All the fashionable people are paying attention to this “World Cup,” and if I want to keep the “hits” counter ticking, I need to cash in the soccer trend as well. Besides, the cricket calendar looks sparse this summer (another West Indies washout on the cards; something called the “Asia Cup”).
So I’m starting a new series on this cricket blog to delineate the differences between cricket and football/soccer. Yes, yes, I know, they are completely different games, but I think it’s important to try and understand why we like certain sports and not others. Literary critics explain what makes novels work (and not), and I think we become better cricket fans (and, yes, one hopes, proselytizers) if we explore what makes cricket different.
Example #1: Tim Green’s massive fumble against U.S.A. If you didn’t catch it, watch here. Green, England’s goalie, was handled a fairly rudimentary save; instead, he watched the ball slip from his hands into the post. He then cowered before thousands (and millions at home). And rightly so; America had no business tying the game with the mighty Three Lions.
But here’s the thing: that kind of error — that is, when one person could make or break a game — rarely happens in cricket. No doubt, there are famous cock-ups (Allan Donald not running to Lance Klusener, e.g.). We all remember that Australian who dropped Aravinda Da Silva in 1996 (Shane Lee? Lee Shane? They’re all called the same thing). But in cricket, no player faces as high stakes as the goalie in soccer does. Every player in cricket has the chance to redeem himself; we often see, in fact, a dropped batsman offer another opportunity soon enough (or lose his wicket in some other manner).
But in Tim Green’s case, his fumble essentially cost his side a win. That’s because in soccer, scoring goals is enormously difficult and the be-all and end-all of the game; in cricket, the complexity (runs, wickets; batsmen v. bowlers) offers more room to breathe.