Hampshire Cricket History

Forward-thinking decision makers
October 2, 2016, 7:35 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

This will be my last observation about the statement put out by Rod Bransgrove about the future of domestic cricket.

To begin, I’m wondering about the purpose of the Forum. Rod Bransgrove is a clear-thinking, articulate man, who knows about business, and succeeds in most things that he wishes to do. He is not, in my experience a man who displays many uncertainties, he generally tells more than he asks and I cannot recall seeing him change his mind about major issues – changing strategy for business reasons, probably, but changing opinions in response to other arguments, I cannot recall that.

So while other counties are at least claiming to consult their members – and I hear in one case at least there is a threat of legal action – what is the purpose of Hampshire’s Forum? If the membership is strongly opposed, will Hampshire vote against? (Incidentally in a conversation with his predecessor I confirmed what I believed, that Hampshire did indeed vote in favour of the T20 in the late 1990s)

My final concern is with the implication that the County Championship is perhaps too long, too slow or whatever for young people to engage with. Rod’s arguments are those of an experienced and successful businessman and in that respect I am content to bow to his expertise. I have spent 45 years engaged professionally in the education of young people and I have worked principally in what we might describe broadly as the cultural and entertainment sector. I have three degrees including a doctorate in ‘arts education’, 50 years experience as a performing musician (partly professional) and I have worked on education projects for the Arts Council, South Bank/Hayward Gallery and British Film Institute. That’s my expertise and in all those activities, in 10 years teaching in comprehensive schools, and 25 in universities I have never accepted – or indeed found – any evidence that young people (in my case 11-25) are incapable of engaging with complex, lengthy or unfamiliar activities and artefacts. It is simply not true, and if anyone wants the evidence I have it.

Neither is it the case as Rod argues that “this is a format which does not accord with modern day life” although he might be right that it is “not attracting new spectators”. With respect to the latter point I’ll ask merely how hard do we try – especially at the Ageas Bowl which, given its location, is the least likely ground in the country to get the occasional ‘kid’ dropping in as my friends and I used to do in Pompey, after school. Do we really try to get them there? But there are two bigger points: firstly do you go to Test Matches? If so, all five days? Perhaps at the Ageas Bowl, but how many spectators at Test Matches are there for more than one day? The proportion might be higher at Championship games but that’s because we make little effort to broaden the base. It’s perfectly possible for the ‘occasional’ spectator to enjoy a day of Championship cricket from 11am to say 5pm and go home contented and a spell of six hours with little queuing is hardly longer than a day of T20. You don’t have to watch every day – I rarely did in the first twenty years of my cricket-watching life.

But there’s also the point that if young people find it so hard to commit to successive days at a single event, how do you explain ticket sales for Festivals like Glastonbury or Reading. The truth is we do very little to engage young people in first-class cricket, we have been scheduling it for years when it’s difficult for them to get there and then we say “there you are, you see, they don’t like it”. The truth is they don’t really know about it.

But my final point is this: I have never opposed any of the historical changes that Rod Bransgrove praises in his statement and I don’t oppose another change to T20 except that I fear the shift to city-based teams with different identities is the thin end of the wedge that will see the end of three hundred years of county cricket. What I do oppose, my single major objection, is the on-going dismantling of the County Championship. We know already that next year, Hampshire’s fixtures will be a mess – fewer matches, playing some teams once, some twice, promotion becoming more of a lottery. That and to a very large extent, only that, is my real objection. Otherwise the “change” that these “consumer-facing organisations” experience might be the sudden disappearance of their most loyal supporters (clients? customers?). That’s not best business practice is it?


11 Comments so far
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Historically, were four-day county games ever played prior to their introduction in the early 1990s?? I’ve seen no reference to any and a return to three-days, more overs per day is such an obvious thing to do help the place of the red ball game that may be it will come along one of these seasons.

Comment by StephenFH

They started in 1988, when some were four-days and some three; then full-on in the 1990s. I saw the whole of Hampshire’s first-ever four-day game at Southampton v Surrey in 1988 – it lasted two days!

If over rates could be restored to something more palatable (18/20 per hour?) it would be possible to return to three day matches; perhaps even reserving a 4th day for time lost. 18 per hour would be 108 in a day and 324 in three days. In Div One, 28 matches this year exceeded 324 overs (some by no more than five or six overs) whereas 44 (60+%) had fewer than 324 overs. If pitches helped bowlers a bit more, our batsmen might improve, there would be more spinners (and therefore a better over rate) etc …

Comment by pompeypop

The last point re pitches is key in my view. When there was uncovered pitches, 3 days was on average long enough. This is not the case with covered pitches. Unfortunately, turning the clock back is pie in the sky.

Comment by Ian Laidlaw

Thank you; had forgotten the phasing in.

There was a very noticeable increase in spectator numbers thoughout the last day at Lords last week, partly or even mainly because there was a longer form white ball game to settle things. In the days of three days when Mark Nicholas was captain I seem to remember something similar being done more than once.

If the total number of overs across three days could be made a more or less a non-issue then……..play to a conclusion at weekends and those who thought they were only interested in the white ball game might start attending as well.

Comment by StephenFH

I agree with Ian that there is no chance of turning the clock back to uncovered pitches but I’m intrigued by the way in which Taunton has been transformed this season from batsman- friendly to a result ground – and since the ECB appears no longer to impose pitch penalties that’s interesting. The last match at Taunton saw a wicket fall at under every 8.5 overs. Bowl 108 in the day and that’s not far short of 40 in three days. The previous game the overs figure was even lower at 5.3 – maybe too low but nonetheless possible. Even their season’s average would provide 36 wickets over three days of 108 overs which ought to be enough for some interesting finishes. As for the Ageas Bowl – one victory v Notts, one avoidable defeat v Surrey, one desperate defeat v Durham and five draws over four days. Might as well have five draws over three days …

Comment by pompeypop

Why cut back on 4 day games just to introduce a city based game? Too much cricket for the poor lads to cope with? Last week Dave quoted statistics of the hours-per-week played by Hants players in 2016. He did the same for 2015. If the same figures were produced by other counties and widely published I think players would hide their heads in shame and we would never again hear complaints about the amount of cricket they have to play !

Comment by Brian Scrimshaw

As we’re on defending the 4day game, not the fact a lot of rich old grey men think they know what young people want (including inflicting their awful taste in music on them), as a stick in the mud Luddite Selfish Reactionary Traditionalist I’ll repeat my suggestion that when either the pitch is too flat, or too much play is lost, at some point mid way through the 4 days, if the game isn’t moving on Taunton style, we reduce the number of wickets available to each side in the second innings.

It retains the possibility of a draw, but makes a result far more likley, so kills off those totally pointless dead last 4,5,6 sessions when everyone knows nothing is going to happen (but we rug and thermos losers still hang around just in case it does!).

Comment by Jeremy

Durham relegated.

A lot of questions being asked about the relative financial positions of the 2 clubs.

That’s a place I’m DEFINITELY not going to go!

Comment by Jeremy

Indeed Durham going down with a 94 point deduction, 46 points from this season and start 2017 on -48 plus point deductions in T20 and 50 over games. Also no test matches.
This is response to accepting a £3.8m bailout.
Look forward to reading Rod’s response…

Comment by John Cottrell

The sad thing is that the Forum (if it remains as suggested on 12th October) is the same evening as the Hampshire Cricket Society evening at which Sean Ervine is the speaker. So 50 or 60 dedicated Hampshire cricket followers wouldn’t be able to attend the Forum !

Comment by Ken Berridge

Rod knows when to plan a meeting….

Comment by John Cottrell

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