Forty Years ago Botham & Willis ripped through Australia at Headingly and from there on their lives changed. English cricket was great, the same year Surrey played Somerset in the Benson & Hedges final. Trying to get a ticket for any final was like trying to get a ticket for England at the World Cup final 2021!
I remember the day very well, it was Somerset’s debut in the final. I managed to get a ticket with a friend on the grass just outside the boundary with my Surrey Jack Richards style hat and two large gold & brown rosettes on each side. Somerset had Botham, Richards & Garner playing that day. Somerset won the toss put Surrey in to bat and from that moment you couldn’t help but be impressed by the brilliance of Joel Garner taking 5/14. Surrey skipper Roger Knight top scored with 92 and Surrey posted 197 in 44.3 overs. Then when the great late Sylvester Clarke removed Denning for 0 and another great late legend Robin Jackman removed the Somerset skipper for 5, I thought for one fleeting moment that the “Rey” had a chance. In came Richards who produced a masterclass in batting scoring 132 assisted by Botham 37 they wrapped up a convincing win with just under 11 overs remaining. I have spoken to Botham, Richards & Garner about the final, Garner said to me that every time he took 5 wickets at Lords he was never man of the match as Richards always scored a century!!
Fast forward 40 years and our county & one day game is in serious threat, dwindling attendances in the one day game forced the ECB to change the calendar. The problem was that the ECB and England started to pull out all the best players and wouldn’t let them play for their counties. Since then that’s been the case. Then central contracts came into cricket in 1999 followed by the T20 in 2002 the Benson & Hedges cup played out the last final between Essex & Warwickshire because the government’s ban on tobacco company sponsorship. Warwickshire won with a MOTM innings by Ian Bell, for the purist this was the start of cricket run by pure greed. Sky were involved in promoting the T20 with fireworks, jingles and coloured clothing, that style wasn’t new. Kerry Packer started that way back with the World Series in 1977 it was known by the “cricket circus”. Some things don’t change! it lasted two years but the white ball, coloured clothing and day night cricket remained!
The T20 became a magnet for the city guys to have a jolly up, capacity crowds were back at most of the grounds, but to the purist it wasn’t what they wanted to see. Why didn’t they rebrand the Benson & Hedges, using the coloured clothing and white ball and play day night cricket?
So, 40 years on we now have T20 and the Hundred. I will give you the stats of players taken out of each county for the 100:
- Derbyshire 3
- Durham 4
- Essex 1
- Glamorgan 4
- Gloucestershire 5
- Hampshire 5
- Kent 5
- Lancashire 8
- Leicestershire 2
- Middlesex 6
- Northants 4
- Notts 9
- Somerset 7
- Surrey 12
- Sussex 9
- Warwickshire 6
- Worcestershire 4
- Yorkshire 9
This includes centrally contracted players as well.
I have had to come off cricket social media as I was having conversations about the 100, one guy I knew but I’m not sure he knows me, thinks that the 100 was great for the game, the ECB are doing a wonderful job! Bringing in money it needs!!
40 Years ago BBC showed certain One Day Games & Test Cricket! Cricketers had sponsored cars, advertising around the grounds, packed venues for our one day game & test cricket, the game was great, we loved it then, it was healthy. OK perhaps the county grounds could have done more in sponsorship, but we loved the brand, no central contracts we could go to a one day game or county game knowing you were going to see the best players in each team playing great cricket!
Now as with the stats above the game is no longer on a fair playing field. You all know I follow Surrey, I used to go to away grounds to watch the one day game, I remember going to Southampton watching the greats of Greenidge, Richards & Marshall! Cricket was exciting.
In 2017 Sky & BT signed a 1.4 billion broadcasting deal into cricket, what with sponsorships going on all over the county circuits on shirts, ground names, even some ends at the stadia had a name, county cricket was cashing in!
So as the guy said, the ECB needed to generate money!
I wonder what he thinks now, apparently cricket being in a bad way in terms of finance, yet the ECB have a 2.4 million bonus!!
I was kindly invited to see a minor counties match, remember them? At the match I was speaking to an ECB director who was saying the 100 needs to work we’ve put a lot into it, so it was probably a case of looking after themselves not the great game we love, he carried on saying, if you like I will come down and meet all your tour followers. I declined saying you’ll get slaughtered, and I stand by that!!
The cricket calendar is all over the place, we are basically seeing the 2nd X1 in county and one day cup. I just don’t understand why!! At the beginning of the season Surrey had three county home championship matches in quick succession then not another until mid July. I honestly don’t think it would take much to sort out the mess the ECB have made of our great game, it’s just a total shambles! OK times change it only needs rebranding, not to turn the whole thing into a circus leaving the county members paying to see a 2nd X1
We know we have some outstanding talent coming through. Surrey have a few good youngsters like Geddes, Moriarty & Smith, but at least make it like for like!
What chance would Surrey have had playing Essex in a county championship when we have 12 players missing Essex 1, I’m not blaming Essex or any county, during the pandemic most members have done their bit for the county they support by donating our membership fees back to the county! In return we are watching 2nd X1 cricket, surprisingly the crowds at the Oval are as good as I can remember! The guy I mentioned earlier also said that bringing families to the 100 will introduce the kids to cricket.
So, you have an 8 year old watching the 100 balls flying all over the ground, next week you take him to see England v India at Lords, what’s he going to think? He will be playing on his phone! A friend of mine phoned me last week, when I told him that story he said “that’s funny a friend of his took his son and then a test and said that was exactly what happened”! The ECB are going at it the wrong way. Why not take kids to championship matches and watch a few sessions, it wasn’t that long ago that Quick Cricket was being played at county grounds during lunch, what happened to that??
To finish my rant, although I feel I am speaking on behalf of all the purist’s out there, we need a change of direction at the ECB, a banner was flying over Headingly the other day saying “sack the ECB” I think we just want change, I’ve seen football clubs going into receivership due to chairman taking large amounts of money out the clubs!
There are so many ways of making money, just give us back the game we love on a level playing field watching the great players we have in this country in all forms of the game!
Last week we were in Barbados and met up with Roland Butcher who said that the team he played in have a WhatsApp group. They are genuinely concerned about Middlesex & the game in general. Our trip was a bit work and a bit of holiday. I’ve always wanted to pay my respects to the cricket legends Malcolm Marshall (probably the greatest bowler of my time) and one of the best quicks I have seen at the Oval- Sylvester Clarke. We managed to track down the cemetery’s and graves, as great as Marshall was not a mention about cricket on his tombstone!
On a closing note the ECB haven’t decided what’s happening with the championship next season, it just about says it all!!