Not the MCC Recommendations for Brighter Cricket
Dr Vernon Coleman MB ChB DSc FRSA
When did you last see small boys playing cricket in a park, on the beach or in the street? When did you last see a tree or lamppost marked with chalk stumps?
A few decades ago cricket was England’s national sport. It took precedence over football.
But today, cricket is dying.
The reasons are obvious.
First, the sale of television rights to satellite broadcasters didn’t help. Most young people in Britain have never seen a game of cricket – live or televised. They have no idea what the game is about. A recent report in the Financial Times showed that cricket is now as popular as rugby league football and only slightly more popular than greyhound racing. Despite all the attempts to brighten cricket by making games shorter and faster the majority of spectators regard the sport as dull and slow. And cricket takes itself far too seriously. Spectators only turn up to 20/20 matches because they can smoke while they have a pint.
Second, esports (games played on computers) are taking over. And they aren’t taking over in the way you might expect. Millions of nerds now pay good money to watch other nerds playing computer games. Modern sport professionals have huge bums and live on a diet of burgers and coke. Sport is changing direction and cricket is being left behind.
Third, cricket has created an administrative infrastructure which requires vast quantities of money in order to survive. And there is one thing we know about administrative infrastructures: they will always do everything they can to survive. (The NHS is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Administrators now consume most of the NHS’s financial resources. Administrators would rather close a ward or sack nurses, than remove some red tape or sack a clerk.) In recent years, cricket administrators have done everything they can think of to make more money. To sponsorship and TV rights have been added adverts on the pitch, the players and the umpires. The game has few spectators but is awash with money.
Fourth, cricketers are molly coddled as never before. In the good old days (when 20,000 men in hats turned up to watch county matches) a touring team of 11 and a couple of spares in case of death or dysentery would take a manager and a bloke to look after the baggage. These days, touring cricket teams travel with an entourage that would embarrass a touring rock band.
This is clearly time for a rethink.
If cricket is to survive then there have to be massive changes. The game is moribund. It needs livening up.
Here are some suggestions.
1. Get rid of the helmets. Spectators like blood. The popularity of cricket started to fall when helmets were introduced. It might be a good idea to get rid of pads and gloves too. And injured players must carry on playing unless they are unconscious or dead.
2. Play two matches at a time on the same pitch. The two matches can be played at right angles to each other. This change will double the entertainment value.
3. Allow two bowlers to operate at the same time – one from each end. This will speed up the game and allow both batsmen to face the bowling at the same time. It will also keep fielders and umpires on their toes.
4. For extra excitement incorporate the two ideas suggested above. This will mean that there are bowlers approaching from north, south, east and west.
5. Organise matches between one legged players and one armed players. Teams of this type were enormously popular in Victorian times. Or have `toffs’ versus `louts’. Fix up matches between players over six feet tall and players under five feet tall. It’s easy to think of ideas for new teams. How about `convicted murderers’ versus `war criminals’?
6. Women’s cricket needs a massive overhaul. There’s no need to introduce anything tacky (such as women in bikinis) but viewing figures would soar if women played in voluminous ball gowns and wore tiaras instead of helmets. (The fielding side gets a cash bonus if a bowler manages to remove a tiara.)
Note 1: Sir Vernon Coleman represents a breakaway group of MCC members consisting entirely of himself. He offers these suggestions solely in the interests of saving a game which is now well on its way to total irrelevance.
Note 2: Vernon Coleman’s bestselling cricket books include: The Village Cricket Tour,` Diary of a Cricket Lover, Around the Wicket and Winsden’s Cricketing Almanack All are available as ebooks on Amazon.
Copyright Vernon Coleman 2018