In 1978 the London Symphony Orchestra released the LP “Classic Rock” which was a collection of pop songs given the symphonic treatment. It wasn’t pop music and it wasn’t classical music. It was a hybrid and a tremendous success. A success based on some good tunes, well arranged and well marketed. Around the same time there were many other similar offers like the RPOs “Hooked on Classics”.
Purists were sniffy. They shouldn’t have been. Running an orchestra is a costly business and if “Beethoven’s Greatest Hits” sells (it did) what’s not to like?
These thoughts came to mind when I was considering my response to cricket’s “The Hundred”. Could it be argued that the adaptation of cricket that this tournament has been and its repackaging of the game for the elusive “new audience” is just like what happened to music as it was popularised (vulgarised some would say of course). Up to a point, but there is a crucial difference.
“Hooked on Classics” did not mean that there were fewer Symphony Concerts or Orchestras. Classical music fans could largely ignore it and the vast majority did. There was space enough for the bastard child whilst Symphony concerts, opera, the Proms and the rest carried on unaffected.
But with “The Hundred” it occupies space in high summer and the school holidays which was previously occupied by the Counties. Grounds and players are turned over to a tournament played by teams with no traditions and in a format played nowhere else in the world.
Many of us will ignore “The Hundred” because of what it is – a vulgar parody of the historic great game of cricket. But it’s there – noisy, simplistic, trivial and trite. It’s the Andre Rieu of cricket without the subtlety. Once you let the Goths and the Vandals in you’ll never get rid of them.
Cricket has always been more than just a business. But as T20 tournaments in India, Australia and elsewhere have shown there’s a buck to be made. The irony is that if a new audience has in part been tapped they haven’t experienced real cricket but a mutant variety of it. They won’t say “I enjoyed that, I’ll go to a County Championship game or a Test Match”.
English cricket has been impoverished by The Hundred. Evolutionary science shows that the stronger species always wins. If the Hundred becomes established it’s rivals, especially in domestic cricket, will wither and die. Yes each man kills the thing he loves. And when it’s gone – that’s it. RIP.