• Tailenders make cricket great

    (Photo by Alessandro Bogliari)

    What other sport can you see played – at the most elite levels – by people who are basically not very good at it (puns aside)? This is the beauty of cricket.

    A lot of people claim to not understand cricket. The statement above will perhaps convince them it’s not worth trying to. After all, isn’t all elite sport these days about professionals excelling at the outer boundaries of human ability? 

    The beauty of bowlers

    In cricket you have tailenders. They are bowlers who are picked because they are great at bowling. But the beauty of cricket is that everyone on the team must have a bat as well. Not just the batsmen. Everyone. That is cricket’s brilliance.

    In watching the tailenders bat, it brings even a national Test Match side – the pinnacle of the game – in touch with the ordinary spectator. When we see Jimmy Anderson, the greatest England bowler, cowering before the Indian pace attack, we feel his pain. 

    This is sport as empathy. Where the precision brilliance of Centre Court at Wimbledon, or Twickenham, or the Crucible, or Wembley, leaves us as mere spectators beyond the glass ceiling of sporting excellence, a tailender at Lord’s brings the village game to the greatest stage. 

    The great leveller

    Cricket is unique in preserving some of the magic of amateurism, so lost in other sports. Due to the quirk of a rule that allows for amateur abilities to be put to the test in the biggest matches, the spirit of simply playing a game is rekindled. 

    Why, one might ask, don’t they just tweak the rules so that each team can field 11 batsmen, and simply have larger teams with a bigger subs bench for the fielding side? Yes, it would result in a more elite batting display, with more excellence on show etc etc. 

    But the other major complaint about cricket is that it takes too long. Test Matches with 11 out-and-out batsmen in each side wouldn’t last five days, they’d last ten! Unless, of course, England are batting (minus Joe Root). 

    While we’re on the subject of cricket, let’s hear it for The Amateur Sportsman