There is a World Cup coming up fast and there has been some truly exciting and awesome cricket played in the past few months – understandably overshadowed by the devastating news from Down Under. But rarely has the cricketing world (well, England) seemed so bored of cricket – the current series against Sri Lanka started as one big ball of general ‘meh’. This may be due to the lack of Test cricket this winter and the inevitability of England’s World Cup campaign, but it is worrying. Especially since the news came through recently that the number of people partaking in amateur cricket is falling rapidly (down 60,000 from 2013; more than 5% of matches called off as one team could not field enough players).
Well 51allout have seen the future. And amazingly, seeing as we cherish Test cricket like a teenager cherishes unsecured internet access whilst his parents are away, it involves shortening the game. Ladies and gentlemen, may we present:
Indoor Cricket. Cricket Indoors.
51allout have started playing a form of indoor cricket in a local league this autumn, and you know what? It’s great. Bloody good fun, you can whack the ball at opposition twats and moreover you can be tucked up in the pub long before it closes.
It has several advantages over proper cricket. It is not prone to the weather. It is played in a sports hall and not on a ruddy big field. This makes it ideal for schoolchildren, who tend to find their cricket pitches a) trampled by rugby players, b) developed for housing or c) pissed on by tramps. It takes about an hour (equivalent to one games lesson at school, or one relatively short television show). It is six-a-side and everyone takes part. But seemingly the rules can be adapted to different circumstances – an eight-a-side version would also work in a bigger venue than the netted off section of the indoor cricket school that is used in our local version.
Rubbish players can fluke their way to a reasonable contribution, but it also requires a surprising amount of skill to master. Although scoring is quick, it is not just slogging (due in part to the potential to be out caught off the walls/netting/roof). Batsmen have to find cheeky angles to maximise scoring opportunities. Fielders have to be alert and very accurate with their throws. Bowlers cannot afford to be wide or short. Shots that hit the far wall on the flush are awarded four runs, but those that bounce are worth six – the extra runs being justified through the difficulty of penetrating a narrow field – whilst also rewarding the safer approach (Don “did you know that he only hit six sixes in his entire Test career?” Bradman would surely agree with this).
Furthermore, there are flexible approaches not afforded to the three professional formats of the game. Different sized halls can have different rules or scoring methods. It is ideal for kids and adults alike. Although as a spectator sport it’s not great (although some clever netting or transparent walls could make it suitable to some large indoor venues), this is all about participating. Although if Sky Sports do come knocking with their cheque book, you heard this here first. It’s definitely better than Titans of Cricket live at the O2.
So to recap:
We confidently predict that this time next year this will be all over the schools and the clubs. By 2016 the ECB will be trying to get Atomic Kitten to sing live at the inaugural county version. And within five years it will have been mastered by India and Pakistan, whilst England are being defeated by the likes of China, the USA and the Federated States of Micronesia.