April 7, 2010

Where's the love for county cricket?

Does the Championship really take place if no one's watching?
30

So a sad farewell to Sir Alec Bedser, one of England's greatest post-war fast bowlers. He spent much of his life in Woking, Surrey, where I grew up, and in a quiet sort of way he and his brother Eric were very involved in the life of the town. They supported local charities, had an award named after them at the high school, and Alec donated a ball from the 1953 Ashes series to the Lightbox, the town's new gallery.

Woking is an unprepossessing place, famous for its train line, its crematorium, and as the setting for War of the Worlds. Sir Alec, who told the local paper how as a boy he would just sweep the stones from the common and get on and play, was also without frills or side.

With his big hands and his baggy trousers and his industriousness and his devotion to the game, he was a product of his era, a member of the RAF in wartime, who came home and led England's attack. But he was also devoted to Surrey and regarded the County Championship, which Surrey won eight times in the 1950s, as something to be treasured.

But when the championship starts this Friday, who else will regard it with the same love? As it creaks into action, earlier than ever before, when the trees are barely full of blossom and the ground is still waterlogged, will anyone care? Where is the fanfare? In this age of austerity newspapers have cut back on their domestic cricket coverage (though football lives on). How many will cover the first round of matches? And will anyone know to look?

In my bones, I do love the County Championship, every gentle, eccentric, minute of it. Each vignette, each battle, each petty crime and freak accident that just happens as the match meanders over four days, gently whitewashing the hundreds that have gone previously. The three summers I spent covering matches regularly, from the fresh green days in April to the darkening evenings in September, were a thrilling surprise. Perhaps I wouldn't want to watch it every day, but I'm happy that it happens, that the summer has a backbone.

My dad remembers going to see Middlesex and Surrey on a Whit Monday with his father and sitting in the grandstand at Lord's. My husband, scorecard clutched tightly in his little hand, and his dad would have a day either at the Cheltenham festival, Chesterfield or Old Trafford. My brothers and I used to troop off to Guildford to watch Surrey play a festival match. We sat on benches on the grass, watched Monte Lynch or Sylvester Clarke clobber the ball into the road that ran alongside the ground, ate our prescribed healthy sandwiches, then bought choc-ices from the Mr Whippy van, played cricket in the lunch interval on the grass, and hung around at the end with autograph books in a way that might, looking back, have seemed menacing.

We ate our prescribed healthy sandwiches, then bought choc-ices from the Mr Whippy van, played cricket in the lunch interval on the grass, and hung around at the end with autograph books in a way that might, looking back, have seemed menacing

The next day the papers would print full scorecards and reports that we would cut out (we weren't the coolest kids on the block). At the end of each round of matches, the bowling and batting averages and the county table would be published. Your averagely interested fan might know who was in with a chance of making 1000 runs in May, how the England hopefuls were doing. Now if you don't look online, you probably won't have a clue

In late March this year, the MCC played the championship county in Dubai in front of a crowd that seemed to contain not one human being. It did look lovely and warm out there, but who is going to be interested in watching a pre-season English county game, apart from the supporters of the counties, who tend not to regularly winter in the Arab states. Unless, of course, perish the thought, the cricket was not being played for the benefit of the loyal paying spectator but for commercial opportunity.

In the Observer Vic Marks worked out that in this crazy season of Twenty20 inserts, the counties will have played half their championship games before the end of May - that's before summer has even started. Pity the poor spinners trying to prove their worth.

Can a competition still provide a soundtrack to the summer if no one is watching? And if it is without rhythm? As the IPL recruits the best players, pays the big bucks and waves its jazz hands at the rest of the world, is the County Championship just completely irrelevant to those who are not playing? We need to value our domestic game, to be brave in the face of what is going on hugely successfully in India and say the English season has value in being different. We mustn't ignore innovation. Twenty20 is great in moderation, but if we wipe out natural rhythms and traditions in favour of financial profit, we will lose much more than we gain.

Tanya Aldred lives in Manchester. She writes occasionally for the Guardian

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • CricketingStargazer on April 9, 2010, 22:27 GMT

    A crowd of more than 1000 in early April for a CC2 clash between two sides that struggled last season. Doesn't quite match the title, does it? That was Worcestershire v Middlesex today. And you could hear the crowd on the effects mike.

  • 2.14istherunrate on April 9, 2010, 12:12 GMT

    The 2010 fixture list reminds me of the early pages of HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy, where there is a sudden announcement that the Earth has to be destroyed to make way for a new InterGalacticHighway-cursory, total and extreme. Likewise cricket in 2010, owing to the will of certain decision makers in the ECB-and, doubtless, state of bank accounts too. Instead a variant on baseball will be played, and everyone WILL be happy. The fixture list leaps up at one like a bad dream. Can this fiendish plot be possible? Like every dark side coup, it is arrogantly paraded without shame. If Philiip K. Dick had constructed a story about the sport which disapperared it would read like this- and developed into an ersatz(Imitation) game played by ersatz cricketers, overseen by fiendish robots, bankrolled by psychotic billionaires who have a pathological loathing for the game and all it means. In fiction the dark side usually loses. How much more important that it does in this case too and pronto.

  • landl47 on April 9, 2010, 2:51 GMT

    Nice article, Tanya. I left England in 1982 and one of the things I miss most, even after all these years, is county cricket. I was a member of Middlesex CCC and I used to go to Lords with my bag lunch and watch the games. Even then, the county game was not well supported and I could always find a parking place in the ground, behind the Nursery. Unfortunately, people these days want to see a whole game and every player doing his thing in as short a time as possible. I hope the championship will survive in some form, but as others have suggested, it might be necessary to reduce the number of counties so the quality will be higher and the revenues not so thinly spread. It will be a sad day- the county game, for those who love its leisurely pace and gradually unfolding strategy, is a haven of peace and tranquility in an overheated world.

  • elsmallo on April 8, 2010, 23:11 GMT

    I've only regularly watched Championship cricket at Taunton, where there is often a decent crowd, and Northampton, where there rarely is. It's a great shame that the best part of the summer is now reserved for 20 over cricket - they could be playing that now in decent early April weather and it might actually be a decent introduction to the season despite the clash with the IPL. Why the need to clump the formats together in different parts of the summer? Cricket needs to be our summer game, not some moveable festival shunted here and there every year. Sort out a method that works, and stick with it for ten years.

  • martonimp on April 8, 2010, 18:43 GMT

    I'm very excited about the new season. More than ready for it after a long, cold winter. I plan to attend as many days as possible work and childcare permitting. First match this season will be Yorkshire v Essex at Scarborough where there will be a good crowd of committed cricket fans.None of the cricket I attend will be Twenty20 as I have not the slightest interest in it. Long live the County Championship!

  • tomjs100 on April 8, 2010, 18:03 GMT

    Where's the love indeed - cricinfo didn't even create a fantasy game this season

  • Patrick_Clarke on April 8, 2010, 15:06 GMT

    I have devotedly followed county cricket since 1970 but anticipate this will be the last county season I will be bothering to if any of the suggested restructurings of the county championship take place. I've already given up two of my memberships this year, despite seeing some great cricket last season but I've had enough of the contempt shown towards county members by too many players, administrators, ground staff, stewards etc. There's far too much double standards. If there's too much county cricket why has the unloved 40 over league been expanded? And if the players are too tired to prepare properly, why do they all want to desert in droves to the IPL? (Don't answer - its a rhetorical question).

  • publicservant on April 8, 2010, 14:20 GMT

    jackiethepen - I don't think complaints about low attendances are the main issue here. More the concern over so much of the 4-day game being played so early in the summer. How is the system going to produce players who can thrive on England tours to SA, Aus, India etc when they don't have any chance to play the longer form of the game on mid-summer pitches? A massive load of July t20 games falls a fair bit short of the best available preparation for 5 days on a rock solid Chennai track. Certainly not going to help our chronic lack of ability to produce a decent leg-break bowler.

  • 6pack on April 8, 2010, 13:44 GMT

    I grew up in Sri Lanka where we used to get modified scoresheets of most county games - for instance the innings scores with the highest scorers and wicket-takers in every inning. I used to follow the scores all the time and someday wanted to watch a county cricket match. I'm much older and live in Canada now, and am a little worried that if and when I do visit England at some point to watch county cricket - my imagination of what its all about - white attire, scenic grounds and old fashioned cricket - would have disappeared. I hope county cricket perseveres through all the drastic changes - I still joke with my wife that when I retire, I'd like to spend a year in England watching cricket ... sometime around 2045 - I sure hope county cricket thrives till then...

  • 2.14istherunrate on April 8, 2010, 2:33 GMT

    I just checked on the fixture list.Tanya's right. It just shows how far the fixtures reflect the current 'thinking' of the ECB. Yes the 20/20 pressure group are now controlling the county season, and will soon be abolishing cricket per se, or at least relegating it to the footnotes. What a load of rubbish! Cricket is no longer for real cricket lovers, but people with a longterm dislike of cricket, who wanted to come along and ruin it. Congratulations,ECB! So quickly too. Footbsll style hooliganism will be next......

  • CricketingStargazer on April 9, 2010, 22:27 GMT

    A crowd of more than 1000 in early April for a CC2 clash between two sides that struggled last season. Doesn't quite match the title, does it? That was Worcestershire v Middlesex today. And you could hear the crowd on the effects mike.

  • 2.14istherunrate on April 9, 2010, 12:12 GMT

    The 2010 fixture list reminds me of the early pages of HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy, where there is a sudden announcement that the Earth has to be destroyed to make way for a new InterGalacticHighway-cursory, total and extreme. Likewise cricket in 2010, owing to the will of certain decision makers in the ECB-and, doubtless, state of bank accounts too. Instead a variant on baseball will be played, and everyone WILL be happy. The fixture list leaps up at one like a bad dream. Can this fiendish plot be possible? Like every dark side coup, it is arrogantly paraded without shame. If Philiip K. Dick had constructed a story about the sport which disapperared it would read like this- and developed into an ersatz(Imitation) game played by ersatz cricketers, overseen by fiendish robots, bankrolled by psychotic billionaires who have a pathological loathing for the game and all it means. In fiction the dark side usually loses. How much more important that it does in this case too and pronto.

  • landl47 on April 9, 2010, 2:51 GMT

    Nice article, Tanya. I left England in 1982 and one of the things I miss most, even after all these years, is county cricket. I was a member of Middlesex CCC and I used to go to Lords with my bag lunch and watch the games. Even then, the county game was not well supported and I could always find a parking place in the ground, behind the Nursery. Unfortunately, people these days want to see a whole game and every player doing his thing in as short a time as possible. I hope the championship will survive in some form, but as others have suggested, it might be necessary to reduce the number of counties so the quality will be higher and the revenues not so thinly spread. It will be a sad day- the county game, for those who love its leisurely pace and gradually unfolding strategy, is a haven of peace and tranquility in an overheated world.

  • elsmallo on April 8, 2010, 23:11 GMT

    I've only regularly watched Championship cricket at Taunton, where there is often a decent crowd, and Northampton, where there rarely is. It's a great shame that the best part of the summer is now reserved for 20 over cricket - they could be playing that now in decent early April weather and it might actually be a decent introduction to the season despite the clash with the IPL. Why the need to clump the formats together in different parts of the summer? Cricket needs to be our summer game, not some moveable festival shunted here and there every year. Sort out a method that works, and stick with it for ten years.

  • martonimp on April 8, 2010, 18:43 GMT

    I'm very excited about the new season. More than ready for it after a long, cold winter. I plan to attend as many days as possible work and childcare permitting. First match this season will be Yorkshire v Essex at Scarborough where there will be a good crowd of committed cricket fans.None of the cricket I attend will be Twenty20 as I have not the slightest interest in it. Long live the County Championship!

  • tomjs100 on April 8, 2010, 18:03 GMT

    Where's the love indeed - cricinfo didn't even create a fantasy game this season

  • Patrick_Clarke on April 8, 2010, 15:06 GMT

    I have devotedly followed county cricket since 1970 but anticipate this will be the last county season I will be bothering to if any of the suggested restructurings of the county championship take place. I've already given up two of my memberships this year, despite seeing some great cricket last season but I've had enough of the contempt shown towards county members by too many players, administrators, ground staff, stewards etc. There's far too much double standards. If there's too much county cricket why has the unloved 40 over league been expanded? And if the players are too tired to prepare properly, why do they all want to desert in droves to the IPL? (Don't answer - its a rhetorical question).

  • publicservant on April 8, 2010, 14:20 GMT

    jackiethepen - I don't think complaints about low attendances are the main issue here. More the concern over so much of the 4-day game being played so early in the summer. How is the system going to produce players who can thrive on England tours to SA, Aus, India etc when they don't have any chance to play the longer form of the game on mid-summer pitches? A massive load of July t20 games falls a fair bit short of the best available preparation for 5 days on a rock solid Chennai track. Certainly not going to help our chronic lack of ability to produce a decent leg-break bowler.

  • 6pack on April 8, 2010, 13:44 GMT

    I grew up in Sri Lanka where we used to get modified scoresheets of most county games - for instance the innings scores with the highest scorers and wicket-takers in every inning. I used to follow the scores all the time and someday wanted to watch a county cricket match. I'm much older and live in Canada now, and am a little worried that if and when I do visit England at some point to watch county cricket - my imagination of what its all about - white attire, scenic grounds and old fashioned cricket - would have disappeared. I hope county cricket perseveres through all the drastic changes - I still joke with my wife that when I retire, I'd like to spend a year in England watching cricket ... sometime around 2045 - I sure hope county cricket thrives till then...

  • 2.14istherunrate on April 8, 2010, 2:33 GMT

    I just checked on the fixture list.Tanya's right. It just shows how far the fixtures reflect the current 'thinking' of the ECB. Yes the 20/20 pressure group are now controlling the county season, and will soon be abolishing cricket per se, or at least relegating it to the footnotes. What a load of rubbish! Cricket is no longer for real cricket lovers, but people with a longterm dislike of cricket, who wanted to come along and ruin it. Congratulations,ECB! So quickly too. Footbsll style hooliganism will be next......

  • Hiteshdevilliers on April 8, 2010, 0:22 GMT

    Well Andrea, unfortunately this has been a lasting problem for much of the last decade, with the question you pose in your article something that arises at the start of every county year. Though, I completely agree with the point you noted about playing in Abu Dhabi(not Dubai). I just don't understand what the point is of playing the curtain raiser in soaring heat and an empty stadium far away from home. More so, the match wasn't even broadcast to those living in the UK(I live in New York by the way). If playing in Abu Dhabi is part of some profit incentive, then I don't think it worked at all. If domestic crowds could care less about it, what would make the ECB think people in Abu Dhabi would be eagerly awaiting the match? About the 20/20 you mention, let's not forget who invented this version of the game that is now killing test cricket. Due to financial woes in 2003 it was the ECB who came up with the format to compensate for losses. The problem is deep and will take quite an effort

  • Armchairman on April 8, 2010, 0:10 GMT

    It's pretty much the same story with the Ranji Trophy in India. There was a time when matches between strong teams, or in the knock-out phase, would attract near-capacity crowds. Club matches such as in The Hindu Trophy or the YSCA Trophy in Madras used to be popular too. Those days seem to have gone, but it was reported that this year's close Ranji final in Mysore (between long-time rivals, Bombay and Karnataka) saw a good turn-out. It isn't hard to understand. There's a lot of cricket these days, and spectators have demonstrated that the one-day and four-hour matches are all they have time for. (Test matches have some leeway at some venues.) It doesn't help first-class matches - although they are often very good - that they are 3 or 4 or sometimes 5 days long, from the viewpoint of people turning out to watch them at the ground. As for newspapers and television, their coverage will be proportional to the public's interest.

  • stepheng on April 7, 2010, 23:08 GMT

    I am a loyal Middx supporter and find that there is much interest in the county game. We recently held a forum for the members of the county which was attended by a large crowd. There was a lively debate about the progress of the club, which ended only because it was getting late. There is no doubt that first class cricket has much subtlety and is a much better game than the shortened versions of the game. Most 50-over matches have become formulaic with very few tight finishes. The 20-over game is more demanding and intense as a one day game, but ultimately the games blur into each other and although fun at the time are usually instantly forgettable. After reading this article, I asked my 11 year old son (who loves cricket obsessively) what version of the game he prefers and he answered without hesitating - test matches are his favourite. I find that spectators often drift in and out of county matches. Many members will turn up after tea, or just watch one session.

  • military-medium on April 7, 2010, 21:47 GMT

    The media may not be paying much attention to the kick off of the season this Friday, but there is certainly expectation amongst a large number of fans on the internet cricket forums.

  • johnnypedals on April 7, 2010, 21:44 GMT

    It's true that the crowds for the Sheffield Shield are tiny compared to those for many County Championship games, and yet I've never seen a single article in the Australian media bemoaning the fact. Take a look at the fixtures for this year's CC - a ridiculous number of games shoehorned in at the start and end of the season when the weather is often unfit to play. Taking the prime weeks of the summer for non-stop 20/20 has ruined the English season. The crass commercial desperation of the county chairman is breathtaking. There seems to be no limit on how much they are willing to harm the game in the pursuit of revenue. If they have such disrespect for the game they should go and use their talents elsewhere.

  • jackiethepen on April 7, 2010, 20:08 GMT

    Half the comments at least are from people who have never been to a County Championship cricket match or even followed the season. Gentle, Tanya? Which century are you living in? Try following Durham who have a battery of quicks that England can't equal as it happens. The last two seasons have been electric. Two years ago the title was decided on the last day of the season! Durham have remained unbeaten since. Maybe your teams are languishing at the bottom of Div 2. Which would be the same experience following football. It was well reported last year that attendances were up for Championship matches and one-day games and were actually down for Twenty-20 on the previous year. Nevertheless the ECB have stolen six weeks out of the middle of our season for Twenty-20. As a Club member (Durham) this has deprived me of watching cricket in midsummer. Shame on them and on all of you sneering at a great game. It will still be there when Twenty-20 has bit the dust.

  • SettingSun on April 7, 2010, 18:26 GMT

    I don't understand why we are STILL having this debate. No-one has ever watched the County Championship except old people and some students. No-one is going to take time off work to go and watch county cricket. Its purpose is to develop talent for the national team, a purpose it is serving rather well right now. That's it. Getting bums on seats is a futile effort and to be honest, I couldn't care less if the newspapers don't cover it as much any more. I can tell most of the story looking at the scoresheet.

  • anObserver on April 7, 2010, 17:56 GMT

    I think it is the right time to give an eye to other formats and other tournaments apart from some popular international tournaments and ipl which has taken all the excitement curiosity and the madness about the game from other regular tournaments and there is definitely a need to look after them as apart from the tradition and history is considered they are also the perpetrator of the cricket as a game above and beyond game.

  • pacelikefire on April 7, 2010, 17:21 GMT

    Tanya is so right. But she misses the real enemies of county cricket - the English administrators who've been seduced by all the rubbish written about franchises (as if Taunton cricket fans will flock to watch a Bristol based club and Worcestershire folk to Edgbaston to watch a Birmingham based one), and sheer commercial opportunism which has nothing to do with promoting cricket. Add in the stuff written by recent players biting the (benefit) hand that has set them up financially for life, the fact that few of the people running the game in England have a cricket background, and you have an unholy alliance. Most countries domestic cricket is organic, which explains 6 first class teams in Oz and 18 in the UK. Destroy that organic base and if the alternative fails you have nothing. And the standard of county cricket is actually bloody good - obviously those bloggers complaining about mediocrity have never bowled to or batted against first class players. Long may county cricket live

  • _NEUTRAL_Fan_ on April 7, 2010, 13:57 GMT

    I do follow every country's domestic competition a little bit on Cricinfo (mostly the seasons stats), as it gives me an insight into some fringe players. I think it is sad, however, to hear that the Eng newspapers are cutting back on the coverage. Hopefully this won't be happening in the other test nations as well. The plain truth is that cricket (apart from t-20) has failed to market itself better. I don't mean cheerleaders and all the extra stuff, but I mean in terms of spreading the game and increasing popularity especially in associate countries...and I don't mean just U.S.A and China. I think t-20 could be used as an eye-catcher and then you could then press the other 2 formats,there is no better time than now. With a little expertise (which I sadly cannot provide), market strategies can be put in place at the right times in order to promote the game world-wide. The time length of 4-day cric may never draw crowds but good marketing could keep it in the papers..internationally.

  • CricketingStargazer on April 7, 2010, 13:15 GMT

    Tanya, there seems to be a misconception here. County crickets actually frequently draws crowds that some lower division football clubs would be delighted with. It's true that a freezing day in April may now draw the crowds, but 1000+ is not so unusual and some games for the better supported sides like Yorkshire can draw crowds of several thousand.

    There are also the increasingly large numbers listening to streamed Internet County Championship commentary (7000+ for Middlesex, in excess of 10 000 for Surrey, for example). An interesting sidebar on this is that One-Day matches seem to have much smaller on-line audiences. It is not true that there is no interest in County Championship cricket!

  • on April 7, 2010, 11:22 GMT

    I went to see NSW + Qld in Day 1 of a Sheffield Shield game earlier this year. There was myself, a friend, four other guys, a sleepy dog and some blowies. However, the intensity of the cricket was amazing and there were daily match reports in the newspapers (always in the context of who playing might be good enough to play for Australia). The limited no. of spots (66 players, six 12th men) means the intensity is there. I've been to county championship games with 600-1000 ppl watching and the quality is a lottery. Occasionally good, mostly stiflingly dull - professionals with no hope of England call up plodding along. Which newspaper wld cover that? The solution has been suggested endlessly. Always ignored. Reduce the number of teams and games. Revamp. Tradition and the desire to keep 18 counties alive means this will never happen. Sports all over the world constantly evolve and change to match the times. Four or five days of cricket is not the problem, it's the quality of it.

  • lucyferr on April 7, 2010, 10:42 GMT

    If county cricket was based on a watchable form of the game, like T20, then I'd watch it. Otherwise it should just shove off and hide under a rock somewhere - it'll still attract the same number of viewers. Good memories and nostalgia and retro fashion are all very well ... it's right up there with steam trains and hoop skirts.

  • on April 7, 2010, 10:12 GMT

    I agree with the author completely. Every country should protect his domestic season and I don't think so it did English Cricket (not ECB) any good. It only removed interest of local fans of English cricket.

  • butterhandsfingers on April 7, 2010, 9:19 GMT

    I hear Cricinfo isn't running the County Champ fantasy game this year either, due to "lack of internal resources", obviously doing their bit for the game. They're avoiding a proper explanation which seems sad when a lot of people played it last year

  • py0alb on April 7, 2010, 8:29 GMT

    There is nothing wrong with the county championship in principle. It's decline has come due to a viscous cycle of three elements: an arcane and unhelpful schedule and points system, a complete lack of any attempt at promotion or exposure, and the utter apathy of the general public. The saddest thing is that the counties themselves and a number of fans seem happy that it continues on in obscurity and irrelevance, and do nothing to attempt to improve the situation. As it is contested right now, the CC fulfills neither of its two objectives; it lacks the sufficient intensity to prepare players adequately for test cricket, and it provides scant entertainment for you average cricket fan. The attendance figures at test matches show us that there is an appetite in this country for first class cricket, and the T20 matches show that people are not adverse to visiting their local county ground. We just need to give them a product with some intensity and context.

  • Nuxxy on April 7, 2010, 7:41 GMT

    As has often been mentioned by many people with far more knowledge than mine, there are just too many counties. 18? In a country the size of England/Wales? No wonder it's an exercise in mediocrity. South Africa (Supersport Series) and Australia (Sheffield Shield) both have only 6 teams. That's why there are so many foreign players in the English teams...there are a lot of empty spaces to fill.

  • baldster on April 7, 2010, 7:37 GMT

    I am 16 and my favourite form of cricket. TEST MATCHES. I am one of the few from my generation who can be bothered to watch a game of cricket ebb and flow over five days. I love the challenges and the inns and outs of the game.

    I love a good game of test cricket and love to see quality sides like Australia and England play. My least favourite form of cricket is T20. Not much skill involved and I grew up with ODI's. I loved the close contests of old and its sad that even some really great games of recent times haven't had the huge crowd.

    I think cost is an issues too. There is still very strong TV audience for all forms of cricket. Just actual crowd numbers are down.....

    TESTS FOR LIFE!

  • Jimlad on April 7, 2010, 6:53 GMT

    At 21 i feel like the last Jedi, i don't know any of my peers who, despite playing or supporting England in the cricket, give two figs about country cricket (apart from the occasional 20/20). I was lucky in that the time at which I was introduced to county cricket, the county that I live in, Sussex, were entering their golden era and gave me the sort of memories that I will treasure for a lifetime. So perhaps there aren't many but there is at least one kid who will be avidly following the county championship, constantly checking the averages to see if Chris Nash is delivering on the promise I tell all and sundry about.

  • Woody111 on April 7, 2010, 4:21 GMT

    Good points, Tanya; and fairly generous to 20/20 too. I wouldn't say it's great at any level of exposure but that's my opinion. The strange paradox at present in at least Aus and England is the accepted need for a strong domestic scene but a commitment to further inculcating 20/20 inot domestic calendars. Administrators realise that their players need to be tested in longer versions of the game but want to include more and more limited over fixtures. I think CA and the ECB will learn the old adage 'you can't have your cake and eat it too' is quite true. The greed demonstrated currently will come back to bite the boards when people tire of soulless cricket consisting of fours and sixes but little else. 20/20 appeals to short attention spans because it itself is short. Short attention spans are true to their terminology and the scurge that is 20/20 will fade away with those that currently watch it.

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  • Woody111 on April 7, 2010, 4:21 GMT

    Good points, Tanya; and fairly generous to 20/20 too. I wouldn't say it's great at any level of exposure but that's my opinion. The strange paradox at present in at least Aus and England is the accepted need for a strong domestic scene but a commitment to further inculcating 20/20 inot domestic calendars. Administrators realise that their players need to be tested in longer versions of the game but want to include more and more limited over fixtures. I think CA and the ECB will learn the old adage 'you can't have your cake and eat it too' is quite true. The greed demonstrated currently will come back to bite the boards when people tire of soulless cricket consisting of fours and sixes but little else. 20/20 appeals to short attention spans because it itself is short. Short attention spans are true to their terminology and the scurge that is 20/20 will fade away with those that currently watch it.

  • Jimlad on April 7, 2010, 6:53 GMT

    At 21 i feel like the last Jedi, i don't know any of my peers who, despite playing or supporting England in the cricket, give two figs about country cricket (apart from the occasional 20/20). I was lucky in that the time at which I was introduced to county cricket, the county that I live in, Sussex, were entering their golden era and gave me the sort of memories that I will treasure for a lifetime. So perhaps there aren't many but there is at least one kid who will be avidly following the county championship, constantly checking the averages to see if Chris Nash is delivering on the promise I tell all and sundry about.

  • baldster on April 7, 2010, 7:37 GMT

    I am 16 and my favourite form of cricket. TEST MATCHES. I am one of the few from my generation who can be bothered to watch a game of cricket ebb and flow over five days. I love the challenges and the inns and outs of the game.

    I love a good game of test cricket and love to see quality sides like Australia and England play. My least favourite form of cricket is T20. Not much skill involved and I grew up with ODI's. I loved the close contests of old and its sad that even some really great games of recent times haven't had the huge crowd.

    I think cost is an issues too. There is still very strong TV audience for all forms of cricket. Just actual crowd numbers are down.....

    TESTS FOR LIFE!

  • Nuxxy on April 7, 2010, 7:41 GMT

    As has often been mentioned by many people with far more knowledge than mine, there are just too many counties. 18? In a country the size of England/Wales? No wonder it's an exercise in mediocrity. South Africa (Supersport Series) and Australia (Sheffield Shield) both have only 6 teams. That's why there are so many foreign players in the English teams...there are a lot of empty spaces to fill.

  • py0alb on April 7, 2010, 8:29 GMT

    There is nothing wrong with the county championship in principle. It's decline has come due to a viscous cycle of three elements: an arcane and unhelpful schedule and points system, a complete lack of any attempt at promotion or exposure, and the utter apathy of the general public. The saddest thing is that the counties themselves and a number of fans seem happy that it continues on in obscurity and irrelevance, and do nothing to attempt to improve the situation. As it is contested right now, the CC fulfills neither of its two objectives; it lacks the sufficient intensity to prepare players adequately for test cricket, and it provides scant entertainment for you average cricket fan. The attendance figures at test matches show us that there is an appetite in this country for first class cricket, and the T20 matches show that people are not adverse to visiting their local county ground. We just need to give them a product with some intensity and context.

  • butterhandsfingers on April 7, 2010, 9:19 GMT

    I hear Cricinfo isn't running the County Champ fantasy game this year either, due to "lack of internal resources", obviously doing their bit for the game. They're avoiding a proper explanation which seems sad when a lot of people played it last year

  • on April 7, 2010, 10:12 GMT

    I agree with the author completely. Every country should protect his domestic season and I don't think so it did English Cricket (not ECB) any good. It only removed interest of local fans of English cricket.

  • lucyferr on April 7, 2010, 10:42 GMT

    If county cricket was based on a watchable form of the game, like T20, then I'd watch it. Otherwise it should just shove off and hide under a rock somewhere - it'll still attract the same number of viewers. Good memories and nostalgia and retro fashion are all very well ... it's right up there with steam trains and hoop skirts.

  • on April 7, 2010, 11:22 GMT

    I went to see NSW + Qld in Day 1 of a Sheffield Shield game earlier this year. There was myself, a friend, four other guys, a sleepy dog and some blowies. However, the intensity of the cricket was amazing and there were daily match reports in the newspapers (always in the context of who playing might be good enough to play for Australia). The limited no. of spots (66 players, six 12th men) means the intensity is there. I've been to county championship games with 600-1000 ppl watching and the quality is a lottery. Occasionally good, mostly stiflingly dull - professionals with no hope of England call up plodding along. Which newspaper wld cover that? The solution has been suggested endlessly. Always ignored. Reduce the number of teams and games. Revamp. Tradition and the desire to keep 18 counties alive means this will never happen. Sports all over the world constantly evolve and change to match the times. Four or five days of cricket is not the problem, it's the quality of it.

  • CricketingStargazer on April 7, 2010, 13:15 GMT

    Tanya, there seems to be a misconception here. County crickets actually frequently draws crowds that some lower division football clubs would be delighted with. It's true that a freezing day in April may now draw the crowds, but 1000+ is not so unusual and some games for the better supported sides like Yorkshire can draw crowds of several thousand.

    There are also the increasingly large numbers listening to streamed Internet County Championship commentary (7000+ for Middlesex, in excess of 10 000 for Surrey, for example). An interesting sidebar on this is that One-Day matches seem to have much smaller on-line audiences. It is not true that there is no interest in County Championship cricket!