Sport: Cricket May Be on the Verge of a Summer of Glory Never to Be Repeated

By Cowley, Jason | New Statesman (1996), May 23, 2005 | Go to article overview

Sport: Cricket May Be on the Verge of a Summer of Glory Never to Be Repeated


Cowley, Jason, New Statesman (1996)


I first became interested in cricket during the hot summer of 1976. I was ten years old, and one morning during the long summer holiday I switched on the television to discover England in action against the West Indies. I was mesmerised by the men in white flannels, the greenness of the pitch, the large, good-natured crowd--so unlike the football crowds with which I was more familiar--the periods of drift and inertia broken by moments of sudden and dramatic activity (sometimes even violence) and the hushed, deferential commentary. What was this game which the BBC felt worth dedicating to a whole day's unbroken coverage?

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

From next summer, cricket will disappear from terrestrial television. It has sold out to Sky Sports at a time when it has the opportunity to become once more part of the national conversation. This year there is no major football tournament or Olympics diverting attention away from our lovely summer game. And the Australians, perhaps the most aggressively accomplished collection of players in the history of the sport, will be here to take on a revitalised England in what may be the closest contest for the Ashes since 1987.

Yet this present Australian team is unloved and, with the exception of the flamboyant, bleach-haired leg-spinner Shane Warne, largely unknown by those who do not follow the game. This is a shame, because their achievements are remarkable. Over the past decade or so, led first by Steve Waugh and now the Tasmanian Ricky Ponting, the Australians have reinvented Test cricket. It is increasingly a game of unrelenting attack, with teams seeking to score at four runs per over to create winning positions, when draws were once acceptable.

But in the age of one-day cricket, a drawn Test match is seldom acceptable: Waugh demonstrated that it is far more noble to lose while chasing improbable victory than to allow a game (certainly one occupying five days and competing for attention in our noisy, wired-up, globalised world) to expire lamely. …

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