Cricket is a traditional game, so it is a great shame to see those traditions slowly being thrown to one side like an 80-over old red ball as money increasingly dictates the county game. More and more focus is being pinned on one-day cricket; it means that games at out grounds will soon become a misty memory.
Indeed, some of my fondest childhood memories come from hurrying to Southchurch park in Southend after school to catch the last few hours of each day's play, grabbing autographs of players as they trudged off the pitch after a long day in the field, before haring onto the pitch at the end of play for a quick knock with the old man and his pals.
They were golden days in the sun, and in many ways what made me fall in love with the sport. In particularly the longer format of the game, and despite my age of 23, unlike many of my friends who are one-day mad, for me the first-class game is still the purist form.
All this comes from clubs being able to bring cricket to different areas of the county. Under the new regulations, there will be a reduced number of County Championship fixtures, from 16 games to just 14. Already many counties have removed the ‘festival fixture’, I know Hampshire have decided to take Basingstoke off their calendar for a number of years now. And I also know from experience having attended a Championship fixture at the Ageas bowl just how soulless it can be.
There is often a buzz surrounding a smaller, festival ground, as many excited kids are able to see their idols in their own backyard. Oddly too the pitch is often far better than the home ground of the team, it’s more spin friendly and tests the skills of the players far more as groundsmen look to ensure the fixture lasts four-days to maximize finances.
Not only is it great for the county itself, but it is also great for the local area, it brings cricket to the local kids who may not have time to get down to the club's main ground, and it is often if planned well, during the summer holidays so it can be a real family affair. A week of cricket culminating in a one-day fixture can only help to get more people into the sport, if priced correctly people will go down to their local ground and support their county.
Cricket is not like football, cricket allows fans to have a real sense of belonging, a real sense of commitment, there is one club in your area to support so it brings people together. So to me, the decision to take these fixtures off the plate is naïve, to say the least from some counties. Look at Lancashire, when they relocated to Liverpool during their redevelopment of Old Trafford, they saw a renaissance of form and charged up the league table, this may have been down to dodgy pitches and growth in support leading to an intimidating atmosphere or it could just be a coincidence but you can bet your bottom dollar during those summer days they collected some more supporters.
The ECB know that four-day cricket is dying out, and the only way to improve this is to make it more accessible to the younger members of society, by placing the majority of games in April and May whilst kids are still at school means it limits the audience base to the retired and a the hardcore fans who are willing to take time off work. In the summer months of June, July and August fans are far more willing to take time off work, the weather is more likely to be better theoretically of course.
So if the travel cost is reduced and a ground is within walking distance it makes going to the cricket far more appealing. You can have a drink, you can have a laugh with your mates and that is what four-day cricket is all about.
So I plead with the authorities and the counties not to let this tradition die. Because let’s face it county cricket is becoming almost unrecognizable to what it was in its heyday.
Written by David Bowden – Site owner
David Bowden, Site Owner - Grumbler, Cricket fanatic and Sports Journalist