By Richard Parfitt |

When you’re working long hours in front of a laptop, the Netflix temptation is almost irresistible. It streams, it entertains and ‘oh no the next episode automatically started before I could exit, now I’ll HAVE to watch it’. The problem is that three weeks and eight seasons of House later, the only progress you’ve made on your thesis is three sentences of an introductory paragraph for a chapter which, you quickly realise, wasn’t the one you were planning to write. Of course, I adored every episode of Battlestar Galactica, but my supervisor wasn’t particularly interested in finding an efficient means of fighting Cylons. He lacks my imagination.

Fear not, adoring Pubs and Publications readers, I have the solution.

For your in-work entertainment, music is the obvious choice, but it lacks the visual stimulus that a video streaming service provides. What we need is something to have on in the background that satisfies the wandering eyes of writer’s block. At the same time, it can’t be so riveting as to keep from going back to the work.

In my experience, the answer is sport. Most sport lacks the immediate narrative detail of your average box set, but successfully staves off the cabin fever of a silent room. My weekends are generally spent with a series of photos taken at archives on one screen, a group of grown adults chasing a ball around the field on the other, and a rapidly populated notepad in front of me. Smashing.

Deciding which sport to choose is, of course, vitally important. The 100m sprint is an exciting and globally recognised event, but it only lasts ten seconds, and then we’re right back to Kevin Spacey’s elaborate conspiracies. Football is a strong contender. A game is only 90 minutes, but they’re on all weekend and the people who love it (myself included) do more than enough to over-dramatize its importance to make it suitably enticing. In particular, the various shows that simply display all the scores and talk about them in excited tones do a great job of appearing to be engaging, without actually doing anything that requires more than a modicum of your attention.

My best recommendation, however, is not going to be a surprise to anybody who knows me. Let me say this plainly. Test Match Cricket will save your PhD.

Now, obviously here at Pubs and Publications we have an international readership of millions (billions if we get enough retweets). With that in mind, for those of you who aren’t from one of the 10 countries that actually plays cricket, let me explain. Cricket is a little like baseball, in the sense that sides take it turns to bat, attempting to get as high a score as possible before all of their players are ‘out’. The team that isn’t batting bowls (sort of like pitching/throwing the ball at the batter), the batter tries to hit the ball and run as many times as possible before the ball gets thrown back in by the other team. Batters are out if they hit the ball in the air and the other team catch it, or if they miss the ball and it hits the stumps (three sticks in the ground in front of which batters stand), or if they don’t get back to their ground before the ball is thrown in, or if the ball hits them on the leg in line with the stumps when it would have gone on to hit the stumps, assuming that it didn’t bounce outside the line of leg stump and providing that the batter hasn’t hit it with the bat first. Simple enough?

Test match cricket is the ultimate form of this beautiful game. Each team bats twice, it lasts for around 7 hours a day, for 5 days. Unlike the 100m sprint, therefore, there is no issue here with brevity. Each team bats twice, and usually the team with the most runs wins, although sometimes that happens and it’s a draw. These and other eccentricities form only part of the appeal.

The real value of test match cricket for the average Phd-Punter, however, is in the nature of the viewing. You see, it takes a long time for a batter to hit the ball, the ball to come back in, the bowler to return to the end of their run up and then for them to come in and bowl again. As such, there are long periods in which nothing happens, followed by around 5 seconds where something does, and then nothing again. In between these five second bursts of excitement, you can get all your work done. Read a chapter, write a chapter, look at a document, you have all the time in the world when you watch test match cricket, but with none of the Netflix drawbacks.

Richard Parfitt is a Committee Member for Pubs and Publications.  You can find him on Twitter and on on academia.edu.

(Image: http://s0.geograph.org.uk/geophotos/04/60/14/4601409_7811a7ee.jpg)