Thursday, 26 April 2018

The 'One Hundred' and the wider game of proper cricket

None of us like the idea, but that doesn't matter to the English Cricket Board, because it isn't aimed at us.

The 'One Hundred', or whatever it is eventually called is aimed at 'mothers and children', according to Andrew Strauss, erstwhile successful England skipper and fast becoming as popular as someone with bubonic plague in a tent.

A few years ago, when the Iceland store had an advert that said 'that's why Mums go to Iceland' I stopped shopping there. I was never a regular anyway, but I haven't been in since, because they clearly weren't aiming at Dads. It's similar to when Gerald Ratner proclaimed that the stuff sold in the Ratners Group stores was 'crap' and simultaneously pressed the self-destruct button on his company.

To exclude generations of cricket lovers, the ones who have supported the game and their county for years, in bringing in a new competition is either brave or foolhardy in the extreme. Let's face it, cricket isn't that hard to understand if you spend some time on it and the existing game has been growing in recent years with the T20 Blast. Four-day cricket could do too, if they scheduled it properly. Look at the crowds for last weekend's championship fixtures, and the thousands who followed streaming online. Note also that it was scheduled over a weekend, praise be, and crucially enjoyed good weather, which is not always the case.

But for the ECB to introduce a new competition, claim they are going to simplify it and then say they are running it for mothers and their offspring can easily be seen as patronising. Let's face it, women's cricket has grown in appeal and there are many women who know as much, if not more, than some of the men who watch the game and purport to understand it. And I still don't know how fifteen overs of six balls, then one of ten is easier than twenty six-ball overs. If they want it easy and fitting in a time slot for television, why not have twenty five-ball overs, since they are changing things anyway?

I'm unsure why they aim to find legions of new fans, rather than better cater for the many existing ones. The thousands tuning in to streaming services and radio commentaries are evidence of the current interest, but the scheduling of the game precludes their greater involvement. Why not arrange more cricket Friday to Monday, so working people need only take two days leave to see an entire four-day game? Why not look at the many retired people who are looking for things to fill their time and might, just might be interested?

They are not off to the best of starts and have much to do ahead of the competition launch. You couldn't get me to one of the games unless you paid me a considerable sum, but I watch developments with interest, because I am concerned about how it affects the game that I love. It will be the same elsewhere, because folk in Sheffield, Bradford and Barnsley won't get behind a side called Leeds, any more than those in Liverpool, Wigan and Southport will get behind Manchester.

Look how many people cringe when Sky commentators call us Derby. I'm a Ripley lad, my Dad is from Swadlincote, and there's many in Chesterfield, Buxton and elsewhere. If we cringe at not being called Derbyshire, are we going to get behind Nottingham? I think not...

Irrespective of the fact that this competition will be played in mid-summer and will take a projected one hundred players from the existing county game, I agree with Mike Atherton that the county championship should be played at the same time.

Why? Well, for starters, the county game would then enjoy the best of British weather, rather than being played when the polar bears wear body-warmers. We all know our climate ain't so good sometimes, but there's more chance of good days in what is helpfully called 'high summer'. To simply shut down 'proper' cricket when the circus comes to town would be self-defeating. And since there will be two audiences, it really shouldn't be an issue. The 'Mums and kids' will be watching one, the men, women and children will enjoy the other.

I would go to see a Derbyshire side, or switch on my laptop now to do so, if they fielded a team of under-eighteens. There have been times when we have fielded young and weaker teams anyway and if all counties were the same, I'd still do it. If nothing else, it affords opportunity for young players to make a mark and it would be exciting to be in at the start of things for a special player.

The cricket could be enhanced by allowing counties to sign two overseas players, and changing the qualification ruling. As those rules stand, county cricket would never have seen players like John Wright, Peter Kirsten, Greg Chappell, Keith Boyce, Clive Rice, Glenn Turner, Viv Richards and many others. They all came here to make a name and did so in spades.

There are plenty of good cricketers in the world game who would enhance county cricket, but haven't made the requisite international appearances in recent years to qualify. So what if we could see D'arcy Short, Dane Paterson, Cameron White, Willem Mulder and others in the county game?

Remember Chris Wilkins? He was never an international player, but he entertained royally in three summers at Derbyshire and with the introduction of such players, the county game would still hold appeal. Run more of it Friday to Monday and you heighten that considerably, because those who work can actually go and see a game. Just like last weekend.

With big names already precluded from participation with IPL and CPL contracts, along with short-notice overseas tours, then many of them going to this circus, this move is essential and counties should press for the change.

I am pleased that this new competition is going to break the rules. I am pleased that it has brought in the ten-ball over (more so than the poor sap who has to bowl it) because it won't be seen as a replacement for the T20 Blast. It won't be seen, or recorded, as 'proper' cricket, because the records will be totally different and cricket loves its statistics. Sobers got 36 off an over, but Gayle in prime form could get fifty from a ten-ball over.

But however they work it, however much the ECB envies the Big Bash and Indian Premier League, however they want to create Live Aid meets It's A Knockout meets a bastardised form of cricket, one thing they cannot do a thing about is the weather.

It is easy to get excited about a night out at the cricket when the sun is shining, you have a cold drink to hand, dancing girls, a plunge pool and a jacuzzi, with side shows and giveaways for the kids.

Change the picture and make the offer to those Mums and their kids when there's a wind blowing, a spit of drizzle in the air, the threat of heavier rain on the horizon and the ground half empty accordingly and it isn't so pretty. I'll pass on that plunge pool thanks. Do you have any Bovril?

Still, that's their problem, and I won't be watching it anyway.

As long as my Derbyshire, your Derbyshire continues in its present form they can have bowlers on bicycles and batsmen using power ups, like in Nintendo games. They can dress them as clowns, let them bowl from fifteen yards and use a bat as wide as the stumps. Rule out lbw's and let batsmen only be out if caught one-handed. Hey, they're going to have a countdown - that's worth the admission price alone, because we've never sat at a match and thought 'fifteen to win and ooh..there's only six balls left'.To call a countdown innovation is also patronising, come to think of it.

I really don't care.

But I love, and will always love, my county cricket.


  1. My word, I don't think I've ever seen something that reflected my own views so completely.

    I have yet to find anyone who thinks this is a good idea, save for one Middlesex fan who I met last Saturday at the County Ground who kept on moaning about the number of "foreign" players in our side and how the TV money generated from this competition will help to pay our mercenary cricketers (his words, not mine).

    From the wider angle, where does this leave the long form of the game be that 4-day county championship or the 5-day test matches. The four=day gam has long been where the aspiring test cricketers lean their crafty but already marginalised in many countries, Australia and England are the only hosts who seem able to sell out test cricket and we seem hell bent on marginalising what little 4-day cricket we have. Even the attendances at the recent South Africa - Australia series were disappointing and India there now is no appetite for much other than the IPL.

    I can't deny it saddens me to see the ECB trying to prostitute themselves like this in order to find something "new". I too won't be watching any of it be it live or on TV. I don't blame the players for playing it, just the administrators for being so out of touch that they think something aimed at "mothers and children" is ever going to be successful.

    I have always been an admirer of Andrew Strauss as a cricketer but after that crass and patronising "mothers and children" statement I would love to be a fly on the wall when he meets some of the administrators and players for the women's international game who I had the pleasure of chatting to during the group games from the WWC at Derby last summer.

    It will be worse that any of the most hostile bowling he has ever faced during his playing career, no doubt.


  2. I am fairly sure that the Ratner quote was about Ratners Jewellers not H Samuel. You may want to check & if required amend your post so as not to get into any trouble

  3. I amended it slightly Mark, but the Ratners Group included H Samuel. My wife worked there, briefly, at the time, before the birth of our son and well remembers the public outcry and long queues of people returning gifts that they had bought.

    A classic case of choosing your words very carefully and being aware that you will be quoted, wherever you are saying those words!

  4. A farce. It cannot be approved surely?


  5. At the Forum Simon was talking about massive sums of money being generated, including a TV deal with the BBC for some of the games. Whilst I equally have little interest in it the sums of money involved will make it difficult to turn down. The sticking point will be if Yorkshire find they are losing eight players for championship matches, looks like the 50 over competition will be the sacrificial lamb.

  6. It doesn't matter whether it is wanted or not. The most important thing, as in most sports nowadays there any money in it???
    True cricket fans I believe, have accepted that T20 is now a part of the game. Personally, I prefer 4 day and 50 over cricket. I do fear for what most people call 'proper cricket', as the desire for more and more, wham bam, thank you mam entertainment gathers pace.
    Just leave things alone for goodness sake.

  7. When the smoking ban was brought in, one of the aims was for pubs to attract 'businesswomen' to the local for a daytime snack and a glass of rose or whatever. Fine if you're in Nottingham, Derby, Chesterfield (or round here Liverpool) centre, but it was never going to attract our chosen market to Birkenhead. That worked - I was a pub owner at the time in a tough but busy Wirral boozer and all I gained was empty seats where my builders and WW2 veterans used to sit and smoke. I lost a fortune and was bankrupt within a year. I strongly suspect you can all name a local near you that's now derelict. Be careful indeed what you wish for. Ps I don't smoke.


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