For those old enough to recall it, there’s a fabulous episode of the original 1960’s Star Trek series (and a concept revisited many times by its successor shows) called ‘Mirror, Mirror’.
It imagines a world where, but for a turn of fate here, a different decision there, the universe might be a very different place. In ‘Mirror, Mirror’, the end result is an aggressive Vulcan race and a Federation that is more warrior than explorer. It’s kind of ‘Sliding Doors’ for sci-fi geeks.
I was thinking about this the other day as the TV sports report turned its attention to the ICC Cricket World Cup, currently in full swing across Australia and New Zealand.
In the commercial break, there was an advert that went along the lines of: “Worried about the end of the cricket season? Afraid you won’t be able to play during the winter? Well don’t. Go to somewebsiteorother.com.au and find out how you can play cricket all year round.”
It’s an advert that just wouldn’t appear in the UK and it really brought home to me the Aussie passion for what I’d always considered to be this most English of sports.
And then I thought about that Star Trek episode. And it occurred to me that somewhere, sometime, probably in the 1970s or 1980s, there was a crucial point of sporting evolution when, in the UK at least, football flexed its muscles and become the dominant sport. Meanwhile, down under, different evolutionary pressures resulted in cricket becoming such a major sport.
I think that’s when it happened, because when I was a kid, football and cricket were held in relatively equal thrall, with football dominant in the winter and cricket hogging the summer months. Some players even played both – most notably, Ian Botham, but look a little further back and it was not unheard of for players to rise to international level in the two sports; players like Denis Compton.
Now, English cricket has its work cut out to even gain primacy over the summer football transfer talk, let alone take over the airwaves in its own right.
I think, ultimately, the difference is probably the weather. Even in the best of British summers, cricket can be a grey, bleak battle against the elements. Here, like cricket, summer barely seems to interrupt itself before getting going again.
All of this is by way of explanation for England’s premature yet deserved exit from the World Cup before the knockout games had even started. It’s evolution you see. It wasn’t our 2015 performance that was lacking, it was a twist of fate somewhere in the southern counties sometime during the disco era.
At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. That, plus the fact that somewhere, there’s a parallel universe where the quirk of fate was reversed and England are about to be crowned world champions for the fifth time in a row. By Vulcans, probably.
Now, where’s that Star Trek box set.