26 September 2018
As I often point out to my kids, the world has become an increasingly informal place. Although it has perhaps taken the edge off some of the social niceties, increased informality is a good thing – generally empowering and creating more level playing fields in all sorts of areas.
Over the same period not much has changed in recreational cricket. Male or female, adult or child, we still play in a team uniform and on a manicured and carefully tended piece of grass. We even schedule meal breaks around the game and charge our players subscriptions and match fees to finance the ground and the equipment.
For many wanting to participate – perhaps having stopped the game after school or engaging with the game later in life - there are barriers in place. Aside from the social and financial aspects of the club scene, there is the question of safety with inexperienced players using hard cricket balls.
Enjoying football needs some space, a ball and jumpers for goalposts. Enjoying cricket can be equally straightforward. It needs some space, a bat and ball and some stumps.
Three years ago, we started coaching at a large college with a predominantly British Asian demographic. The after-college cricket club attracted (and still does) 20+ late teenagers who were incredibly passionate about cricket but only had the college sports hall (with no nets) to use and had largely shunned traditional clubs. Over that period, I have witnessed some extraordinary cricket, played with passion, skill and intensity.
Increasingly, young cricketers are playing tape-ball, a ‘street’ version of cricket imported from South Asia. A tape-ball is a tennis ball wrapped in electrical tape to give it weight and improve the flight while being less dangerous to use in the street than a conventional cricket ball (and much cheaper than an incrediball). And it can be played in the street, on the playground, on the AstroTurf.
In Pakistan where most young players are introduced to it, tape-ball cricket is an integral part of their development. Caring only for playing the game, it is a fantastic game to play for youngsters, and it’s quick, safe and cheap.
When we all fear for the future of our beloved game and bemoan the declining levels of participation in cricket, (particularly in the critical 15-19 age group), properly embraced tape-ball has a major role to play in turning the tide.
If you havent seen it for yourself, click here for the video.
19 September 2018
When watching the T20 climax of the domestic season at Edgbaston on Saturday, I was struck, and not for the first time, by how cricket manages to make life difficult for itself.
Worcestershire and Sussex competed in an enthralling final and was it a spectacle? Yes, there was some excellent cricket played, great shots, clever bowling and fielding that would have been unthinkable twenty years ago. But, and there is a but, why oh why were both teams competing in virtually identical clothing - blue and black outfits?
For a hundred and more years cricket has been played in whites – both teams in the same clothing – so I hear you say, why does it matter?
Cricket has been in a difficult place for many years – it does not easily fit into today’s ‘now’ society, its an uneconomic game at everything but the very top level, and with the ever-changing pattern of media consumption as the ECB are keen to point out it has become marginalised.
The cricket establishment’s answer was to glorify short-form cricket – new style team names and competitions, white balls, floodlights – all in the quest of a new audience broader than the diehards like me who would happily sit for four days watching every ball of a county game at Chelmsford.
This new audience has fewer preconceptions, and at least initially, knows little about the complexities of cricket. The crowds and the excitement at The Big Bash, IPL and even our own T20 Blast have succeeded, to a point, in engaging with new cricket (at least T20) followers and providing a financial lifejacket for the game.
And yet, on the biggest day of the short-form domestic calendar, when the game has its best chance to engage new cricket followers, both teams play in blue and black! Many of the crowd go to great lengths with their fancy dress and yet the teams (and the ECB) can’t seemingly be bothered. Many of those at Edgbaston on Saturday will next Saturday be watching football – one team in red, another in blue, or yellow, or pink, or green or another combination from the Nike designers. That’s their reference point, that’s what they have grown up with and that makes it easy to engage.
So, let’s make it easy for them to love T20 cricket by making this a visual contest, one that is easy to understand and visually identify with Surely, it’s not beyond the wits of the ECB and the counties to ensure that every team has an away kit to ensure we have no more same colour T20???