Resident fast bowler Amir Mir comes off a long run, in this piece about how the ECB are making a drastically shite decision… ‘The 100!’
Back In The Day…
Rewind back to August 27, 2005. One of the most mind-boggling moments in English cricket is about to take place.
Australia captain, Ricky Ponting is two shy of his 50 during a crucial stage of the Fourth Ashes Test at Trent Bridge. A wicket here and Michael Vaughan’s men can smell a 2-1 lead.
Who is going to step up? None other than a fresh-faced, unknown, soon-to-be-legendary figure named Gary Pratt. The substitute fielder runs-out the Australian captain in remarkable circumstances and writes his name into folklore.
The next day, 8.4 million people tuned in to Channel 4’s live coverage of the Ashes as a curly-haired Matthew Hoggard pushed England over the line. The rest was history as England regained the urn at the Oval after 16 years of hurt.
That was the last time England’s home games were broadcast live on free-to-air television with Sky Sports dominating coverage thereafter.
Here We Are Now
An average of 2.5 million people tuned in to watch the 2005 Ashes series on Terrestrial TV. Now, Sky reportedly draw only hundreds of thousands of viewers for the Ashes. Meanwhile, the new moneyball machine BT Sport attracted an average of fewer than 100,000 per day for their debut coverage down under.
These declining attendances and viewing figures are troubling the game of cricket. The longer format, in particular, is ironically getting hit for six. The ECB and their ‘surveys’ have taken action by introducing a new concept dubbed ‘The 100-ball format’ for the domestic game.
Simply put, they are reducing 20 deliveries from that thing called T20 Cricket. Mind blown, right?! I mean, this is a Gary Pratt moment all over again!
The ECB state that they need to attract a more ‘younger’ and ‘diverse’ audience to the game and the 100-ball format is the way forward. In other words, they need to make some money.
I will not argue that it is difficult to get kids to watch either Test or four-day cricket today. The speed of technology in the modern era has resulted in society being more impatient than ever. That eventually feeds its way into sport and our game.
But rather than spend your money on a new format that will further suffocate the already-packed domestic and international circuit. Why not put live cricket BACK ON FREE-TO-F*****G-AIR TELEVISION!? Then we can talk!
The ECB want ‘new’ and ‘innovative’ ways of attracting new people to the game. How about enticing back those you have lost through paid subscription? How about the younger generation watching the game on free-to-air TV? If the parents of those children don’t have Sky or now BT Sports. How are they watching the game?
Not only are you losing your once-hardcore fan. But the younger generation are not given the opportunity to get attracted to the sport.
As mentioned by the ECB, the game has a ‘history’ of being ‘innovative’. But it doesn’t have a history of ‘innovatively’ harming the game.
A new format, along with the already blown up T20 Cricket, will well and truly destroy the longer format. Fewer people will tune into Test and four-day cricket. More cricketers will be growing up ‘slogging’ the ball or getting ‘tonked’ for six rather than learning the purest form of the game.
Players won’t have the patience, technique nor the appetite to occupy the crease anymore.
As we have seen this summer, the cupboard is supposedly bare on the domestic circuit when it comes to the longer format. The county champ itself needs space of its own to thrive. The talent is there but it is not being utilised properly.
What’s the best way to fix that? Add another format and shove the longer form of the game even further down the drain, eh lads?!
Or Is There Hope?
In 2019, we will see one of the biggest summers in English Cricket. The 50-Over World Cup and the Ashes will take centre stage. Yet, high ticket prices for those matches will drive away families from attending. How do you seriously expect anyone to get inspired by that?
Before you bring in your moneyball format. Prioritise and respect the four-day game. Appreciate the success of the T20 Blast. Reduce ticket prices so your ordinary families can attend on a regular basis. Understand that Test Cricket is and always will be THE format. The longer form of the game produces enthralling and entertaining cricket. Unfortunately, in this country, it’s behind an expensive wall. Knock that wall down and watch the families flood in.