The men in white are back on the outfield, the willow is cracking against leather, and the May bank holiday was drenched by rain. The cricket season is back upon us, and in fact has been for nearly a month now thanks to earliest start of the modern age.
Maybe it is a bit late for a season preview, but the summer is merging so totally into the winter tours, with England currently in the West Indies, it is getting harder to see where domestic matters take over from international travels.
Lancashire’s bid for a first county championship in decades has been hit by the rain and Surrey’s woeful form continues. At least so far so normal.
But summer (and spring and autumn) 2010 looks set to be a domestic season like no other, something made plain by the fact that the usual season curtainraiser between the county champions and the MCC was held not at Lords in April but 3,000 miles from St John’s Wood in the Gulf in March.
Ahead of us a lie three Test series (only two of which will involve England), a plethora of one-day internationals (including one mini series against Austrailia in a non-Ashes year) and a core to the season made up of the screaming wild child offspring of cricket that is T20. Add to that the Clydesdale Bank 40-over tournament that bears no relation to any international commitments England have to meet. Overcrowded, overhyped and over here.
The county championship has been shoved to the side like a cotillion of staid elderly matrons at a south London bus stop. In fact it has been elbowed to two sides. The first half of the championship will be more or less over by the middle of June, to be followed to a large extent by a hiatus that only picks up again at the end of July.
The T20 World cup is also upon us again in the West Indies, with a break of just eight months since the last. This is cricket on crack cocaine. And the Chennai Super Kings have only just picked up the IPL trophy, with the added drama of Lalit Modi’s removal.
England after their successful recapture of the Ashes last year, face rather more mediocre opposition in Bangladesh and the peripaptetic Pakistanis, respectively. The Bangladesh leg starts at the end of May, and the Pakistan side of it in July, but not until Pakistan have played a “home” series here against Australia.
But even if Neville Cardus is rolling in his grave, the tale of two county games provides evidence of why the limited-overs format is overtaking the four-day game in county administrators’ minds.
At Chelmsford, Essex played Hampshire in an LV first divison match. It was 8 degrees, rain had been forecast, and there was a meagre crowd of around 400, even though the result went to the very last over. The lack of support apart from season ticket holders and players’ guests mirrors a trend seen across the country. Attendance for the longer format of the game will always consist of hard core supporters that will turn up in snow if need be.
But if you had gone to Canterbury to watch Kent play Warwickshire in a 40-over game, you would have seen a full house, a vibrant atmosphere - and it was warm. And at the end, the players came out for an autograph session.
One Kent committee member said it was part of an initiative to make Kent a club more accessible to all. That attitude could be recommended to all major cricket sides across the country for creating a family-oriented and welcoming air.
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