Cricket as classical music

Chris Smith over at The Declaration Game has an enjoyable piece comparing the experiences that newcomers to the world of classical music share with those to the world of cricket. It’s an interesting read, especially considering that both worlds are, rightly or wrongly, often viewed as being elitist, old-fashioned, snobby, or incomprehensible. Chris segues into a discussion of what commentators do, or refrain from doing, in order to facilitate entry for the uninitiated.

That aside, I fancied riffing on the idea of pairing classical music with cricket. Which musical form best pictures each format? Here’s my variation on Chris’s theme. Don’t take it too seriously: the parallels are slight.

Test Cricket is an oratorio: lengthy, dramatic, and often retelling history that is sacred in the eyes of its enthusiasts. Not the easiest jumping-off point for a newcomer, but may well have iconic and highly memorable sections, revered for years afterwards: see, for example, track 42 below.

ODI cricket is a concerto, made up of contrasting passages, some of which may be more or less compelling than others, but all of which contribute to the overall fabric of the work. It’s not unusual to have a bright start, followed by a slower-paced section, and a lively conclusion.

I’m tempted to say that T20 is film music: it masquerades as something classic, appears initially similar, but you soon realise it’s just the same theme, repeated endlessly, hammering itself into your consciousness. Yet that isn’t fair, and doesn’t reflect my real opinions of both T20 and film music: both can be greatly enjoyable. It would be kinder to call it a scherzo, a piece that is nominally playful, but can easily be deadly serious. It’s robust enough to stand on its own without any surrounding movements or context.

On a slightly more serious note, Chris’s discussion of catering for less-knowledgeable viewers sparked my recollection of another cricket-and-classical-music pairing, although one admittedly tenuously connected with the current subject. Claire Taylor, one of the Wisden Cricketers of The Year in 2009, is a violinist with the Aldworth Philharmonic Orchestra. The APO run a scheme that allows anyone who hasn’t ever heard a live orchestra to receive a free ticket.

Could a similar scheme work in cricket? I don’t know how it could practically be administered to prevent abuse. The Aldworth Philharmonic Orchestra appears to rely on the honesty of its guests. I doubt this would work on a large scale in cricket, without resorting to recording details of who has used the scheme and checking ID; too onerous, one would think, for the average county cricket club. Yet the benefits would be similar: a whole new world could potentially be opened up for the newcomer. Hearing a live orchestra is light years away from listening to Classic FM. Attending a cricket match in person is nothing like watching it on TV. Not that there’s any live cricket these days on free-to-air TV for your casual UK viewer. It may come down to a shootout between Classic FM and TMS.

One thought on “Cricket as classical music

  1. Liam, thanks for your generous nod to my piece. I look forward to listening to the classical music you cite as part of my continuing education in that area.

    On your point about the accessibility of cricket, I notice, in my role as a junior coach, that most of the youngsters who show great commitment to playing the game don’t have a matching interest in following it. I think most of the counties offer ticket schemes or low cost match days that could draw in local children. But what’s missing, compared to when I was growing up, is the opportunity to to immerse yourself in a day (or many days) of cricket on TV – unless the family has a Sky sub. Even if they do, why sit and watch all day, when you can sit and engage actively on your sofa with X-box, etc? T20 is helping and so are all the efforts to offer an amended form of the game that younger children can play. I think the route people take to find their passion for cricket is changing – as it had done between my father’s generation and my own.

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