Darren Talbot posted an impassioned blog last week: View from the Coach: Where’s the plan for cricket in England & Wales?
I am more positive about All Stars Cricket than Darren, but I do agree with his prognosis – introducing a new entry-level offering for 5-8 year olds can only be the start of a five (or 10) year plan to bring players back to the game, and as yet there is little discernible evidence of that master plan from the ECB.
So – what should the game look like in five years?
Cricket 2022 – a look into the future
Three years ago, I posted a blog on the Future of Coaching – hugely presumptuous for someone who at the time had only been coaching for a couple of years…in my defence, I use my blog to try out ideas and identify new developments – in this case, where my own CPD needed to be directed, if I were to have any hope of keeping up with developments in the game.
Back in 2014, I wrote:
The traditional time and “long form” limited over formats will still exist, with typical club games lasting 6-7 hours. There will certainly be more T20, driven by the professional game and the excitement and immediacy of this game.
But as players have less time to commit to recreational play, even the 2.5 hours a T20 game takes to complete might be considered too long. We might see even shorter format games, indoors or outdoors in enclosed spaces (“cage” or MUGA – multi-use games area). Formats might develop along the lines of LastManStands, or the very popular indoor cricket (6-aside, 12 overs/innings) or even “street20” (again 6-a-side, but played over just 5 four-ball overs per innings).
I think the shorter formats will have to be introduced, and soon.
Perhaps some Leagues might consider including T20 rounds – I know of competitions that are already decided over a mixture of time and limited over formats; maybe T20 early and late season, longer format in high summer?
Alternatively, T20 League competitions might run in parallel with existing Saturday or Sunday comps (or even replace them). Hosting two or more visiting clubs for T20 “festival” days might be an option – I could certainly see this working on Sundays, especially (but not exclusively) for Clubs with access to more than one square.
I believe that the days of the “super club”, with 6 (or more) Saturday XIs (or several Colts teams at the same age-group), might be numbered – yes, a concentration of players under one banner strengthens that club, but it can lead to a dilution of competition. One Club fielding 66 players on a Saturday will see other local teams struggling to find 11.
At least one local Club has taken to arranging it’s very own, IPL-style, in-house T20 competition, complete with draft and “overseas” players – Upminster CC’s Windmill Whack is in it’s second season. One of the stated aims of the Whack was to allow all Club members the chance of playing at Club HQ – an unlikely scenario if you are being selected in the 5th XI.
At junior level, Clubs will need to provide more opportunities for children to play the game – not (only) more coaching and more competitive games, but simply the chance to experience the pleasure of hitting a ball or bowling down the wickets. More in-house play, for the bigger Clubs, perhaps; more local soft ball festivals (not just one Kwik Cricket comp each summer), for all.
I believe that new players will come into the game via initiatives like the ECB’s All Stars Cricket and (possibly) will be kept in the game longer by something like Cricket Australia’s MILO T20 Blast – short form, festival cricket, designed to enthuse young players with a love of the game before they move on to inter-club competition.
I can’t see this happening in schools, unfortunately, for many reasons – under-funding, over-worked (and demotivated) teachers, (over) emphasis on academic testing, short summer terms…
If the game is to make inroads into the “battle of the playground”, the initiatives will have to come from outside the education system, from the ECB, Clubs, and local social projects.
Is this the only way forward for the game? Surely not – just a sketch of some ideas that might offer a way forward.
Can it happen?
Only if people with influence (and money) sit down with the clubs and work out how to make it happen.
This post was inspired by Darren Talbot’s recent blog post, but the conversation has been going on for years.
I have known Darren for a few years now. He has done a lot of coaching in clubs and at representative level in Surrey and in Europe,, and is now Vice-Chairman England Cricket Association for the Deaf. He sees a lot of junior cricket (amply evidenced by his Twitter feed!), and if Darren is concerned about the direction of the game, then we all should be.
Coincidentally, I had a brief conversation over Twitter with “Cricket Captain” (@TheCricketCapt) on a similar theme – I don’t know the Captain, but I think we are probably thinking along similar lines (especially about tea!).