Five moments that changed cricket forever

This Friday (27th November 2015), all cricketing eyes will turn to Adelaide as the first ever day/night test will be contested between Australia and New Zealand. The idea of this dramatic change in cricket, with a pink cricket ball being used rather than the standard red, came about from the International Cricket Council (ICC) in response to a decline in test match attendances across the globe. The belief is that day/night test cricket will be more convenient to supporters, with the majority of the days play occurring after traditional working hours. As this could possibly change test match cricket forever, I decided to review five moments that changed cricket forever.

1. World Series Cricket and Kerry Packer

Controversies of World Series Cricket still live on today, as only this week did Cricket Australia announce it would formally recognise the competition and its records. In 1977, Kerry Packer formed a breakaway cricket competition known as World Series Cricket (WSC). This was in response to Cricket Australia refusing his offers to broadcast Australia’s test matches on Packer-owned Channel Nine, who wanted to remain loyal to current broadcasters ABC. Another factor which contributed to the formation of WSC was the popular view that international cricketers were not paid enough to make a living solely from cricket.

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The media were seething with fury at the formation of World Series Cricket.

With the establishment and the media furious at this newly formed breakaway competition, and their inability to ban it completely, WSC had restrictions forced upon it from the start. Describing the five day international games as test matches? Barred. Packer renamed them “Supertests”. Naming the sides from the nation the players were born in? Barred. Packer renamed Australia as “WSC Australia XI”, West Indies as “WSC West Indies XI” and the rest of the world as “WSC World XI”.

So, how did WSC change cricket, I hear you say? Quite predominantly. Ever since, cricketers are full-time professionals and, as far as test playing nations are concerned, are very well paid. Night matches, which were introduced in WSC, are now very common and as stated at the start of this article, are now being introduced into test cricket. Coloured kits rather than the traditional whites, helmets, white cricket balls, floodlights, marketing and drop-in pitches, all were a product of World Series Cricket.

2. The birth of The Ashes

The Oval, 1882. England had just succumbed to their first loss on home soil against Australia. Silence rippled around the ground as the English supporters were astonished as to what they had just witnessed. British newspaper “The Sporting Times” composed a satirical article exclaiming that English cricket had died and that “the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.” A follow up series between England and Australia in the same year, this time in Australia, was scheduled to be played. Leading up to and during the series, England captain Ivo Bligh continuously mentioned the ashes and specifically promised that England would “recover those ashes”.

As the term was never made the official name of the meeting between England and Australia in test matches, “the ashes” disappeared from the public eye following the series. However, The Ashes as we know it now was truly revitalised in 1903, when England captain Pelham Warner returned victorious from Australia and published a book named “How We Recovered the Ashes”.

The official ashes urn is believed to contain a burnt cricket bail, which was presented as a personal gift to Bligh following a victory in Australia. The urn remained at Bligh’s residence until his death in 1927, in which his wife Florence presented the urn to Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), where it has remained ever since. Despite Australia winning The Ashes 32 times, the official urn has only travelled to Australia twice. Due to the victorious team only being presented with a replica, a large crystal Ashes trophy has also been presented as of 1998. Ever since, the rivalry between England and Australia has always been a fierce battle, and is arguably the foundation for the success of test cricket.

3. The introduction of Twenty20 Cricket

 

The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act came into effect in the United Kingdom at the fall of 2002. Why am I telling you this? This act coming into force practically ended the 50 over Benson & Hedges Cup which had been running since 1972. The ECB needed another competition to fill its place, and from here onwards, Twenty20 (T20) cricket was born. A game of cricket completed in approximately three hours? The ECB were confident this would attract more people to enjoy the sport of cricket. The first ball to be bowled in a T20 match came at Chester-Le-Street on June 13th 2003, bowled by Neil Kileen. A relatively unknown Kevin Pietersen also featured in the game, scoring 25 off 16 balls.

“When T20 started, everyone took it quite lightly as a bit of fun, whereas over the years it’s become a very big event and there’s a lot of prize money at stake now,” – Yorkshire director of cricket, Martyn Moxon.

In 2008, franchise cricket had arrived in format of T20, which we know as the Indian Premier League (IPL). More and more T20 leagues have come about ever since, such as the Australian Big Bash and the Caribbean Premier League, with pressure on the ECB to introduce franchise T20 cricket to England.  The economics of the game has completely changed since. There’s now a price on everything; players are even auctioned off to owners of all of the IPL teams.The figures from sponsorships is a great amount; in 2013, PepsiCo bought the sponsorship rights for the IPL at a staggering £44 million. In 2010, the IPL was valued at $4.13 billion. In my personal opinion writing this, the incentive to play cricket nowadays is humongous. However, with the primary economic focus being on T20 cricket, youngsters coming into the sport will only center their skills based on the format, such as big hitting and slower balls.

There are positives and negatives to weigh up in terms of T20 cricket. In England, T20 cricket is basically what is keeping the sport alive in terms of finances. Released this week were attendance figures across England, which included record figures such as 513,000 people attending County Championship matches. Despite this, domestic cricket in England would struggle without T20 cricket and solely relying on sponsorship deals. Ultimately, T20 cricket has indeed increased interest in cricket, as the ECB intended back in 2003. Chris Gayle is a prominent player for West Indies, as shown by his explosive record in all formats. However, he rarely plays test cricket for West Indies, prioritising the IPL and other T20 leagues.

4. Bodyline 1932/33

As stated earlier in the birth of The Ashes, the rivalry between England and Australia is a fierce one. Bodyline changed the whole course of relations between England and Australia to the rivalry we see today. Bodyline was a tactic devised by England to combat Australia’s exceptional batting, which included the great Sir Donald Bradman. The plan was simple, set a majority leg side field, bowl short balls towards the body of the batsman in hope of a deflection off the bat hence creating a catching opportunity. At the time, this tactic was considered intimidating and going against the traditional idea of sportsmanship.

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England fast bowler Harlow Larwood strikes Australian batsman Bert Oldfield during The Ashes tour of 1932/33.

Back in 1932, protective gear was limited. They had no helmets, no thigh pads, no chest guards, no arm guards and shoddy pads and gloves, with the cricket ball remaining as hard and lethal as ever. In the picture shown above, Bert Oldfield’s skull was fractured after being struck on the temple, further increasing the tension between the sides. The controversy peaked in the third test when Bill Woodfull was struck in the chest in front of 50,000 Australians. The crowd began jeering and became verbally abusive of the English players, as they feared that a batsman could possibly be killed, a riot only avoided by police presence. As a direct consequence of this series, the MCC passed a law stating that bodyline bowling breached the spirit of cricket. Further laws have been created over the years due to the bodyline series, such as the amount of leg side fields being restricted and restricting the amount of short balls being bowled in an over. These laws live on today, and in a poll of cricket journalists, commentators, and players in 2004, the bodyline tour was ranked the most important event in cricket history.

5. South African match fixing

In 2000, Hansie Cronje led his South African team a tour of India. On April 7th of that year, Delhi police formally charged Cronje with fixing ODI’s in March for money. At the time these charges were made public, the South African board, players and media supported Cronje’s plea of innocence. However, four days later, the board sacked Cronje as he revealed to them he wasn’t being entirely honest.

Cronje’s fate was effectively sealed on June 8th, when fellow player Herschelle Gibbs publicly confessed he had accepted an offer from Cronje to perform poorly in return for $15,000. This confession led to a chain reaction of further confessions. Henry Williams, Pieter Strydom, Mark Boucher, Lance Klusener and Jacques Kallis all testified that Cronje approached them and offered money to fix a match. Gibbs and Williams were banned for six months, the rest acquitted. Cronje was banned for life by the South African cricket board. On June 1st 2002, Cronje was killed in a plane crash which after an inquest, revealed the cause of death was pilot negligence. It remains unknown to this day whether Cronje was murdered or not, with conspiracies flying around that a betting syndicate was behind his death.

This incident opened up a major door in cricket. Despite cricketers’ salaries increasing constantly, corruption in cricket remains a big issue which needs to be combated. Since 2000, allegations of match fixing and now spot fixing, are being thrown about. The ICC, cricket boards, players, supporters and the contemporary media acknowledge that still today, bookmakers and syndicates are active in their attempts to fix the sport of cricket.

 

 

 

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