The widening gulf: where is cricket heading?

The widening gulf: where is cricket heading?

by Alan Flook

London | 6 March 2014

I am no statistician but my guess would be that over 99% of cricket is played as a recreation. Anyone got any genuine figures?

One definition of recreation is as an activity of leisure - with leisure being discretionary time. A rather long winded way of describing recreational cricket as something we do when it suits us and purely for pleasure rather than as a paid job. The increasing problem is that the world’s perception of the game is one picked up from the professional game by watching television.

MCC Blue Book

Even an increasing number of ‘recreational’ players view the game as if it were a test match or a T20 because that is what they see on the box.

The vast majority of these players have never read the MCC Blue Book – those cleverly worded 42 laws - so they pick up their so called knowledge from TV commentators.

The ever increasing gulf between the MCC laws and the regulations under which professional cricket is played must surely be of concern. The laws don’t change too often but one of the latest changes (to the ‘No Ball’ Law) has been brought about because one high profile professional player kept breaking the wicket at the bowler’s end in his delivery stride.

One umpire used his ‘discretion’ in making a judgment call and now we will all be impacted.

Duckworth and Lewis rain rule

With most of us being involved in the recreational game, Messrs. Duckworth and Lewis are not on our radar and each league or competition has its own very workable way of dealing with the loss of overs due to bad weather. There is a growing move towards D/L in a few leagues and in some of the major cup competitions but I am sure this will remain very much a minority approach for the foreseeable future.

Using technology for umpiring decisions

I am still waiting to find a ground with the electronic devices needed for Snicko, Hotspot and the cameras needed to assist the TMO in the DRS scenario.

At some time we will run out of initials and start using proper language just to confuse people. I am certainly not against the use of technology if it helps the right decision to be made but the latest Ashes series certainly didn’t enhance that argument and just took the professional game even further from the recreational game as viewed by the world.

The problem is that there is no realistic way back to the basic concepts which govern what we do and I certainly feel sorry for the umpires standing in these high profile games who seem to be hindered rather than helped by the dozens of replays shown to the mass audience and are governed by sometimes dodgy electronics.

Future impact

I await the time when the players in a nice friendly 40 overs-a-side Sunday afternoon game demand reference to a Third Match Official for a queried umpiring decision – it’s tough enough just getting two umpires with even a good understanding of the laws.

Visualize the scenario with a game nicely poised just after tea and the rain comes down - up goes the cry for Duckworth Lewis – how many of you understand and can use that little gem? The plea is for our lords and masters to, at least, be aware that they need to consider the 99% of us mere players and officials when they take their little black boxes into the public arena. Let’s not take too many strides away from that which is achievable for the vast majority of us.


About the Author:

Alan Flook retired from umpiring in 2012 after 23 years in the Middlesex County Cricket league and a few years on the County Second Eleven list. More recently he was an umpire tutor, preparing new umpires for their exams and is presently an assessor as part of the umpire grading process. He is the current Chairman of the Middlesex knockout cricket cup.

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