Who gets to decide what’s cricket? The audience, dummy
Much scoffing from the members’ areas at cricket grounds up and down the land this week as the English and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced a new 100-ball format of the game aimed at children and families. While there is a whiff of desperation in a version of the game that makes the fury of T20 look long-winded, there can be no doubt the ECB is on to something here. The game’s popularity is dwindling in these times of mass attention deficit, and so shorter, faster, more exciting versions of the game are required.
So is an even shorter version of the game the right thing to do? The dot-com guru Seth Godin’s maxim comes to mind: ‘Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers’. Cricket’s good fortune is that the basic principles of the game can be applied so flexibly to format. Pity Formula 1, which would have to lay ground mines in order to make the business of going round and round in circles more interesting. Those who want cricket to appeal to the smartphone generation should be in favour of experimentation.
So far, T20 has not had the detrimental affect on Test crowds many forecast, rather bringing a new generation of fans and, critically, a tonne of cash into the game. Those suggesting that this just isn’t cricket should remember that before anything else, top-level cricket is entertainment. Yes, it’s a game, a contest, a great revealer of character and many other things besides. But fundamentally it’s about us. The audience will decide cricket’s future, because without them all you’ve got is a very sticky wicket. The new, as-yet nameless format will be shown on the BBC and wrapped by 9pm. My son will be 11 by the time the tournament lands in 2020 – we’re in.
Clutching at straws
I’m probably not alone in hoping it doesn’t take long to find a solution to Michael Gove’s proposed ban on plastic straws. I have a distinctly mixed relationship with the straw. There’s little that galls more than being served a gin and tonic with a straw in it (what are we here, alcoholic adolescents? Gummy geriatrics?), and the thought we’re currently dumping 8.5 billion plastic straws a year into the environment – contributing at least 150 million tonnes of plastic to ocean pollution – sucks. But there is a time and a place for a straw. I found myself ordering an iced latte in one of Mayfair’s swanky caffs during last week’s hot patch, only to be presented with a drink that came topped with a layer of coffee beans. Now, while initially the absence of a straw passed me by, it soon became apparent that slurping a milky beverage flooded by artisanal flotsam without a straw is beyond me. I found myself sipping through pursed lips, using my front teeth as a makeshift filter for the floating objects intent on escaping the glassware. Clever scientist people who can make straws that don’t kill turtles, you’re up.
What will James Bond’s baby look like?
If you can look in the mirror and honestly tell yourself you need an answer to this question, perhaps I could steer you away from this website. In the mean time, our congratulations to Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz on the announcement of their Great Expectations.