal Shahzad recovered to put England in a position to win off the final ball. Requiring two runs to win, England scored just one to tie the game.

In an exhilarating game which saw the initiative pass backand forth between both sides, England and India produced a perfect advertisement for the 50 over game. The match witnessed most runs ever scored in an ODI and the spectacular centuries from Tendulkar and Strauss would not have been possible in the frantic and impatient world of Twenty20.

Case for the Associates

After the drama against India, England remained in Bangalore to face Ireland in another contest that would not only demonstrate the merits of 50 over cricket, but also argue the case for associate members’ inclusion in future World Cups.

Ireland slumped to 111/5 during their chase of England’s 327, but Kevin O’Brien’s stunning century, the fastest ever in World Cup history, led the Irish to victory. The match demonstrated how 50 over games can be turned around in the middle overs with victory snatched from the jaws of defeat as Ireland secured a famous win which cast doubt over the wisdom of the ICC’s decision to reduce the number of teams in Cricket World Cups .

Perhaps responding to criticisms regarding the competitiveness of certain matches and the lengths of World Cups, the ICC decided before the 2011 tournament that only ten teams would compete in the 2015 World Cup. Critics of the decision argue that it removes the chance for associate members to participate in tournaments with the biggest teams and that it removes any opportunity for the game to expand beyond being a post-colonial legacy.

The ICC have countered this claim by promising to expand the World Twenty20 as they feel the format is the best vehicle for expanding the game to new countries. While this may be true, much of the cricket played in associate nations is 50 over and the set up of their national team is geared towards potential qualification for the World Cup.
Unless the ICC provide associate nations with an opportunity to qualify for future World Cups and regular matches against the full members, nations such as Ireland and the Netherlands will have no platform to prove themselves in what still remains the dominant one day format and there will be no method of evaluating nations for potential accession to the realms of test match cricket.

Twenty20 may yet surpass it in terms of popularity, but the opening two weeks of the 2011 Cricket World Cup have proved that there is life in the 50 over game and that there is no need to abandon it just yet. However if it is to continue to thrive, then associate nations need a chance to compete unless it is to become the preserve an elite few.

Friday Night Lights

Friday heralded the beginning of a brand new EuropeanChampionship Qualifying campaign and England did their best to silence thecritics who have been calling for the players’, and indeed the manager’s, headssince the disastrous campaign in South Africa. Jermain Defoe scored England’sonly winner at the World Cup and he was in equally predatory form again atWembley, scoring a hat-trick while Adam Johnson, who was left out of the finalsquad in June, scored his first goal for the Three Lions. The qualifiers forthis tournament will take place on Fridays and Tuesdays, a break from thenormal scheduling of Saturdays and Wednesdays, in the hope that it will giveclub managers more time to prepare for domestic fixtures when the players arereleased by their international sides. Inevitably, this has been criticised byfans who have complained that the timing of these matches means that theirattendance is dependent on the ability to get time off work if they liveoutside of London. While this is a considerable oversight by those at UEFA,there has been one advantage of this decision in that for the first time in along time there has been virtually no football over a weekend during theseason.
Internationalbreaks have been seen by some fans, especially those who don’t see the value ininternational football, as a distraction from league football. Although there isfar less football than usual it was still possible to make a weekend of it asfixtures for the Home Nations were staggered and if there was South Americanqualifying, there were games on in the small hours too. This was not possiblewith the new scheduling as most games kicked off around eight o’clock unlessthey were in Eastern Europe like the Republic of Ireland were. What resultedwas a weekend void of Premier League, Championship or international footballand while the media gave much time and space to analysis of the qualifiers, itwas refreshing to see other sports and other levels of football in thespotlight.
TheAviva Premiership Rugby season kicked off on Saturday with the Londondouble-header at Twickenham. ESPN are beginning their coverage of thecompetition and broadcast both games, devoting most of their Saturday afternoonto the clash between last years runner-up Saracens and London Irish and Wasps vHarlequins. Today, BBC Radio 5 live will broadcast commentary of Northampton v Leicester,something that would not happen during a weekend heaving with Premier Leaguefootball.
Muchattention was also paid to the conclusion of the county cricket season as boththe Clydesdale Bank 40 and County Championship competitions enter their finalstages. Sunday’s Twenty20 international between England and Pakistan would havebeen in the headlines regardless, owing to the current match-fixing scandal, butwith no other sporting event aside from the aforementioned Premiership clashbeing able to rival it, the Cardiff contest becomes the main sporting eventthis afternoon.
Lower-leaguefootball and non-league football also received a boost from the Euro 2012qualifiers. League One fixtures were live on Sky Sports and on BBC Radio 5live, while the 3pm kick-offs did not have to contend with an England gamewhich would have affected attendances at the grounds. Much attention was paidto the East London derby between Dagenham and Redbridge and Leyton Orient aswell as Southampton v Rochdale. Saturday was declared ‘Non-League Day’ as fanswere encouraged to use this day off to attend a non-league match. BBC RadioKent received calls from many fans who had been attending non-league games formany years and from those who were attending their first match.
WhileAmerican sports leagues have often been criticised on this side of the pond fortheir capitalist nature, their submission to television networks and theirpropensity to move cities, American sports culture allows for the domination ofmore than one sport, something that ours does not. While American football isperhaps the most dominant of the ‘big three’ sports which also includesbaseball and basketball, they share air-time and column space. This is in starkcontrast to the British sports media which predominantly consists ofwall-to-wall football. While this results from many factors which cannot beexplained here, it is refreshing to see.
Footballis undisputedly the most popular sport in this country and there is no dangerof that changing in the near future. The Premier League dominates every otherleague in this country in terms of revenue, attendance and influence meaningthat other sports and other leagues barely get a look in. With theinternational games moving to Friday however, a window has opened for thesesports as well as the lower leagues of the football pyramid to get some of thelimelight.

Cup Match: A Bermudian Tradition

Cricket: Bermuda
Sportis often said to bring some countries to a standstill, but in Bermuda this istaken to another level as virtually the entire island shuts down to enjoy theannual cricketing contest between St. George’s and Somerset Cricket Clubs knownas Cup Match. During this two-day public holiday, which takes place on theThursday and Friday nearest August 1, Bermudians partake in camping, boatingand swimming while thousands attend the match itself, the venue of  whichalternates between the two competing team’s home grounds.
Cricketis incredibly popular in this former British colony and the Bermudian nationalteam compete at ICC competitions, most notably the 2007 Cricket World Cup wherethey lost all three of their games. Notable players for the island includeformer Glamorgan captain David Hemp and spin bowler Dwayne Leverock, who playedfor Somerset in this year’s competition. Four streets in Bermuda are named inhonour of cricket; Fielder’s Lane, Bat ‘n’ Ball Lane, Cricket Lane andGrandstand Lane, which gives an indication of the importance that locals placeon cricket. The Cup Match is the centrepiece of the domestic season as acarnival atmosphere descends on the island. Fans of the rival teams displaytheir colours (Red and navy for Somerset and blue and dark blue for St.George’s) in the lead up to the game which attracts attendances of around 7,000and is broadcast on both TV and radio.
TheCup Match has its origins in the celebrations that took place to following theend of slavery in 1834. A key feature of these celebrations was a cricket gamebetween the lodges from the opposing ends of Bermuda and in 1902 it turned intoan annual competition between Somerset Cricket Club in the west and St George’sin the east. The game captivated the island and many didn’t go into work duringthe match which led to the government declaring the two days on which the gameoccurred as public holidays in 1947.
Thisyear’s match was held at Somerset Cricket Club on the 29th and 30th of July as St. George’s looked todefend the title they had held since 2005. Despite a strong start by theholders, Somerset fought back with the help of Bermudian international MalachiJones, who earned figures of 4-71. Any potential comeback was ended bypersistent heavy rain and little was possible on the second day of play whichmeant that game ended in a draw and St. George’s retained the trophy.  TheRoyal Gazette declared it this year’s Cup Match as the “wettest in memory” and also argued that the game had been ruined by the rainand that this would only strengthen calls for a third day to be added to thematch, or for a reserve day to be allocated. Despite this, many stayed to enjoythe festivities that are associated with Cup Match such as the concerts andlocal food. As the organisers are keen to stress the Cup Match is more thanjust a cricket match as it helps to mark the emancipation.
Anotherimportant event to note was the retirement of Dwayne Leverock from Cup Matchcricket. The spinner, who achieved worldwide fame following his catch at the 2007 Cricket World Cup, made his debut in 1990 and took 44 wickets during his CupMatch career leaving him 16th inthe all-time rankings. ‘Sluggo’, as he is known, won the “Safe Hands” award forthe catch which ended the St. George’s innings, the second time that he was wonthis award.
TheCup Match represents a great tradition and one that is embraced by the peopleof Bermuda. It is also testament to the enduring popularity of cricket thatcontinues to survive in this part of the world despite the threat of othersports.

Twenty20: The Way Forward

Tomorrow, the inaugural Twenty20 World Championship in South Africa begins. The format that was pioneered by the ECB has taken the world of cricket by storm since its inception in 2003. Despite the growing popularity of the shorter game, traditionalists have remained skeptical and some countries have refused to embrace Twenty20. This version of the game is the way forward for cricket to ensure it’s long-term future and to attract young followers to the game.

The Twenty20 format was touted around as a method of gaining extra revenue for County Cricket sides. The fast-paced game would allow for spectacular shots and a result within a short period of time. Counties often scheduled their Twenty20 matches in their out grounds, but following the high attendances and public reception of the format, clubs held their games at their main venues in order to maximize profit. Young children were entranced by the spectacle. The county game is structured so that the clubs can produce good, young cricketers for the England team. While England test matches and One-Day Internationals are well attended, County Championship matches and Limited-overs games are not. Teams that do not have an England Test venue often fail to bring in as much revenue as those that do, and in order for these clubs to continue producing England players, they need money.

One only has to look at tonight’s match between the Middlesex Crusaders and the Derbyshire Phantoms. In the first flood-lit match at Lords, the attendance was not quite what you would call a “full-house”. In order for County Cricket to remain financially viable, Twenty20 matches must be on the agenda, even if that means scrapping one of the two 40-over tournament in the season. There are not enough England games to go around for teams to all have an international venue.

On the international stage, the scene is set for Twenty20 to become the predominant format of the limited overs game. The two last Cricket World Cups have been uninspiring to say the least. They have been marred by political controversies and poor organisation, not to mention the embarrassment of the Jamaican police following the death of Bob Woolmer. The games were rarely entertaining and the tournaments have dragged on for far too long. The promises of a West Indian carnival of cricket failed to materialise in the last edition of the tournament. The Twenty20 World Championship will last around two weeks and will be filled with match-ups, that if they stay faithful to the Twenty20 cup, that will go right down to the wire.

Twenty20 is a fantastic format that could bring cricket the masses. Indeed it could give county cricket a steady stream of revenue to allow it to continue producing players for the England team and allow international cricket to allow itself to have an exciting spectacle comparable to other sport’s world championships.