MOURNFUL doesn’t usually describe the experience of watching live sport, but it was the best word I could come up with after a couple of hours’ cricket during the opening week of the LV County Championship.
An antidote to the hysteria of Chelsea and London Marathon mayhem, it was also a reminder of the days when sport was just sport, not a millionaires’ paradise or magnificent made-for-television celebration of the human spirit. But while it meandered its way along, as cricket does, with more action than normal as several wickets tumbled, the overriding thought was of irrelevance.
Why are there so many teams, and why are they playing matches on a Wednesday afternoon that barely anybody wants to see, when most have no knowledge of their existence?
Governing bodies have made their intentions clear: the short form of the game is the future and Test matches (with exceptions like the Ashes) the past, so aren’t we heading inevitably towards a calendar structured like football with only Twenty20 matches at weekends – the Friday night BASH and the Monday night THWACK bookending other fixtures – and a midweek Champions League format at teatimes at the height of summer? And would it matter anyway?
Last week, the cricket felt like the sporting equivalent of The Mousetrap. It’s there because it’s there, and because it’s always been there, but it’s a moribund anachronism in a more vibrant world. One day Agatha Christie will no longer be running in the West End, and one day, the County Championship will cover drive off into the sunset. And we’ll wake up and wonder where it went.