RG Pollock: Learn to promote students of game (5 Jul 1998)

5 July 1998

Learn to promote students of game

By Graeme Pollock

WHEN I was still playing at international level in the 1960s I was approached by both Nottinghamshire and Somerset (who offered me the captaincy) to come over and play county cricket.

I declined because of business commitments at home and I was also turned off by what I saw as the lack of urgency in your cricket then. There wasn't the competitiveness of our game at home and counties played too much cricket for standards to be as high as I wanted. There was also the lack of spectator support, the dead atmosphere not helping players to produce their best.

Back in England, nearly 30 years on, I look around and see much the same problems. The system hasn't really changed although four-day championship cricket is a plus and there isn't quite such an overload of games.

The set-up here is all against the quality player who wants to combine business and cricket. Journeymen professionals still proliferate the county scene but you must try and accommodate the talented player who wants to pursue a separate career. Too many good players coming through your universities are being lost because of this and your game can't afford that.

I still see a lack of urgency around the county circuit. Counties continue to be more interested in their own fate than seeing the overall picture.

In South Africa, Shaun Pollock was due to play for Natal in a vital match but because the South African selectors felt he was being overplayed they asked that he be rested prior to a Test - which the province did in the national interest. That priority is lacking here where counties put themselves first and England second. If the same scenario happened here, would he be rested?

While match referees are an important part of the game they must be very careful about stifling controlled, natural aggression. The game needs characters and I wonder how long Lillee, Thomson and Chapple would have stayed out of trouble as things are handled now.

The game at home was always played hard with good aggression and it was accepted. If a guy wasn't aggressive you thought he wasn't going to make it. He didn't fit in. Look at Shane Warne's aggression: that's a big factor in his success. How often do you get an aggressive spinner?

You could relate that issue to crowd control. I find it surprising that, with Test cricket needing all the support it can get, they want to bring in dress regulations which will keep thousands away from the game. I am sure the police and security officials are more than capable of handling the odd misdemeanour. Anyone who wants to spend the day at a Test should be welcomed with open arms.

But I don't see English cricket as being in crisis. Many areas need to be improved to ensure the survival of the game here but you have many good cricketers, particularly at the universites, who, properly used and given the chance to play, will ensure a good level for many years to come.

You must pay attention to the universities. Counties tend to use their games as a practice match but that is absolute nonsense. These games must be played hard. The counties are not doing themselves or the future of the game any favours to treat them just as a stroll in the nets. And if an 18-year-old student is good enough to get into a county side then play him, don't wait.

Source :: Electronic Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk)