Antoinette Muller

The lunacy of cricket

2013-06-19 10:29
Sport24 columnist Antoinette Muller (File)
"I'm watching this climax with a non-cricket fan.

"Is the match finished?"

"They're just deciding who's won."


"With a calculator."

In just a few characters, a Tweet from @AltCricket summed up the ridiculousness of the Duckworth-Lewis following the tied match between South Africa and West Indies.

Proteas fans won’t mind, of course, the match was tied - good news for them - and they progressed to the semi-finals thanks to a superior net-run-rate (something else decided by a calculator).

Duckworth-Lewis has long been debated and until somebody comes up with  better solution like deciding games through interpretive dance with themes randomly selected from the umpire’s hat, we’re stuck with it.

The Champions Trophy, for the most part, has been superb entertainment, even for somebody who has a severe dislike for the one-day format. The one criticism of it, though, is it has served as another reminder of just how fickle and how ridiculous cricket and its laws, playing conditions and reintegrated playing conditions which make you feel like a chameleon on a Rubik’s Cube.

It’s easy for those who grew up with the game or who slowly grew fond of it, to simply accept it as one of those things, but it does pose a problem for luring new fans to the sport. With so much emphasis on dwindling attention spans and patronising commentary teams in T20 leagues - some of the scenarios in the Champions Trophy hasn’t really painted cricket in the brightest lights for those who are watching for the first time.

It’s sad because, with the type of cricket that has been on show for the tournament, there was no better time to harness new interest to the game than now, but just imagine a potential new fan was watching the game between the West Indies and South Africa?

Trying to explain Duckworth-Lewis is one thing, few of even the most astute cricket followers understand it, but the whole scenario which unfolded after the players went off was a complete bafflement of the senses. Nobody really knew what was going on and nothing was communicated to anybody. In England, the anchor team of the host broadcaster were left completely in the dark.

Even though cut off time had passed, which meant that there was no way the game would be allowed to continue, everybody took their precious time to communicate it to those who need to communicate it to those who are watching.

Even a renowned commentator made the mistake of saying that Windies had lost - not tied - the match. This was because the scoreboard was showing the D/L par score for the next over.

That happens everywhere, but imagine trying to explain it to a new fan or even to a passive fan who has never been confronted with the Colossal Mathematics Monster that is D/L?

There was also the question of the interval.  It remained at 30 minutes despite a chunk of time already lost due to rain. The next day, the interval between India and Pakistan was shortened, but not because anybody learnt from their mistakes. No, because the laws and the playing conditions are quite peculiar.

According to the playing conditions, there is provision for a shortened break, but only if time had a been lost before the innings ended. The playing conditions read: "(iii) Note: The prescribed interval timings above may be reduced further (from 30 minutes) by the ICC Match Referee taking into account the intention of not having a prolonged interval after a lengthy interruption close to the conclusion of the innings of the team batting first. However, the minimum interval shall not be less than 10 minutes."

Read that again and then try to make sense of it all. Once you do that, try and comprehend just how ridiculous it is. An extra 10 minutes could have made a big difference in the outcome of the match, but because of some absurd playing condition which makes no foresight for logic.

Cricket’s playing conditions and laws are myriad of confusion and for the passive or the potential fans, it’s a problem. Far too much of its communication is on a “needs to know basis” and while nobody wants to be patronised, it really doesn’t help itself with all its nuances.

Then there is the question of sportsmanship and the Spirit of the Game. Denesh Ramdin was fined and suspended  for breaching the Spirit of the Game after he claimed a dodgy catch. But the law is so remarkably inconsistent that it doesn’t apply to batsmen who do stand their ground when there was a clear edge on the ball and it doesn’t apply for appealing when something clearly isn’t out or even for “tactical reviews”.

Applying the law which is basically nothing more than a euphemism for calling somebody a cheat so haphazardly is astounding and downright ridiculous. Cheating should not be condoned in any sport, but the fact that there is a law, based on something abstract with no coherent set of when it should be applied or not is quite ridiculous.

The list of lunacy goes on. Cricket, bless it, is a great game. Its intricacies and nuances is part of the reason its loved by so many - there is rarely a dull moment. But one can’t help but wonder how much its shooting itself in the foot with its complications when it should be welcoming a new generation of supporters with something a little bit more simplistic.

Antoinette Muller is a freelance writer who writes mainly about soccer and cricket for The Daily Maverick or anybody else who will have her...

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