Sadly for Graeme Swann, the dreams of wasting money on pink Ferraris failed to come true in the early hours of this morning.Â The England cricket team spent most of the week being humiliated, so their ten wicket loss to the Stanford Superstars in the much-hyped 20-20 game was a fitting way to round off the trip.Â It wasn’t a surprise that, when push came to shove, England found a way to mess up in spectacular fashion, just as it wouldn’t be a shock to find thatÂ the dream of using the game to sell cricket to America didn’t achieve much either.Â
The Stanford series was a product of various self-interests.Â The infamous WAG-bouncer Sir Allen Stanford wanted to use some of his enormous wealth to gain a large amount of publicity for his business and, more importantly, himself.Â The West Indies Cricket Board were desperate for something to help prop up their once-proud national game that has sadly become a shadow of its former self.Â And as for the England Cricket Board, they jumped into bed with the first money-toting bloke to bat his eyelids at them, a misguided decision in keeping with their overall reaction to the events in India that have turned the cricketing world on its head.
Still, some other ideas were touted as motivating factors for the Stanford Series; ideas that would be for ‘the greater good of cricket’. One of these concerned the prospect of using the big 20-20 game as a great way to market cricket in America.Â
Playing a game to win $20m sounded more like a tacky TV show than a professional cricket match involving England’s national team.Â Tacky TV shows do tend to win good ratings, so it will be interesting to see how many people tuned in, particularly from countries that wouldn’t normally pay much attention to cricket.Â
You always have to be careful when the organization involved in a product tells you what the ratings mean.Â Like any statistic, they can be manipulated to support any argument you like. For example, Sony are making a big thing of the fact that the latest Bond film took a record amount in its opening day in the UK.Â That may well be true, but it’s hardly a surprise considering we haven’t been able to watch a single TV ad break, or open a newspaper/magazine, for the past month or so without being told ten times that the film was coming out.Â It would be more newsworthy if the film hadn’t broken the record.
Anyway, we’ll have to wait and see what the Stanford lot claim, but my guess is that there was no great surge of Americans looking up the LBW rules on Wikipedia.Â One-off games rarely capture the imagination.Â Completely one-sided, one-off games are more likely to discourage people from taking a second look.Â
Like baseball in the U.K., cricket is never going to be more than a minority sport in America.Â Where baseball holds the advantage is that it believes in the quality and attraction of the sport itself.Â It’s not averse to making decisions that leave the purists shaking their heads (see the IBAF’s new extra innings rule), but generally speaking the integrity of the game is left intact. If you are going to fall in love with baseball, you will fall for the true spirit of the game and will develop a deep and lasting attachment to it as a result.
Cricket (more specifically the clowns in charge of the circus) seems to think it can only sell itself to new territories by trotting out a pale imitation of the true sport.Â When the man signing the cheques for this great venture thinks that Test cricket is “boring”, there is little hope that the new fans will really fall in love with the game.Â And that’s a real shame.