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Mike Atherton The Times article on Club Cricket
« on: March 13, 2019, 09:07:38 PM »

Excellent article from Athers on Club Cricket....

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/mike-atherton-to-survive-club-cricket-must-remember-people-actually-like-playing-it-bcdg5ptml

Article is also below -

Mike Atherton: To survive, club cricket must remember people actually like playing it

Much of what is written about cricket concerns barely 1 per cent of the people who play it, or are involved in it, in this country. It is no less true in these pages, where we concentrate largely on mens and womens professional cricket, here and abroad, at the expense of the recreational game.

Professional cricket may be newsworthy but it is not the heart and soul of the game, which resides in the clubs up and down the land the 7,000 of them that make up the recreational game here, along with the many itinerant wandering sides and through the volunteers, enthusiasts and committed week-in week-out players who keep the show rolling along.

One of the great strengths of Australian cricket was the umbilical cord that joined the professional and amateur games, with players able to move almost seamlessly between the two, and links developed in childhood sustained through a professional career and beyond. These ties are weaker than they once were, but still stronger than in England.

Here, the professional and amateur games, though administered by one governing body, exist largely separately, the former well funded, the latter surviving hand-to-mouth. My own club career came unceremoniously to a halt once I had been capped by Lancashire, league rules at the time preventing a capped (ie established) player representing his boyhood club as an amateur a ridiculous state of affairs. It should have been encouraged, not frowned upon.

No wonder, then, the irritation occasionally expressed when those from the professional game dare to tell their amateur counterparts how to run the show. Last week, Harry Gurney, the Nottinghamshire left-arm seamer, fresh from a triumph in the Big Bash League, suggested that all club and league cricket should be Twenty20, better to stop the decline in numbers and the loss of players at that crucial late-teenage stage of life, and the better to encourage wider participation from those for whom a longer game is too time-demanding.

Reaction was mixed, but there was, at least, a reaction: part sensible, part ridiculous, occasionally humorous, often spiteful. Mixed, too, in the conclusions there were some who agreed with Gurney; more who told him to stick to the pub trade (Gurney owns two pubs in Nottinghamshire with Stuart Broad).

The difficulty is partly knowing the state of the decline in relative terms. Last month there was an editorial in this newspaper on the decline of village cricket and this weekend the Essex batsman Tom Westleys old club, Weston Colville, withdrew from the Cambridgeshire Cricket Association league because of the difficulties in putting out a team. They first played cricket in that village in 1867 and now cannot put out a senior team, although the junior section will continue.

These closures tend to be newsworthy, but it is not clear that cricket is any worse affected than any other team sport. On the broadest definition of engagement, the ECB says that there are 2.5 million active players in England, roughly half of them senior, half junior. This, though, is a useless statistic, it being the broadest, most generous definition of inclusion. About 800,000 play some sort of formal cricket in leagues, and roughly a third of those might be termed regular, once-a-week, players.

The fact that numbers have dropped in recent years is undeniable, but almost every team sport faces the same issue. The most recent Sport England study comparing once-a-week participation for over-16s showed a decline in football, for example, from a little over 2 million players to 1.8 million over a ten-year period. The general trend is away from team sports to more individual pursuits, a trend that fits with the atomisation of modern life and the decline in membership of traditional, community-based institutions.

No club is typical; each has their own challenges. The story of my own Radlett in the Saracens Hertfordshire League is this: since the chairman Tony Johnson became involved in 1985, the number of senior playing members has held steady, at between 90-100, while junior participation has soared. The club runs 19 junior teams and has 220 registered junior players. It puts out four senior teams on Saturdays and one, sometimes two, on a Sunday.

There remains a strong appetite within it for a longer form of the game at the top end on Saturdays, the type of game that will enable players of all types to be involved and feel satisfied or knackered at the days end. The first team (in the county premier league, and therefore a very decent standard) play a mixture of timed cricket and overs cricket and some players come from university, hundreds of miles away, for a game something that they would be unlikely to do for a 20-over match.

Likewise, in the same week as Gurneys tweet, the Herts league held its annual meeting and I am told that there was widespread support for maintaining a longer format, especially in the top divisions.

Lower down, the bottom three divisions (out of 27) voted for a slightly shorter matches of 45 overs a side on Saturdays for this year.

It seems unfashionable to say it, but some people actually like playing the game. No sport, perhaps, does existential angst as well as cricket and in the rush for new formats to attract a new audience, for Facebook likes, Twitter followers and bite-sized packages, there is a core constituency that enjoys the layered complexity of a longer, more satisfying game. There is a danger that they get taken for granted, or their wishes ignored.

Equally, it would be absurd to deny that, for many, long days do not tally with family commitments and many find two games a weekend a struggle. The former England captain Michael Vaughans idea of longer matches on Saturdays, combined with T20s on Sundays juniors in the morning, seniors in the afternoon certainly carries merit. ECB research suggests that numbers of core, regular players are holding up precisely because of the variety of options available. Choice of format is key.

The biggest challenge for many clubs is not necessarily playing numbers but social engagement beyond that and finding volunteers to fill key roles. All told, there are close to 500 playing and social members at our club but many use it as a cricketing facility alone, rather than as a social hub like it used to be. Again, these are societal trends, rather than problems particular to cricket, although they bring significant challenges to income streams. It is, says our chairman, a precarious, hand-to-mouth existence.

The debate around club cricket provides no easy answers, except to say that there needs to be a variety of formats to engage all, from the committed, to the irregular, as well as to provide a platform for growth. As the days lengthen, the grass begins to grow and the trumpets of spring announce the end of winter, it is also a reminder that we can all do a little more for our clubs; no matter how good or incompetent, how committed or casual, it is where we all started out."
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Re: Mike Atherton The Times article on Club Cricket
« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2019, 09:17:02 PM »

The best article on amateur cricket I think Ive ever
Read. That there should be a format for everyone from draw to 2020 hitting. Literally exactly what it should be in every league system
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Re: Mike Atherton The Times article on Club Cricket
« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2019, 10:56:26 PM »

Athers is one of the best cricket writers around and that is an excellent article.  The challenge for all Clubs is to offer enough variety to keep as many involved as possible.  For example, my Club has many players leaving junior cricket who aren't interested in playing 90+ over games but still want to play T20 games but there is currently a weekend league in this area offering that.

The lack of commitment outside of actually playing is also a factor.  One Club in the county has had to make a late withdaw despite having a pretty talented squad because none of them were prepared to help out in bringing money into the club or helping out with jobs that needed doing.  It has always been the case that some players want to play their game and leave others to take on the responsibility of doing everything else that needs doing in order to get a game of cricket on, but that seems to be an increasing trend sadly
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Re: Mike Atherton The Times article on Club Cricket
« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2019, 09:17:59 AM »

Reckon most CB members/ grass roots cricketers  could have written a similar article.
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Re: Mike Atherton The Times article on Club Cricket
« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2019, 10:09:22 AM »

Personally I enjoy the longer forms of the game, but I do find it difficult to balance the time against family commitments.
Cricket is also one of the longer and more expensive games (you need substantial kit), so it is only natural that it may be one of the first to suffer from a drop off in participation.
I would welcome more short form options in my league, as I would probably play more often. With a young toddler in the family, I would find it much easier to nip away for a couple of hours, than to take the whole afternoon and evening off for the 50/50 game. With this in mind, I certainly don't think it's stupid to think about more 20/20 at village level if participation continues to drop off.
Though I think the lack of free/terrestial TV coverage is the real problem.
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stevat

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Re: Mike Atherton The Times article on Club Cricket
« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2019, 12:22:40 PM »

Personally I enjoy the longer forms of the game, but I do find it difficult to balance the time against family commitments.
Cricket is also one of the longer and more expensive games (you need substantial kit), so it is only natural that it may be one of the first to suffer from a drop off in participation.
I would welcome more short form options in my league, as I would probably play more often. With a young toddler in the family, I would find it much easier to nip away for a couple of hours, than to take the whole afternoon and evening off for the 50/50 game. With this in mind, I certainly don't think it's stupid to think about more 20/20 at village level if participation continues to drop off.
Though I think the lack of free/terrestial TV coverage is the real problem.

Completely agree, can only play maybe one in four Saturday games these days because of family commitments - if there were short games on Sunday like Michael Vaughan had suggested I'd pretty much be there every week bar holidays etc.  Even if the standard wasn't as good it would be worth it to play the game.  Think that's what Athers is getting at, there's plenty of people out there that want to play, all different formats. Local clubs and leagues should really look at putting on as diverse a bunch of leagues as possible - or at least seeing what the appetite would be for that.
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SLA

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Re: Mike Atherton The Times article on Club Cricket
« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2019, 01:26:45 PM »

The fact that its by far the best article written on club cricket is damning it with faint praise. Its a good article, but its still off the mark in a few areas.

" it is not clear that cricket is any worse affected than any other team sport", well actually it is. Some team sports have gone up, some have gone down, none have collapsed as badly as cricket.


"The biggest challenge for many clubs is not necessarily playing numbers", this possibly true for some clubs, but this distracts from the fact that the massive drop-off in new players entering the sport is the major cause of clubs folding, and there are a LOT of clubs folding.
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Re: Mike Atherton The Times article on Club Cricket
« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2019, 01:37:24 PM »

Rugby has big challenges in Kent with player numbers. Two local clubs in my town, one ran 6 sides 10 years ago, the other 4/5. They both now struggle getting 3 out on a Sat. Granted neither club has folded, but the playing numbers and frequency people play, has dropped massively. The Maidstone & District Football league dissolved in 2018 due to lack of teams - it had been going 125 years. Used to have 5 divisions. So there are issues in lots of other teams sports, be it football/rugby/cricket/hockey. Basically the sports that require lots of travel to away games. What are the reasons? Don't know - the other sports only last 90 mins. I just think guys in their late teens early 20's just can't be arsed to commit to sport every week but would rather go to the gym or be down the pub watching football results come in on Sky Sports.
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Re: Mike Atherton The Times article on Club Cricket
« Reply #8 on: March 14, 2019, 02:20:38 PM »

I liked the article. In our area we have a midweek league that does 2020 and Saturdays are longer format. This works quite well as it doesn't take out the whole weekend. Although I much prefer longer format, I'm like one of the other writers only able to do 1 in 3 or so of Saturdays because of family commitments (hoping to increase it this this year, we'll see...). Also, my 17 year old enjoyed junior cricket, but when he played a senior match last season he said `never again' because it was so long...
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SLA

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Re: Mike Atherton The Times article on Club Cricket
« Reply #9 on: March 14, 2019, 02:27:24 PM »

I liked the article. In our area we have a midweek league that does 2020 and Saturdays are longer format. This works quite well as it doesn't take out the whole weekend. Although I much prefer longer format, I'm like one of the other writers only able to do 1 in 3 or so of Saturdays because of family commitments (hoping to increase it this this year, we'll see...). Also, my 17 year old enjoyed junior cricket, but when he played a senior match last season he said `never again' because it was so long...

When I started playing club cricket as a teenager back in the 90s, I played 3 years just playing weekly T20s before I built up enough aptitude and appetite to want to play 50 over games for the club 1st team.

40/45/50-over games are fun if you're the one bowling a 10 over spell and/or scoring a ton. If this isn't you, then they can be really boring and miserable.

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Re: Mike Atherton The Times article on Club Cricket
« Reply #10 on: March 14, 2019, 03:24:01 PM »

Reckon most CB members/ grass roots cricketers  could have written a similar article.
I dont know

We have varied opinions on this forum alone. We have people that want..

Timed games
Draw games
5050 win lose
45/45 win lose
40/40 win lose
30/30 win lose
2020

We literally hace exactly what Athens describes.. the need for a league system to provide all of the above to each and every player. It really is the only way to increase participation, removal of any format will simply shrink it
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SLA

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Re: Mike Atherton The Times article on Club Cricket
« Reply #11 on: March 14, 2019, 03:32:56 PM »

I dont know

We have varied opinions on this forum alone. We have people that want..

Timed games
Draw games
5050 win lose
45/45 win lose
40/40 win lose
30/30 win lose
2020

We literally hace exactly what Athens describes.. the need for a league system to provide all of the above to each and every player. It really is the only way to increase participation, removal of any format will simply shrink it



Yup. I have my personal preferences, other people have theirs, but ultimately its a democracy. Players tell their clubs what they want to play, and clubs tell the league, so the league provides what the players want.




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Re: Mike Atherton The Times article on Club Cricket
« Reply #12 on: March 14, 2019, 03:41:42 PM »

When I started playing club cricket as a teenager back in the 90s, I played 3 years just playing weekly T20s before I built up enough aptitude and appetite to want to play 50 over games for the club 1st team.

40/45/50-over games are fun if you're the one bowling a 10 over spell and/or scoring a ton. If this isn't you, then they can be really boring and miserable.

The shorter the format, the less people participate as you always get 2-3 stars doing the batt/bowling/keeping so each team needs 2-3 make weights who are happy to do nothing. This type of person is getting rarer.

Just need to ensure all formats are catered for

Sat league system
Div 1-4 draw
Rest 45 win lose

Parallel system for casual players
2020 on Astro with retire at 30. Keeps it cheap, quick and ensures participation as more players per game get a gig and no player dominates.

Sundays
Run the same again or simply leave teams to have friendlies

This will mean every player can pick what suits and if players still dont choose to play then we/ECB has to accept that maybe they just dont want to play
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Re: Mike Atherton The Times article on Club Cricket
« Reply #13 on: March 14, 2019, 03:45:45 PM »



Yup. I have my personal preferences, other people have theirs, but ultimately its a democracy. Players tell their clubs what they want to play, and clubs tell the league, so the league provides what the players want.

Or you just provide all formats then no one has to play a format they dont want to. Its the only way to keep or get as many playing. Saturdays are getting shorter and starting to suit one type of player and excluding another. Sundays are dying but if only 2020 survives then youll still find less people playing as those who dont want to will just stop..

Each player has their preferred format and might play another but theres will come a point they wont play or will just play less as its nkt worth the hassle

Expensive game for a 20 > 40 over slap if youre not top order, bowling max or a star who gets to do both. Even worse day if youre not a hitter or a bowler getting slapped about
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SLA

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Re: Mike Atherton The Times article on Club Cricket
« Reply #14 on: March 14, 2019, 04:26:38 PM »

The shorter the format, the less people participate as you always get 2-3 stars doing the batt/bowling/keeping so each team needs 2-3 make weights who are happy to do nothing. This type of person is getting rarer.

Just need to ensure all formats are catered for

Sat league system
Div 1-4 draw
Rest 45 win lose

Parallel system for casual players
2020 on Astro with retire at 30. Keeps it cheap, quick and ensures participation as more players per game get a gig and no player dominates.

Sundays
Run the same again or simply leave teams to have friendlies

This will mean every player can pick what suits and if players still dont choose to play then we/ECB has to accept that maybe they just dont want to play



Back then, we played retire at 25* and everyone bowl 2 overs, so literally everyone apart from the keeper gets a bowl, and pretty much everyone is guaranteed a bat. This is the ideal format for young players who are just trying out club cricket to see if they enjoy it. I started playing this for a men's team when I was 13.

A couple of seasons later I then played a bit of "normal rules" T20 at a slightly higher standard where I batted in the top 5 and scored a few 50s. I also played a few Sunday games.

This gave me the appetite to move up to open the batting for the 1st team at a decent standard on saturdays when I was 17. I opened for that team for about 5 years.

I still kept playing the other formats as well. Even when I was scoring tons on Saturdays, I still enjoyed playing retire-at-25 T20 cricket as it meant I could play with my dad and my mates and get a bowl as well. The retire at 25 rule meant I couldn't dominate the game, which made it better for everyone else.

This, to me, is the ideal way to introduce kids to longer format cricket. If you just take a kids straight out of the U15s and put them into a 40 over game, they're not going to enjoy it.


« Last Edit: March 14, 2019, 04:28:16 PM by SLA »
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