It’s Fair, It’s Science, But Perhaps It’s Just Not Cricket

by Devanshu Mehta

Most sports have barriers between casual fans and the game. Some are larger than others. I remember watching soccer as a kid, and while most of the game was straightforward (kick ball in to net), the off-side rule always tripped me up. Suddenly the game would stop, the ball would change hands, and only an expert with a slow-motion replay could tell you why.

When I started watching the NBA, I could never explain the various fouls (was that travelling, a 3-second violation, or just a regular elbow to the ribs?) and the one trillion timeouts in the fourth quarter. A friend once tried to convince me that they actually stop the game so the broadcasters could show advertisements.

Compared to cricket, though, these are minor barriers. The objective is still “get the ball in the net“. Cricket is a complex sport with various arcane rules and the fans who are within the fold– those of us who get it– usually enjoy the game because of these intricacies, not in spite of them.

The modern changes to the game that DuckingBeamers describes are different:

I don’t have any particular animosity to DRS, or Duckworth-Lewis, or even the 15-degree rule — I accept that the science behind them is generally rigorous (even if Hawkeye still freaks me out a little bit). But I worry these technocratic rules raise a barrier between fans and the game, and I yearn  for a simpler discourse that respects fate and fortune over human agency — if only because I think fans should understand the game they profess to love.

These are changes that create barriers between the dedicated fan and his sport, not just casual fans. They may be fair, if the fairness of sport is judged in a court of law, but it’s not clear they make the sport better. Much worse than the off-side rule made me suffer as a player and viewer as a child, these new innovations bring you out of the game and force you to accept an external reality.

It’s all smooth sailing until, pause: the mathematicians say India lost, or the biomechanical engineer says your bowler is a chucker, or the computer says you’re out. They force you to accept that you, the dedicated fan, can’t explain the game you love. It’s fair, it’s science, but perhaps it’s just not cricket.