Sunday Cricket – Dying in front of our eyes!! Are League Cricket formats and “attitudes” to blame?”

The governing bodies of most sports are wringing their hands and worrying about participation levels falling. Cricket is no exception, and whilst the major Cricket Leagues and the ECB fret mainly about the state of Saturday League Cricket, the state of Sunday Cricket is far, far, worse!!

In our local area of North Herts and South Cambridgeshire we all know that on most Sundays you will struggle to find a Cricket Match being played on the majority of the grounds where Saturday League Cricket is still regularly played.

At Reed we are one of the exceptions in that a match is played by at least one Reed Xl every Sunday. In addition to the regular players, there is also a hard core of spectators and families that come up to the ground each Sunday for a bite of tea, a picnic, or an early evening aperitif from the Club Bar! An appearance from the sun always helps to swell the crowd – but so far the sun has been absent for most of summer 2016!!

Even the National Village Cricket Cup, with the tantalising prospect of playing in the Final at Lords Cricket Ground, does not seem capable of motivating many village clubs to play on even a few Sundays of the early/mid summer! Some of the NVC Cup entry figures for counties that consider themselves “strong” Cricket playing Counties ought to be an embarrassment to their County Cricket Associations!

Look at these local “Two Counties NVC Group”  Club participation numbers!

Cambridgeshire and Norfolk (5 Teams!):           Cambs 3 !!!                Norfolk 2 !!!

Essex and Suffolk (14 Teams!):                            Essex 12                   Suffolk 2 !!!

Herts & Beds. (11 Teams!):                                    Herts   9                   Bedfordshire 2 !!!

Even with this very low level of entries there are voluminous “Walkovers” conceded. This year a team not a million miles from Stevenage, who enter 3 x Teams in the Saturday SHCL, conceded a Herts and Beds County Semi-Final match!! (just 6 wins from Lords!).

We ourselves played our first (rained off) NVC County Final against a well run, Herts Clubmark/Focus Club whose ground is used by Herts for Minor Counties matches. They operate 3 x Saturday League Xl’s and run Colts from 9 – 16 yrs. Yet they arrive to play this important match with 10 men! (Possibly this might have been due to some of their members not wishing to play, and having to field for 2 hours, listening to the endless, unbelievably tedious, absolute drivel, being constantly disseminated by their vociferous wicket-keeper! Banter? No!

Mindless drivel – Yes!

Tedious, for Players, Umpires, and Spectators of BOTH sides? YES!!

So the National Village Cup needs a radical re-launch. That ought to be possible with the tremendous prize they have at the end of it! Is anyone at The Cricketer motivated to do it though?

SO – Sunday Cricket – is it dying?

It looks like it at the moment!

Whatever the counter attractions from other sports, “Shopping!”, and the multiple top level sports displayed on the many TV channels, Cricket itself does not help the Sunday cause.

Various ECB led “perceptions”, ideas”, preferences, and recommendations seek to build the “great god” of Saturday League Cricket into some ludicrously perceived replica of “professional” Cricket. Start times get earlier, matches get longer, welfare breaks increase, and the matches generally somehow get slower and more boring! (A real incentive to participation and spectating!).

When a husband/father/young man leaves home at 9.00am on a Saturday morning to “professionally” prepare for an hour before an away league match starting at 11.30, followed (eventually!) by a possible 7pm finish (home by 10pm), is it any surprise that a wife/mother/girlfriend who hasn’t seen them for 50% of the weekend says “You can forget any idea of playing on Sunday as well”!!

Even as a competitive sporting event Cricket does not currently help itself.

Do we really have to snarl at, and disrespect, our opponents?

Is it not enough anymore to enjoy the marvellous game of Cricket, to hopefully outplay the opposition – and then jovially remind them all about it in the bar afterwards?

Probably not, because after spending upwards of 6 hours seeking to spoil, irritate and upset the opposition with “banter” in a match, maybe participants are too embarrassed to want to fraternise with the opposition and discuss the match and people’s performances in the bar?

But are we surprised – and who led this charge towards banter/abuse?

From my experience it was certainly many Junior Age-Group County Cricket Coaches who constantly berated the top drawer 10 – 16 year old players with the claims that “You are too quiet!”, “Make more Noise!”  Sledging/Banter was seen as being “Like a Professional”!!

Wicket-keepers were particularly targeted to “lead” the “Banter”!

How often these days do you hear a modern young Cricketer exclaim “Good Shot” when an opponent strikes an exquisite boundary?

How often do you witness a post match “Darts Challenge” in the Bar?

Who these days even knows what a “Duck Run Derby” is?

We need MORE hard fought FUN matches, MORE pleasure, MORE appreciation of the opposition, MORE Fraternisation after a match.

LESS Snarling, LESS Aggression, LESS “Banter”!

Then maybe, amateur Cricket (yes you are Amateurs – NOT Aspiring professionals!), has a chance of more enjoyment, and maybe Sunday Cricket might see something of a renaissance and come back from the brink?

JQH

 (This Occasional column is written by John Heslam Club Chairman of Reed Cricket Club. The views expressed in the article are his own and do not necessarily comprise those of the Clubs General Committee)

By |2016-07-01T14:00:23+00:00July 1st, 2016|Categories: 2016, A View From The Chair|Tags: , |4 Comments

About the Author:

4 Comments

  1. mattburleigh July 1, 2016 at 5:17 pm - Reply

    I’ve been pushing Preston CC (the Herts Preston you are familiar with) to take the NVC seriously for several seasons, but it’s hard. Availabilities are invariably poor for the early rounds (school exams, uni, it’s cold) and Herts/Beds is actually quite strong – or at least, we’ve come up against the likes of Langleybury & Long Marston when they’ve put out a strong XI. We’ve only ever won 2 rounds in a season, so there is no NVC “culture” yet and perhaps a feeling that we’ll only get beaten anyway. I bang my head in frustration. I explain that not only is there a Lords trip on offer, but possibly trips to distant counties and places we’d never visit, especially as Tour must always be in the south because apparently the rest of the country never sees sunshine. And I point out that Reed took it seriously and went all the way, so why shouldn’t we? But there we are, I’ll keep entering us in the vague hope it won’t just be the same 4 or 5 1st teamers trying to win with 3 2nds and 3 3rds players, including my ancient legs. By the way, we entered our Sunday 1sts in the Beds County league this year and that is proving pretty successful. Sunday 2nds, however, is now a “best efforts” basis (and that usually means a huge effort for the captain), and thanks to the weather, poor availabilities and an opposition club who “forgot” the fixture, we’ve played precisely one match this year. Sigh.

  2. Clive Clinton July 21, 2016 at 12:16 pm - Reply

    We just have to look north to Bedfordshire to see how the game should be done on a Sunday.

    http://bedsccl.play-cricket.com/website/web_pages/3285

    8 Divisions. 2 High level leagues, 4 in between and 2 close to development level.

    45 over games and 40 over games dependent on the league level.

    If timed cricket is dead then there is opportunity here to allow for different levels of participation at least. For example players close to 1s cricket on a Saturday have a real chance to be bedded in on a Sunday in this format.

    Agree about the ‘banter’, it’s infuriating, the best moment we played in this season from that pov, was when the keeper was sledging/gobbing off all by himself to the point the slip cordon agreed with one of our batsman when he was told to shut up and to stop for all of our sanity.

    He promptly left at the end of proceedings…

    Thanks for sharing this article.

  3. Andrew Patterson November 10, 2016 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    Looks like a shot into sheep corner. Nice to see a lady umpire.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: