You have the first class match, 50 over cricket, 40 over cricket, T20 and from 2020 even a 100-ball format – the variety of cricket formats is greater than it has ever been before. But despite this, one type of game appears to have a remainder a constant throughout, the club cricket match.
Club league cricket, often reflecting a 45-50 over a side format is a regular feature throughout the UK, with T20 and the like reserved for one-off occasions, most often normally as tour matches to allow optimum drinking time in a rare week away from family responsibilities. The rationale behind this format reflects a number of reasons, ranging from traditionalism and the wider age range on display in local club cricket, while many also suggest that the longer format provides a greater test of a player’s abilities. While this may be true, club cricket officials appear to be ignoring the obvious truth – participation levels are declining.
In 2016, research by Statista highlighted that the number of participants in club cricket in England had dropped from c.420,000 to c.280,000 since 2007. The reasons for this are plentiful – poor facilities and poor weather included, but most notably the commitment required. With most games starting early afternoon, a 45-50 over a side affair is unlikely to finish until around 7pm. Add to that the obligatory post-match beer and before you know a player’s Saturday has become devoted to his or her’s ten team mates.
This commitment appeared to face breaking point this summer, as England’s World Cup success and a Saturday quarter-final with Sweden was met with resentment by cricketing traditionalists, many of whom rejected requests of early start times or an extended tea, resulting in a number of cancellations across the country.
The reality of this? Football World Cup’s occur every 4 years, and successful England ones even less frequently, meaning many may brush this off as a one-off until the next time such a conflict occurs. However, club cricket officials would do well to use this as an opportunity to revisit the game many people up and down the country love, to ensure that it continues to fit its purpose as a recreational sport that continue to generate significant participants.