I Don’t Like Cricket, I Hate It – the city-based T20 edition

A semi-regular feature in which we ask Prince Prefab about cricket – even though he hates cricket. We are in bold. Prince Prefab is not.

We were talking about fat cricketers last time around. It was pointed out to us that the team that won this year’s T20 competition ‘likes a pint’. [At this point King Cricket shows Prince Prefab photographs of Northamptonshire’s Rory Kleinveldt and Richard Levi.]

They even have booze sponsorship.

They should run a campaign to get more fat kids into cricket.

“Like a McDonalds? Sweat when you climb the stairs? Out of breath after polishing your bannister? It doesn’t matter! Cricket: a sport for everyone – even you.”

There’s a feeling among some that what English cricket needs is a new Twenty20 competition where the teams are cities, not counties, and where there are fewer of them (eight cities instead of 18 counties). The thinking is that a lot of people don’t give a flying full toss about counties. They think having cities would bring in a new audience.

As a Lancastrian living in Manchester, what’s your take? Do you think they should have cities instead of counties? Would you personally be more interested in Manchester Mizzle than Lancashire Lightning?

It sounds like the first step to ‘footballising’ cricket and the one thing I could love about cricket is that it isn’t football. Cos you can bet your balls there would end up being two Manchester teams, two Liverpool teams, two Sheffield teams and we can all see where that would go: the wankers would get interested. This would feed into the cricketers who would wave their finger in a knowing way at the umpire when he made a decision they disagree with and nobody wants that.

So yes, it would probably bring in a new audience but is it an audience you want? Keep it county. Keep it sparse.

Well apparently as we speak, there’s been a vote and they’re going to do it. There won’t be two teams in each city though, just one – and only eight cities.

It’s a good point though. Round our way, childhood football support was defined by rivalries. You knew people who supported other clubs because City, United, Liverpool and Everton were all within legitimate supporting range. We can’t really see that you’d get that with this competition.

Leeds will presumably be Manchester’s bitter rivals, but we won’t know anyone who supports Leeds on account of the fact that we don’t live in Leeds.

As long as they don’t try and do what they are doing with snooker. Trying to make it snazzy. Cos it just ends up looking naff.

Although there is something delightful about Ding Junhui walking into the arena with Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars blasting out, only to be usurped by Rocket Ronnie’s genius entrance to Train’s Drops of Jupiter. In fact, cricketers probably have terrible taste in music too. They should each have a song of choice blasted when they score a century, bowl someone out etc.

Sorry, I’ve gone off track.

They do play music when a batsman walks out. Dunno whether they get to choose what it is though.

The new city thing’ll definitely be a snazzification exercise though. We sort of imagine it falling between two stools: the Full Snazz stool of the Indian Premier League – which is all napalm marketing, fireworks and cheerleaders – and the Village Fete stool that is county cricket grasping at the threads of modernity without ever quite catching hold of them.

The latter’s probably best exemplified by the mascot race on T20 Finals Day when a load of people dressed in giant foam animal costumes belt round an obstacle course in between cricket matches.

I was raised that the only extra excitement allowed at a cricket match other than the cricket should be a bottle of coke (with a straw!) and a bag of salt and vinegar chipsticks.

But maybe the problem is the sport? If they need all this snazz?

Well, obvious goading aside, there’s truth in that. Test cricket in particular is not exactly plug-and-play, easy to use straight out of the box. You need to study the instructions first – and who honestly wants to do that?

The idea with T20 and the city franchise tournament is that it’s sort of ‘My First Cricket Format’ – easier to sell to more people in itself, and perhaps also a route to the grown-up version.

I’m not sure they’re going about it the right way. As someone who doesn’t currently watch cricket I’m more likely to be drawn to Test cricket and the history and complications and nuances of that than a load of lads in yellow jumpsuits running out to Mr Boombastic and wellying a ball as hard as they can with cheerleaders shaking pompoms every time something happens.

Well you say that, but Test cricket hasn’t entrapped you in its vicelike grip just yet, has it? So maybe they’re thinking why not give Mr Boombastic a whirl.

Yes, I should have been clearer. I like the idea of Test cricket more. Still probably never go.

Only ‘probably’. That’s tantamount to an invitation. [Checks 2017 fixture list.]

2017’s chocka mate.

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39 Appeals

  1. Lovely stuff. You just don’t get this sort of analysis anywhere else.

    PS Did I mention I’m going to Lord’s on Saturday? I’ve written a thing about it. I’ve even quoted King Cricket himself.

    http://tinyurl.com/zpmoe4w

  2. we can all see where that would go: the wankers would get interested

    I think the ECB (or certain sections thereof) would view that as the aim of their proposals, wouldn’t they? No point ‘broadening the sport’s appeal’ and then complaining that the ‘wrong sort of people’ are fans [which is only slightly paraphrasing some fans I recall who in 2005 were complaining on the train about “the football element” starting to watch Test cricket].

  3. I love this occasional feature but the pieces are quite long, aren’t they.

    More than the length of a pamphlet even.

    Are we sure these City based teams are going to be named after the cities? While I can see the case for that in IPL and BBL, the UK’s demographic and affiliations work somewhat differently, methinks.

  4. I guess turkeys do vote for Christmas after all (actually, the way this year is going, they seem to always vote for it).

  5. What odds could you have got in the 90s that the batting coaches of England and Australia would one day be Mark Ramprakash and Graeme Hick?

  6. Are CentralSaxony going to dangle a carrot at any point, or stake all on beating Yorkshire next week?

    • The North London Neologisms are surely afraid of the chasing abilities of Leeds Lightning, formerly Western Wobbegongs, player Jos Buttler.

      • Surely Leeds Lagerlouts?

        Were I the London Lambrinigirls I would agree the draw right now and stake it all on one turning pitch at Taunton next week where a win looks likely to yield only 19 points.

      • “Let’s go really hard after this 309 in 44 overs target… we’ll promote the explosive Buttler, J and see where we are after x overs and/or with y wickets in hand”.
        “Shall we promote somebody else over the guy who scored a painstakingly slow hundred in the first innings and who so far has a career FC strike rate in the low-30s?”
        “No, can’t see any point in doing that.”

      • 26 off 14. Perfect. In the Test squad with him.

  7. Interesting to hear talk of a footballisation (is there such a word?) of cricket. Back in the early 70’s, there were similar complaints about fans singing at one-day games, especially on Sundays. I don’t have any faith whatsoever in the ECB’s ability to convert any new fan interest to either participation at parks or club level or spectator level in the other formats. Even the counties have been poor at this. What record do we have of over a decade’s worth of kids who have been at T20 matches and supposedly are now involved one way or the other in the sport? I reckon we could search hard and find not much. What I find especially perplexing and frustrating is that all of the debate and discussion and voting is on a proposal which appears to have no detail. How can people vote without knowing what it is they are voting for? Remind you of anything recently? Politics aside, I think our current domestic cricket is a mess but not because of the cricket itself (or ‘the product’ as marketeers would call it). It’s the messy dog’s breakfast of a schedule and the poor general coverage of the formats in the mainsteam media which could be improved. Make the schedule easier to understand and fans will follow it with less angst and the media can cover it identifying the meaning of stuff as the season passes. If there’s one thing I’d like to see cricket copying football, it’s in the media and how the beautiful game is previewed, reported and then analysed. When was the last time (other than on Sky), that anyone heard a preview programme (not some pesky 5 minute 5Live segment) on upcoming matches in any / all of the formats? It’s not that the media can’t do it; mysteriously, as the CC comes to a conclusion, matches and situations are being reported as if this has been going on all Summer (which it hasn’t). City based T20? I’m not going to get high blood pressure over it. If they do it, I hope it works, although just getting people to watch it is not the KPI of success, despite the fact that it will be reported that way. PS Still working on my response for Americans on how draws define the CC but I’m struggling.

    • King Cricket

      September 15, 2016 at 2:41 pm

      Can we vote for more line breaks?

    • Edwardian Cricket

      September 15, 2016 at 4:34 pm

      If you talk in terms of ‘footballising’ cricket, although T20 cannot exist in isolation, there is an argument for making it a completely different entity, (I hesitate to say different sport), irrespective of whether it creates interest in the longer format. Actually, I’m not sure that chintzed-up, pom pom cricket leads people to appreciate test matches or county stuff. Surely there are many people in the UK who stay with the short attention span stuff and enjoy it for what it is. When T20 started not even the players could take it seriously, but with the passing of time it’s inevitable that it gets to a stage where everyone gets all serious about it.

      • A curio, worth googling (it has been well-covered elsewhere eg on Cricinfo at some point).

        Tapeball cricket in Pakistan has morphed into a sport in its own right – a mass spectator game with significant media coverage and which employs professional players. Not much crossover with leather-ball players – genuinely a whole new ball game.

      • An interesting point, Edwardian. Should each format be developed in its own right?

        If the answer is yes, it would break with the paradigm of over half a century now which has always positioned new formats as a way to build the sport in all ways, especially attendance figures and participation and thence, more attendance.

        I was around when the Gillette Cup, John Player League and B&H were launched and the debate about one-day cricket had actually been muted a century before (apparently)!

        Whilst seasoned pros were resistant to the one-day stuff back in the 60’s with some people batting the same way as in 3 day games, gradually, they got with the programme, as the saying goes.

        I don’t have a problem with fans liking one format or another but whilst I have no numbers to support this view, I bet there are more people than we’d think that love all of it – I certainly do.

        If City based T20 will bring in new fans and help the county structure, then why not?

        But as I mentioned above, I have seen no evidence that the ECB / Counties have the organisational and marketing ability to channel new fan interest into more ticket sales and / or new junior interest into more players at the bottom end.

        They need an integrated approach and other than a few e-mails on the one hand and a reliance on a few great coaches in some clubs with pro-active junior programmes and the odd state school, things pretty much roll on the same way.

        I keep returning to the issue of the schedule. They need to simplify it and sort it out.

        If someone said, could you do any better, I’d say yes, give it to me.

        Sunday starts which morph into Tuesday and Thursdays half way through the Summer; friday night T20 which somehow ends up on any other day and as Andrew Strauss has pointed out, more changes in formats than batsmen appearing in England’s middle order just aggravates the mess.

        Set a strategy and stick to it FPS.

        PS KC, I’ve done my best with line breaks 🙂

  8. Hello. Genuine question:

    Would cricket journalists all be raving about Haseeb Hameed if they had not been extensively and repeatedly briefed about his inclusion by the England management?

    • Good question Sam. I suspect (but cannot prove) that the answer is “some would, some wouldn’t, some would but not in print because what editor wants to print a story about a county cricketer unless he’s going to be an international cricketer very soon?”

    • King Cricket

      September 15, 2016 at 5:19 pm

      His likely inclusion is an unavoidable part of the story though, isn’t it? Even if it’s not confirmed, they’re essentially reporting that England think a lot of him and probably enough that he’ll get picked. ‘Journalist thinks cricketer looks pretty good’ is less of a story because while still valuable, their opinions carry less practical weight.

      • Yeah. I just meant that most journos wouldn’t have given him a second look if they hadn’t been secretly briefed.

        Here’s another one for you:

        If your team were faced with such a scenario, would you take winning the Royal London One-Day Cup at Lord’s if it meant getting relegated from Division One? Or stay up and lose the final?

      • Win a trophy, every time! Should be back in Div 1 after a season if you (bears) deserve to be there…

      • Rumours of unrest in the camp.

      • I’d take getting relegated from Div 1 on its own. Forget about winning a cup. At least it would mean the previous season was good.

      • I don’t care about silly Bears.

        But I’d be delighted if Leics ever got into a position whereby they could be relegated from Division One.

  9. Touring squad for Bangladesh:

    Cook, Hameed, Root, Ballance, Moeen, Stokes, Bairstow, Woakes, Rashid, Broad, Anderson, Buttler, Finn, Wood, Batty, Ansari, Duckett

    I hope they know what they’re doing. Being picked from nowhere like this could wreck the lad’s confidence. Luckily I think Batty is strong enough to deal with it.

    When was the last time England selected a squad in which the oldest player is twice the age of the youngest? Can it ever have happened before?

    • 1930 in the West Indies, Wilf Rhodes was 52 and Bill Voce was 20.

    • Duckett > Jennings/Gubbins is the weird one for me. Whether it’s considering second-division cricket over first, or white ball Lions over red ball CC. It fits in perfectly with the New England Selection Method, but still seems a bit weird.

      Also Buttler’s inclusion was both completely expected and utterly moronic.

      • Who would you have taken as reserve wicketkeeper?

        Never mind the fact that Buttler is the most talented and exciting England batamsn since He Who Must Not Be Named nudged Thorpey into the wings.

      • Duckett and Gubbins sound like they should have been characters in the Jennings books.

      • 26 off 14 does not exciting make. Talent’s no good if you don’t use it.

        I’d take somebody who’s actually been playing some red ball this season. Foakes, say. I think (I may be wrong) that even Billings has been playing more red ball than Buttler.

        Of course I’d forgotten that Duckett can keep as well.

    • Also: no Liam Dawson. So there’s some sanity.

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