Olympic cricket: 10 ways to attract a crowd
How well would a game like cricket go down on a global level, to a general audience that may not know anything about a rather complicated game?
The MCC, guardians of all that is sacred in the cricketing world, recently announced that they would like to see T20 cricket on the schedule at the 2024 Olympic Games, even if it costs a boatload of money.
It got me wondering about the pro's and cons of such a plan. Aside from the financial aspect, how well would a game like cricket go down on a global level, to a general audience that may not know anything about a rather complicated game?
So here are some (tongue-in-cheek) ideas that could attract viewers, for both TV and at the ground, especially if the Olympics are held in a non-cricketing country. Like New Zealand, for example.
<b>1. Reduce the overs to 10</b>
Let's be honest. T20 cricket isn't the real deal anyway, so why not make things easier and quicker by reducing it even further? It's not like the integrity of the game will be affected in any way, and four hours is a long time for children and Americans to concentrate on one game.
A Baseball game takes around three hours to complete, so a 10-over match should be done in two hours or less, depending on whether Saeed Ajmal is bowling. This way we can fit two or three games in per day, which may upset the BCCI's TV profits, but we only have two weeks to work with, not two months.
<b>2. Random Rules Round</b>
As Steve Finn can testify, cricket's Powers That Be (ie Graeme Smith) have no problem with making up rules as they go along, in the middle of matches. So one thing that will keep the plot twisting would be the Random Rules rule.
In the knock out stages, each team gets to make up a new rule before each match, and they carry over until the final. So by the time we reach the last game, there will be a bunch of extra rules for players, umpires and fans to remember. And if they forget a rule, they have to remove an item of clothing.
Let's think of some examples. The last ball of each over has to be pitched like a baseball. You can have double-play run outs. A batsman gets a do-over in the first two overs of the innings, like a Mulligan in golf. A third run off one delivery has to be hopped on one leg. Monty Panesar and Kamran Akmal are allowed one hand-one bounce. Etcetera.
<b>3. Pretty people and exploding things</b>
A cricket match without cheerleaders is just not… cricket. How will we know if a boundary is scored or a wicket is taken if hot girls and one token guy don't do an uncoordinated dance to the tune of Justin Bieber's Baby?
There is a condition though. The cheerleaders have to look like Naya Rivera in her Cheerios uniform (google her, you won't regret it), and the token guy has to look and dance like Channing Tatum in Magic Mike. Have to cater for all tastes, after all.
Also, there must be fireworks or jets of flames shooting out of the dance podiums. Again, a wicket is not a wicket without accompanying pyrotechnics.
<b>4. Clarity over uniforms</b>
This is very important. There was mass confusion at the World Twenty20 when a bunch of guys pitched up dressed as the Jamaican bobsled team. They turned out to be Australia, but Chris Gayle was mightily confused, wondering why he hadn't been told to swap his maroon gear for his national colours.
The Aussies did get their uniforms right at the 2011 World Cup though, sporting skin-tight shirts that flaunted their biceps. Though to be fair, that could just have been David Warner, who always seems to wear a shirt one size too small.
<b>5. A women's competition</b>
Speaking of skin-tight clothing requirements, there must be a women's contest too. We're going to assume that the awesome Sarah Taylor is still in action 10 years from now, and playing for the Chennai Super Kings' men's side in her spare time.
Also, Australian superstar Ellyse Perry will be required to bring her sexy self off the football pitch and bowl some yorkers, while Stafanie Taylor's explosive batting will draw the ladies who usually enjoy softball.
<b>6. Holding, Ganguly and Pollock</b>
Only three people will be allowed to commentate, for various reasons. Michael Holding's voice is eargasmic, and he often goes on highly entertaining rants that distract from the on-field action if it's boring, so people won't tune out.
Saurav Ganguly is the brains behind the operation, spouting intelligent and interesting commentary while looking geeky in a legendary way. Also, he'll draw the highly lucrative Indian audience.
Shaun Pollock is amusing, charming and explains things in a way that anyone can understand, even those who know nothing about the game, like Nick Knight. If any of these three fall ill, then Mike Atherton is on stand-by.
<b>7. Cricket for Dummies</b>
One major drawback to having cricket at the Olympics is that it's a game with lots of rules, stats and positions. Children and Americans may find it difficult to follow, especially if each little aspect requires an extra explanation. Englishman: "An innings consists of 10 overs." American: "What's an over?" You see the problem.
So, to combat this, there will be handbooks dished out at the turnstiles for $1000 a pop (it's the Olympics, nothing is free). If T20 is 'Cricket for Dummies' then this handbook will be called 'Cricket for Dummies, for Dummies'.
Additionally, those who need more hand-holding can rent a Test cricketer as an interpreter, as they will be out of work by then.
<b>8. Waxwork Warney</b>
Given that Shane Warne is now made of plastic and hair, it is safe to assume he will still be playing and looking exactly the same in 2024. Aside from being the coach/dietician/commentator for the Aussies, he will also open the bowling.
To make things fair for the other teams, each country will be allowed one cryogenically defrosted legend in the side. India will obviously have Sachin Tendulkar, while Kevin Pietersen will come down from on high to play for England.
<b>9. Keep the catch</b>
The only reason we have to give the ball back when it goes into the crowd is because the state of the ball affects the match. With T10 cricket, this will not be an issue, so if you catch it, you can keep it.
To make sure expensive cricket balls don't get handed over too often though, the crowd catcher will need to have taken it cleanly, like <a href='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUi71YtQIh0' class='instorylink'><b>this guy</b></a> did at a Big Bash match earlier this year. Amazing effort, worthy of keeping the ball.
<b>10. Double run shots</b>
Given the invention of switch hits and Dilscoops, one dreads to think what shots will be on offer in 10 years' time. As such, any legitimate, old school, textbook cover drive will be worth eight runs. There has to be a pause and pose though, elbow high. Hashim Amla will record his century in less than 20 balls, guaranteed.
So what do you reckon? Would you watch Olympic cricket if these measures were taken? What else would you like to see to make the sacred game of T10 cricket more enticing?
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