Howzat! England crush Australia to reach final

Electric: The England team is full of swashbuckling players who should have been public heroes.

Should cricket be returned to free-to-air TV? Despite England’s brilliance, our national sport is dying at home while millions overseas are avid fans. Many say this is a criminal waste.

The newspapers agree about one story this morning. Nearly all of them carry joyful headlines on their front pages about the cricket.

“England take place in World Cup Final,” says The Guardian. “At last, another shot at the title,” says The Telegraph. “England heroes batter Aussies,” says The Sun.

And The Times goes with: “All eyes on England.”

Except…they aren’t.

The nation’s eyes are far more likely to be directed elsewhere on an incredible weekend for international sport. There is cycling’s Tour de France and the Africa Cup of Nations football.

And on “Super Sunday” there is the Wimbledon men’s final at 2pm. And the British Grand Prix at the same time.

Though millions around the world will be enraptured by England’s cricketers when they play in the World Cup Final on Sunday against New Zealand, only a relatively tiny number will be watching at home.

Nobody really knows our young stars. The names of our footballing Lionesses, who made it to fourth place, are household names. Why?

The answer is television.

Outside of the cricket grounds, few people in England are watching and plenty are barely aware that this tournament is taking place. Although Channel 4 has clinched a last-minute deal with Sky to broadcast the final, that is too little, too late. Not a single other game has been shown live on terrestrial television.

Many say that this represents a catastrophic failure on behalf of England’s cricketing authorities.

“A domestic-hosted World Cup represented an opportunity for the sport to reintroduce itself to fans who’ve stopped engaging since cricket disappeared to satellite TV, and to introduce itself to a new generation […]. The English team is one of the best in the world, with a number of swashbuckling players who should have captured the public imagination,” writes David Skelton in The New Statesman.

It was only 14 years ago that cricket genuinely did play a role. The 2005 Ashes was perhaps the best test series in living memory, and its pivotal moments dominated conversation in schools, workplaces and pubs. Regent’s Park and other outside spaces around the country were packed out to watch the decisive test match.

The peak TV audience during that golden summer was over nine million. The top audience for England during this World Cup has rarely exceeded one million, and has slumped as low as 500,000. Contrast this with the growing national mood of excitement around the Lionesses: England’s match against the USA attracted 11.7m viewers.

Stumped

If cricket dies, it will be a shameful betrayal not just of our national sport but of millions of young people who will never get a chance to play, say many. The English Cricket Board should be forced to overturn their disastrous decision in 2005 to let Sky show all England’s matches. Parliament should intervene.

Pure nostalgia, say others. Cricket has, rightfully, become a minority interest. The perfect place for a dedicated niche audience is pay TV. The national sport of England is now football — women’s as well as men’s. Cricket is complex, elitist and impractical for the modern age where large playing fields are hard to come by. Forget it and move on!

You Decide

  1. Is cricket boring?
  2. Does sport really matter?

Activities

  1. Using our Expert Links, make a timeline showing the history of cricket. (It’s a fascinating story.)
  2. “Cricket was invented in England and should be saved in England.” Discuss this motion in a class debate.

Some People Say...

“Cricket is basically baseball on valium.”

Robin Williams, American actor (1951-2014)

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Participation figures show that the number of people regularly playing cricket has almost halved over the last few decades.
What do we not know?
Whether plans to launch a new format — The Hundred — next year on the BBC will be be too little, too late, to retain cricket’s place at the heart of England’s national conversation.

Word Watch

Tour de France
The world’s biggest annual sporting event and probably the world’s toughest race. Nearly 200 cyclists race over 2,000 miles in just 23 days.
Africa Cup of Nations
The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations is the 32nd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, the biennial international men’s football championship of Africa organised by the Confederation of African Football.
Wimbledon
One of the oldest and, arguably, the most prestigious tennis event in the world. Since 1877, the All England Club in Wimbledon, London has been hosting the event.
British Grand Prix
A race in the calendar of the FIA Formula One World Championship. It is currently held at the Silverstone Circuit, near the village of Silverstone in Northamptonshire in England.
World Cup Final
England vs New Zealand, the 2019 Cricket World Cup final, the 12th of its kind and the culmination of 45 group stage matches and two semi-finals played over seven weeks. It will be England’s fourth final and New Zealand’s second — neither have won the tournament.

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