“The term ‘wicket’ is heading for the pavilion,” says Elizabeth Ammon in The Times. The Hundred, a new cricket format beginning in England later this year, will instead use “out”, like baseball and rounders. It’s also scrapping six-ball overs in favour of 100-ball innings in blocks of 10. So, rather than “93 runs for three wickets from 10 overs”, a team would score “75 runs from 60 balls for three outs”. By simplifying the rules and terminology, the England and Wales Cricket Board hopes to attract a new audience to the sport. Existing cricket fans are worried that this is dumbing down and Americanising a national pastime.
This “mindless slogathon” isn’t proper cricket, so who cares what words it uses, says Simon Heffer in The Daily Telegraph. The Hundred is alienating cricket fans from the sport and might do “higher forms” of the game real harm. Professional cricketers will become “mercenaries” for the competition and neglect the skills needed to play Test matches. That serious county clubs aren’t campaigning for a two-code game with separate pools of players “shows how little they understand about the practice of cutting their own throats”.
Wisden helped POWs to survive
Jim Swanton, former cricket correspondent for The Daily Telegraph, came back from the Second World War a “shadow of his former self”, writes Michael Atherton in The Times. After three and a half years at the hands of merciless Japanese prison guards in various POW camps, even his father did not recognise him. But he later recalled how, deep in the jungle, close to despair, he and his fellow inmates found solace in an unexpected source: the 1939 Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.
The battered volume, repaired by a 20-man bookbinding corps in the officers’ camp at Kanburi, Thailand, proved immensely popular “among British and Australian servicemen especially”. Now housed in the museum at Lord’s, it is “stained with sweat and discoloured by heat” after being bound and rebound with rice paste and sack cloth. On the inside cover, a Japanese censor has marked it “non-subversive”.
Swanton, who died in 2000, recalled how the book allowed prisoners to cling to memories of normality and, in times of greatest stress, to the things that make living worthwhile. “We were never so thankful for having been cricketers as when we were guests of the Japanese,” he wrote. “There were periods when we could play cricket, if our antics do not desecrate the word… And it inspired many a daydream, contrived often in the most gruesome setting, whereby one combated the present by either living in the future or the past.”
When the Japanese surrender came, Swanton took his first walk as a free man, finding himself in a small café on the edge of the jungle. The hosts kindly turned the radio over to commentary on the Victory Test at Old Trafford. Australia’s Bob Cristofani was just reaching his hundred. “No matter the circumstances, someone, somewhere is always scoring a hundred.”