The news that Allen Stanford, the Texan millionaire who has been asked by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to pay for cricket for the foreseeable future, is under investigation for massive fraud looks like nothing more than the latest in a series of farcical events that have succeeded in robbing the game of almost all of its accrued dignity.
Other supposed debacles include playing on a football pitch with a stripe running across it just short of a length; abandoning a match after 10 balls because no-one was able to construct a viable, safe pitch, even though they’d had a year’s notice that it was going to be played there; games where you can earn a million dollars only by biffing everything out of sight; re-locating the international governing body’s offices to Dubai, in a non-cricket-playing nation, on the grounds that it’s “more convenient”; the invention of a super-league of cricketers who are prepared to put financial consider- ations over country; making Kevin Pietersen captain of England... well, the list could go on.
What people don’t know is that these developments are not in fact the result of exceptionally clueless management, but part of a deliberate, well thought out attempt to make cricket shed its stuffy old image and re-invent itself for the 21st century. Here are some more of the innovations you can expect to see in the next few months:
Cruelty Cricket: Cricketers with a known track record of emotional vulnerability (Graham Thorpe, Marcus Trescothick, etc.) are pitted against those with a known track record of emotional cruelty. This actually already happens every three or four years or so and is known as “The Ashes”.
Body Art Cricket: In which teams do not score only via the conventional method of amassing runs, but by comparing the extravagance, extent, and stupidity of their tattoos. At the moment Freddie Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen are way ahead of everyone else.
“Footie” Cricket: Cricket will be made more appealing to the football-watching nations by enlarging the ball, making it softer and lighter, replacing dangerous, unwieldy and old-fashioned items such as “bats” and “stumps” with netted frames called, perhaps, “goals”, and encouraging both teams to wear shorts and all play at the same time, using their feet rather than their hands.
Twenty20 Cricket: This form of the game, considered insufficiently demeaning, will from now on be called “Sloggo”.
“Sloggo”: Previously known as Twenty20 Cricket, this will all too soon be seen as an arcane and far too stately version of the game, and so future versions will be reduced to 10 overs per innings, then five, and then, eventually, one over each. Audiences will be so entertained by the over-priced lager and amplified power-ballads played on the public address system every time anyone on the pitch does anything that they will forget that they came to see an actual game at all.
“Casho”: In which, in a final attempt to rid the world of this effete and elitist spectacle, those wishing to attend the game will simply give all their money to its administrators, who will then decide to spend it as they see fit, and no questions asked. This will come to be seen, in centuries to come, as the purest form of the game, and future generations will wonder why we took so long to get round to it.