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England cricket participation in crisis

What's a country to do when its people fall out of love with the sport?

Alan Tyers
Alastair Cook and Peter Moores talk shop, Headingley, June 19, 2014

"I'll also need you to bowl seam-up and do the teas today"  •  Getty Images

A worrying ECB report shows that interest levels among England cricketers have dipped alarmingly.
Peter Moores, coach of the England Cricket Club, is trying to keep the flame alive but he faces an uphill struggle.
"It's tough," says Moores, as he slowly stacks a pile of isotonic performance cones after fitness practice.
"A few years ago, England cricketers really looked forward to playing for their local country at weekends.
"But modern life is so hectic now, and professional cricket is competing with other leisure activities like going to Nando's, making amusing online videos, settling scores in newspaper columns, being injured, having traumatic personal episodes and doing banter. It's hard to keep our lads interested in plain old cricket."
Moores admits that he is increasingly struggling to get a team out.
"I start the ring-round on a Wednesday night but it's getting harder and harder to put together an XI. We had a hard core of seven or eight, but creaky knees, bad backs and debilitating mental illnesses are making it harder to get them all on the park at the same time.
"Quite often I'll just have to chuck a young kid in, or turn to someone who isn't up to scratch just to make up the numbers."
Even casting the net far and wide has not solved the problem for the England Cricket Club.
"For a while, we papered over the cracks by getting lads in from abroad, but most of them only stick around for a few seasons before everyone finds them a bit of a pain in the backside to be quite frank," says Moores.
It's not just the players but the community in which they exist where enthusiasm is at an all-time low. Watching the England Cricket Club play used to be a part of family life for many locals, but Moores says that those days have gone for good.
"We used to let people come and watch the games for free," he says. "But then someone had the bright idea of erecting a massive fence around the ground and charging people £46 a month to peek through little holes at the game. Most people around here don't even know we've got a team these days."
Attempts to raise interest and morale with a tour of Australia last winter backfired spectacularly, with several of the team leaving the club for good.
"I'm not really sure what the solution is," admits Moores. "Perhaps we'll see if we have better luck with football."

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