Overworked against underprepared: The battle nobody wants

The prospect of an Ashes series between an overworked England and an underprepared Australia, has the potential to produce some appalling cricket that I’m not sure I want to watch.

England are currently plagued by injury and poor form with the bat. With each week, another fast bowler goes down and every other week, a new top-order batsman gets called-up, or recalled. 

Like many supporters, each chop or change is met with the phrase: “Well, it can’t be any worse, right?”

It’s impossible to settle a team which doesn’t have the quality to succeed, but with the fixtures the way they are, matches just keep on coming and there’s no time to think. It feels like England are on a treadmill that keeps getting quicker.

While England can’t catch their breath, Australia has been metaphorically sitting on the sofa, not doing very much [other than losing, of course]. 

Australia last played a Test match at the start of 2021 against India at home. And they lost that series – after brilliance from India’s third string Virat Kohli-less team. 

Since then, they lost a T20 series to New Zealand, lost a T20 series to West Indies, narrowly beat the Windies in an ODI series, and then lost to Bangladesh, 4-1. 

To say they are lacking form in limited overs would be generous, and of course, they are also going through a tumultuous period with their coach, Justin Langer. 

They are in many ways just as scrambled as England. 

Joe Root, I mean England, on the other hand defeated a weak Sri Lankan side in a Test series, before being destroyed by in India in all formats. They were outplayed by New Zealand, and now they are being subjected to another mauling by India, in Tests. 

I am not even bothering counting the Sri Lanka and Pakistan ODI series wins, as they were such a poor quality opponents. 

What is clear, is whether overworked or underprepared, the quality in both sides is lacking. 

Regardless of how good the seam attack England possess is, only one batsman is capable of scoring serious runs, so they rarely get in a winning position.

For Australia, it is somewhat a similar story, with Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne the only batsmen to register tons this calendar year.  The previous year, only Marnus and David Warner got a ton. 

It’s no surprise that Smith and Marnus were not involved in Australia’s limited overs misery this year, or it would probably have gone another way. 

While England can barely get a break, the first Test cricket Australia will play after their loss to India, will be the Ashes. The next time they play any cricket, will be in October, at the World T20. They are being starved of cricket.

By the time the Ashes comes around, England would have played India in nine Tests, and both teams would have also participated in the T20 World Cup, and some players, probably the IPL too. England also have a tour to Pakistan. 

The cricket is just never ending, and many players are going to be physically shattered, and probably damaged in terms of mental health also, if living in ‘bubbles’, or under restrictions. 

After the last two years, having too much sport is not something one should complain about. 

But frankly, I won’t be relishing getting up in the middle of the night to watch Dom Sibley and Rory Burns trigger a collapse. I don’t want to see the moment Jimmy Anderson goes off injured after bowling 2.3 overs. I have no interest also, in seeing Steve Smith score hundreds and hundreds of runs against Craig Overton and Sam Curran. 

While England have a renewed and welcome focus on white ball cricket, it’s starting to be to the detriment of the Test side. The side used to think ahead and plan. Now it doesn’t have that luxury.

It has to keep going on the treadmill, until it falls off.

Well, I don’t really want to watch this cash cow be milked anymore.

The Ashes won’t have balance, quality or be entertaining – and fans deserve better.

Why club cricket could benefit from the Hundred’s format

Whatever one’s criticism of The Hundred, it includes innovations which have shifted the balance towards the ball – and this could help energise recreational cricket – especially for younger players.

Now before you leave the page and have a massive go at me, I am not suggesting all club cricket is reduced to 100 balls. Even if sometimes my Sunday side plays that format by accident.

The fact is however, participation in club cricket – especially for young people – is declining.

And no young person is encouraged to play by standing at fine leg, not bowling and batting at number eleven – as was the case when I was younger. I almost quit numerous times.

From my own experience of being on a club’s committee more recently however, I find it’s a weekly nightmare to get 22 players out across two teams.

People don’t want to give up their weekend unless it’s going to be worth it for them – or perhaps more significantly – unless they’re playing with their mates.

While The Hundred has its many faults – not least that it’s plonked in the middle of the Test summer and poses a possible existential threat to other forms – it clearly has its benefits too.

First and foremost, it has engaged communities, families and individuals who probably otherwise wouldn’t have got involved in cricket.

When I went to the Hundred, there were some city w******s in the stands – who came to the women’s game for pre-drinks before making beer snakes during the men’s fixture – but there were also a huge number of young people, including significantly from south Asian and Caribbean backgrounds.

And that’s important.

In club cricket, participation is generally low, but there is a large contingent from south Asian communities. The problem has aways been that it doesn’t filter through to the domestic game. Given this large pool of untapped talent, there has always been a risk that participation from south Asian communities – especially among younger people – might decline as they move away from the sport their parents and grandparents played, and move to football or other activities. After all, why would people play a sport in which they cannot progress, if they are good enough? The decline in the participation for those of Caribbean heritage is a case-in-point for this problem.

The Hundred has undoubtably brought in more young people to the game, who might well now want to play cricket, with their friends. And implementing a similar format in recreational cricket – could be the best way to do it. Replicating what they saw on TV, or live, to get them in the door, especially in age-group cricket, might be a good way to re-energise club cricket.

More significantly, the actual game lends itself to the fielding side more than Twenty 20 does. I’ve played a few T20s at club level – and I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a single one. They are shoved into midweek evenings, and rarely does a bowler get their full allocation of overs.

For many recreational cricketers, Twenty 20 is played not because it’s a format conducive for big-hitting, but because it’s the shortest form.

Well, the Hundred is shorter – and unlike Twenty 20, and even other limited overs cricket, The Hundred’s format has offered a lifeline to fielding teams- which might be of benefit to club cricketers.

First and foremost, players can bowl 10 balls in a row, which means if someone is bowling well, pressure can be applied for longer. Indeed, it means there can be multiple ‘sets’ of 10 balls.

This has an obvious benefit for the fielding side, if they’re on top, they can stay on top. That’s significant, because many club cricketers will be put off from playing if they’re standing around in the field for hours on end not touching the ball. The Hundred’s format keeps them in the game and involved, more regularly.

The other plus of the Hundred, is the fact that when a player gets out caught, even if the batsmen cross, the new batsman has to face.

This offers the fielding side a chance to keep a set batsman off strike, thereby tipping the balance to the bowers again.

The result of this, has been extremes doing very well.

The leading wicket takers in the Hundred this year so far have been mystery spin, in Adil Rashid, Rashid Khan, and high pace, in Marchant de Lange and Adam Milne.

In other words, the Hundred allows the fielding side to stay on top, and when the fielding side is on top, it’s harder to play against either mystery spin, where a batsman has to create the pace, or extreme pace, where reaction time is lower and it’s harder to dominate.

The Hundred offers a bit more balance between bat and ball than T20 in this respect – and that could be of benefit for club cricket.

Especially for age group cricket – meaning Under 15s and down – the Hundred’s format could be ideal.

It gives bowlers an extended spell when they’re doing well – thereby rewarding them, and it ensures their games do not become centred around stage-managed big-hitting, which isn’t commonplace in low-level or age group club cricket.

I don’t have all the answers, but it might be an interesting experiment for clubs to play a Hundred-style format, to see if it can be more fulfilling than regular 35 over or 20 over games.

The Hundred’s rock-and-a-hard-place: Match-day experience versus quality of cricket

I wasn’t in the ECB’s brainstorming meeting when they were plotting The Hundred, but I bet it started something like this: “How do you get new people into cricket?”.

The Hundred is not too dissimilar to T20, which is hugely popular and successful, but unfortunately, England didn’t master it. India did. And India has a very large captive audience.

The Hundred feels in some ways, like England’s attempt to ever-so-slightly reinvent the wheel, using a franchise-based, city/region-based model, instead of the old bloated county structure.

It’s in in its early days so I went to a game this week to see what it was like. I regularly go to T20s, and love watching any cricket at Lord’s. This visit was more curiosity than any affinity to the Hundred or ‘London Spirit’.

In truth, I was hugely cynical and skeptical before the tournament started, but I have really enjoyed it so far. Watching it on TV has been great.

It mustn’t be ignored, that the diversity and size of the crowd is impressive. As I waited outside St John’s Wood Station, there was an eclectic mix of red-trousered MCC tie-wearers, young kids, families, and your bog-standard cricket fan. To say Lord’s was a sell-out is an understatement. There was barely room to move.

Playing was the London Spirit against Trent Rockets, and on show were some incredible players: Rashid Khan, Marchant de Lange, Eoin Morgan, Alex Hales and D’Arcy Short. The problem was most certainly not the quality.

It very quickly became apparent, that however much I enjoyed watching the Hundred on the TV in the past few weeks, what I was going to get live, was a different product.

When I watch The Hundred on the TV, I have commentary, analysis, the odd statistic. The fact it’s 100 balls is immaterial if the quality is good.

When I watched it live, specifically the men’s form, I was flooded with gimmicks on the one hand, and starved of any cricketing context on the other.

Whilst before I was watching cricket, now I was ‘experiencing’ cricket.

All around me were kids trying to get onto the TV camera, asking the London Spirit production team if they can be picked for the big screen activity they were doing. This involved whacking a ball into the crowd, (which had a significant number of city workers, who were quite drunk), picking a card to start a chant or a Mexican wave, or other such trivialities to distract them from the actual game going on right in front of their faces.

They weren’t really watching the cricket at all.

They were there, and will remember it as they had a good time. But it wasn’t because of the cricket.

Maybe, hopefully, the next time cricket is on the front or back pages for the right reasons, they’ll remember the time they went to Lord’s and that cricket seed will grow.

Who knows.

But when I watch live cricket, as an actual fan, I want to engross myself in the game. It should go without saying, but I want to *watch the game*, and have something riding on it.

I also want to know who fielded the ball, who took the catch, what the batting order is, and most importantly, how fast Marchant de Lange is bowling.

The big screens at the Hundred don’t give you that. They just give the bare bones. God forbid the plebs can’t process more than two things at once. And there is a distinct lack of both replays and details. Even the use of the word ‘wicket’ has vanished.

Most disappointingly, the Hundred is set up to be a quick format which has wide appeal, but the pitches used at the moment are disappointing. There is a huge amount of spin being bowled across the competition, and plenty of low scores, which isn’t really what the doctor ordered.

Watching both the Rockets and Spirit scrape to 120-odd was quite painful at times, and it certainly won’t help inspire a generation of young cricketers, who had hoped to see some big hitting. Sure, the nail biting finish is fun, but 80 percent of the game was actually pretty crap.

The match-day experience of the Hundred is not something I’d want to go through again as a cricket fan.

I like the format, on the TV, when I don’t have to experience all the unnecessary gimmicks.

But let’s hope one day all the bells and whistles can be dropped – and fans can just appreciate the quality, when they are also fans of the game as a whole.

Jack Leach’s simplicity and specialisation is vital for England’s balance

Amid all the loud noise of a World Cup-winning Ashes summer, a back-to-basics approach is needed to help an England side violently swinging from meteoric highs to hysterical lows.

Watching England can be bad for your health. 

This summer, I’ve sat through a World Cup final and super over, seen England bowled out for 85 and 67. I’ve watched Jofra Archer arrive, Ireland bowled out for 38, and THAT Ben Stokes century at Headingley. 

There doesn’t seem to be a bridge between horrendous collapses and supernatural individual brilliance and it’s completely unsustainable.

It’s the result of a lack of concentration and focus.

Major elements of the Test side that played in that World Cup team, have struggled, bar Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer. 

Jason Roy’s selection has been a catastrophe, with just 57 runs versus Australia.

Joe Root, has scored two ducks and two unconverted fifties while Jonny Bairstow is averaging 20.50 in 2019, down from a below-par 30.45 last year. 

Jos Buttler has been practically non-existent in this Test side, averaging 19.41 this year, down on his already poor Test record of 32.90.

It’s almost like importing ODI stars into Test cricket won’t work if they can’t adapt their games in a short space of time. 

What has worked, has been Rory Burns, a Test specialist scoring a century in the first Test and a fifty in the second. 

Ben Stokes decided not to play against Ireland, but took a break to settle his mind, and scored two back-to-back tons. 

Archer didn’t face Ireland either, or play in the first Test of the Ashes, and everyone can see his impact. 

What has worked also, is Jack Leach, a 28-year-old who has never played a T20 and has only 16 List A games to date. 

He has focussed on being England’s Test spinner, and has helped give composure for the format.

The reality, is England have been looking for a ‘proper’ spinner since Graeme Swann’s retirement. 

Moeen Ali has been the custodian with 181 wickets at an average over 36, which isn’t terrible. But so far, in seven Tests, Leach has 25 wickets at an average of 25. 

England fans have been screaming out for someone like Leach. 

And what’s the first thing that happens after Headingley? He is dubbed a ‘village cricketer’.

 He responded to the ‘village’ remark, saying it was: 

“… probably because I look like a village cricketer out there in my glasses, the bald head – maybe people think ‘that could be me!’ All the others look pretty professional.”

Fans know he isn’t a superhuman athlete, as he cleans his glasses between deliveries. We know he doesn’t have 15 variations or an unusual action that bamboozles people. 

Leach is an Orthodox spinner that will do a job, and as a specialist, he can hone his game in the format and become more refined and effective. 

Every team needs a mixture of mavericks and workhorses, and in Jack Leach, England may have the perfect counter-balance to the crash-bang-wallop of Stokes and lightning pace of Archer.

A pinch of ordinariness to keep the immortals in check. 

A maverick’s strength can also be their weakness

A maverick’s strength will often also be their weakness; a phenomenon which brought down Kevin Pietersen, and which Jofra Archer must be aware of as his career goes on.

These two players had similar routes to the top, uprooting themselves from their home country, before having a meteoric rise and impact at the start to their international careers.

Mavericks have a mixture of natural ability, consistency and confidence, that make them entertainers, but also often players who divide opinion.

The combination can rub people up the wrong way, and make them a focal point for criticism in harder times.

Natural brilliance can feel like they think they are better than everyone.  Confidence can be perceived as arrogance.  And having a vision for where they want to be, can be seen as self-centred, or too individualistic, in a team game.

Like Pietersen, Archer plays in an emotional way, and reacts to his opponents. 

KP burst onto the scene in the face of raucous booing in South Africa; which fired him up to score three centuries against his native country.  He proceeded to help England win the Ashes, smashing Glenn McGrath onto the Lord’s Pavilion and Shane Warne to all parts. 

Pietersen took people on and showed no respect to others’ reputation. 

He fundamentally changed England’s approach, yet his name is still synonymous with his off-field antics and claims surrounding his various fallings out with colleagues. 

After a World Cup win, and a single Test, Jofra’s reputation on field is on fire. 

He was the talk of the Test before, during and after Lord’s, and of course, everyone was gripped by his terrifying pace during the spell, in where he struck Steve Smith on the arm and head, taking him out the game. 

Yet, after hitting Smith, he was pictured walking back to mark, while the rest of his team mates went up to Smith to check if he was OK.  


Above: Jofra walks back to his mark as Steve Smith lies on the ground. 

Shortly after, he was smiling and joking with Jos Buttler, and Shoaib Akhtar took to Twitter to say: “…whenever a bowler hits a batsman on the head and he falls, courtesy requires that the bowler must go & check on him. 

It was not nice of Archer to just walk away while Smith was in pain. I was always the first one to run to the batsman.”


He revealed that his “heart skipped a beat”, and videos do appear to show him checking up on the batsman.  

But it didn’t look good at the time. 

Like Pietersen’s flare and talent, Archer will undoubtedly win England Test matches single-handedly in the future. 

But it’s precisely his ability and over-confidence which could sow seeds for discord, like it did with KP.

As England’s new golden boy, not only will he be a target for oppositions, but also for their fans and press, who want to drive a wedge between him and the mere mortals.

While both of these mavericks are different people and players, they are both essentially a ‘once-in-a-generation’ stars. They are formative to how an era of cricketers play.

When things are going well, mavericks are the expression of the side’s strength.  

And while there are problems, so often the individualistic players are the fall-guy, the supposed cause of friction within a team. 

The Root cause of England’s problem?

While Joe Root is indisputably one of England’s best batsman of the last 20-years, the captaincy is clearly impacting upon his consistency, and it’s not a price England should be willing to pay. 

Step back, and you see an overall record which is consistent, well-rounded. 

After 82 Tests, he has 6803 runs at a solid average of 48.94, with tons against every side he’s played, bar Bangladesh.

Yet of late, something is not quite right. 

He comes in, he gets in, and before you know it he’s on 30.

He has a nice partnership, gets past fifty, and then gives it away.

The batsman who has been England’s spine for years, capable of rebuilding or consolidating, has gone from being Mr Consistent, to Mr Consistently Inconsistent. 

In the last two years, he has scored just three hundreds, averaging 29.50 in 2019 (before Lord’s) and 41.21 in 2018. 

Since assuming the captaincy, his record has transformed. 

While a rank-and-file batsman, he averaged 52.80 with 11 tons and 27 fifties. 

While in charge, he has just five centuries and 15 half-centuries.


His average is down, his conversion rate is down and it is this inconsistency, which is a part of England’s problem. 

Joe Root used to be in a bracket with Kane Williamson, Steve Smith and Virat Kohli, as the four elite batsmen in the world. 

As ESPN Cricinfo highlights; that since January of 2017, Root’s record should just about put him in the top seven:


Perhaps one of the strangest things to happen with Root’s recent Test career, is his flip-flopping in the order. 

Despite clearly performing best at number five in the order, with six hundreds and eight fifties in just 18 Tests, he moved to four and then ahead of the Ashes, offered to bat at three, seemingly to ‘solve’ England’s order crisis. 


The reality is, Root’s inconsistent form and inability to convert 50s into centuries is the crux of the problem. 

Him moving to three isn’t going to solve the issue, unless himself starts cashing in with big hundreds, instead of 50+ scores. 

The problem England have had of late, has been around the opening combination. The inconsistency of Joe Root in that respect has been put into perspective of much bigger problems. It’s almost a ‘nice’ problem, that a batsman keeps getting 50s. 

While it’s obviously preferable a batsman gets 50+ than a duck, it’s also the case that the overall jigsaw of England’s batting will only start to come together when Root himself starts to take responsibility, and the team can bat around him, and rely on him. 

What does he need to do? 

Either he needs to ditch the captaincy and try and find his form of old, free from that burden. 

Or he needs to get back to number five; a position where there is less exposure to the new ball, and hopefully more of a platform.

Joe Root being saddled with the captaincy has an air of deja-vu about it, from his predecessor, Alastair Cook.

As if the best batsman just takes on the captaincy like a hereditary monarchy.

Yet, Root, like Cook, isn’t the world’s most inspiring captain. 

Indeed, at Birmingham on TMS there was plenty of criticism of him over field placings for Moeen against Smith. 

It’s not his forte. He has taken on this work-in-progress role, and the opportunity cost is his strength: runs. 

England need Root the run-scorer more than they’ll ever need Root the tactician. 

Let someone else steer the ship, you can be the engine. 

Middlesex are rock bottom – but there are reasons to be cheerful

*Blog initially posted on my Tumblr*

In 2016, just 3 years ago, I legged it from work one Friday afternoon [losing my wallet in the process] to watch Middlesex win the County Championship, Division One.

But for Middlesex – the wheels have fallen off since then.

Middlesex are rock bottom of the division two table.

We have just recovered, in rather epic fashion against Derbyshire, who scored 557/6 declared in one-and-a-half days, with two of their batsmen getting tons, while others scored 96, 99 and 92. 

Thanks to a supreme Dawid Malan 199, the game ended in a draw. But at the end of Day two, when I began writing, it certainly felt very familiar. Teetering on the brink.

But in many ways, that Malan rearguard sums up Middlesex at the moment. Very much down, but with glimpses of hope. 

How we have got to this stage is quite tough to unpick

I’ll begin with the sense of impending doom at the beginning of the season, when I made the decision not to renew my membership.

Membership isn’t cheap. £265. I looked at the fixtures list, and Lord’s championship games’ starting days didn’t fill me with hope.

There was 2 games starting on each a Monday and on Tuesday, with no playing days on the weekend. 

No games starting on a Wednesday, one on a Thursday, meaning potentially 2 days and no games starting on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

In other words, membership would be worthless as I could literally have gone to maximum two days (and I wouldn’t have gone two days in a row, anyway).

Even when the club changed it, so that two fixtures were to start on a Sunday, it was hardly a hook to get me in. 

While this was disappointing, I am fully aware this has been a World Cup and Ashes year, and I’d hope these fixtures are changed for next year, so all hope isn’t lost, quite yet.

In the T20 last year, they packed out Lord’s each week, but lost 12/14 games, with poor tactics and average overseas players in Ashton Agar and Dwayne Bravo.

The T20 blast hasn’t begun yet but given the fact they had a good run in the Royal London One Day Cup, coming second in the South Group, it would be fair to say things are looking up.

It helped that they showed more ambition, bringing in Ross Taylor for the RLODC, and signing of Ab de Villiers for the shortest form.

Last year, Middlesex finished fourth, with more wins than the team above us. Yet in 14 games, we had just 4 tons, and the top batsman averaged just 35. 

This year, we may be bottom, but Middlesex has already got 6 tons, including three from David Malan. 

There is Test match experience at the top, with Paul Stirling, Sam Robson, Malan, and when he returns from ODI duty; Eoin Morgan, too.

Although we’ve won just 1 out of 8 Championship games so far, we’ve also had 5 draws, owing in part to the weather. 

Middlesex has only lost one game, and Durham, who are two places above Middlesex, have lost double the number of games. 

With just 10 points between Middlesex and Worcestershire in sixth, there’s no reason to give up this season, quite yet; especially with in form batsmen.

All-in-All, there is a lot to worry about, but also in both the short and long term, scope for realistic improvement. 

Perhaps I’m a hopeless optimist, but while the county is clearly not in the best shape – it’s no time to hit the panic button.

There is potential to climb up the table, and build a new squad for next year with some of the older players moving on. 

While Middlesex must do better in the second half of the season – the direction for the future in the longer term is positive.  

What the Cricket World Cup can learn from the FIFA Women’s World Cup

When I was growing up, cricket was on the TV. I was born in 1993, and that meant that in 2005 when Andrew Flintoff set the country on fire during the Ashes, I was 12.

And I could watch every ball on Channel 4.

Cricket was on the front and back pages, and a large element of that, was accessibility.

People who had never seen cricket before, or those who had but weren’t ‘cricket fans’, watched it. Everyone was talking about it.

Millions won’t have access to often extortionate services like Sky, and therefore, many won’t go out of their way to watch the Cricket World Cup, in the way they watched the Ashes in 05.

Indeed, even Jonny Bairstow in his Telegraph column tapped into this disconnect, saying that players haven’t been able to watch the Cricket World Cup.

This is not just sad, but counter-productive, as resources are pumped into engaging young people to get into a cricket – which let’s face it – isn’t cheap to play, and can often result in hours of standing round doing nothing.

Cricket needs every bit of help keeping young people engaged.

What’s more, the UK is a very diverse place. We have big cities with ethnically diverse populations, large Indian and Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Caribbean communities, not to mention to pockets of those from the commonwealth.

We could, and should, be the perfect place for a World Cup. Many of the nations’ fans already here – to enrich it, and when India played Pakistan, we saw this very clearly. It was amazing to watch.

Were it not for the fact I am a cricket fan however, I probably wouldn’t realise this World Cup is on.

It hasn’t ignited the country like an Ashes series.

It hasn’t found its way onto billboards across the country.

Nor has it been a talking point in the pubs and on the streets.

This isn’t a reflection of quality – which by-and-large has been sound.

It speaks to the fact, that this tournament has not been accessible.

It hasn’t been visible to the ordinary fan, to the occasional fan, or the non-cricket fan, who stumbles across it while flicking through the channels. And it would appear, not even to some players.  If you weren’t aware of it, you might not even know it’s on.

But what about Women’s Football I hear you ask?

I am not the biggest football fan in the world. I’m not an expert, and certainly not when it comes to Women’s Football.

But on a quiet night when there’s not much on the TV, I’ll happily tune into any sport I come across.

It’s no surprise to me, that millions have watched the Women’s World Cup. Is the quality of football the best? No. It can be very scratchy and scrappy.

But there was a record-breaking peak of 7.6m watching England beat Norway.

It just so happens, it is on the BBC. Free-to-air TV.

The BBC outlines that audiences have also been growing in the UK when England play. There was 6.1 million against Scotland, 6.9 million against Cameroon, and 7.6m against Norway.

The crunch question, is how many would have watched these game had it been on Sky or BT Sport?

I’d hesitate to suggest, the figure would be lower.

People wouldn’t have watched it if it wasn’t there on the BBC One at a prime time.

Men’s cricket is a more established sport that Women’s Football in the UK, with more resources and more coverage. Of that there is little debate. But it’s also becoming incredibly a closed shop.

It’s only open to those who can afford it, whether that be shelling out on pricey equipment, Sky and BT Sport subscriptions, or ticket prices for this World Cup, which were regularly upwards of £100 (and hard to get hold of.

The paradox of this Cricket World Cup, is there is still huge untapped interest, despite it being one of the world’s biggest sports, owing to its large south Asian following.

Especially from second and third generation migrant communities in the UK, interest is squandered, partially due to a lack of access and routes into the game.

Whatever one’s criticism of Women’s Football, it has one thing right. It’s bringing the sport TO the public.

It’s making sure that interest is being generated, and it’s growing through that exposure.

Cricket’s is not just contracting, but it’s arrogantly assuming that it doesn’t need to keep on enfranchising people.

It must get back onto free-to-air TV in some capacity and its growth must be protected.

The vicious circle killing club cricket

This year has been the hardest for me in terms of playing cricket, almost to the point where I’ve considered not playing.

It’s sad for me to say, but I don’t look forward to getting the whites on anymore. I don’t relish getting onto the field, because when push comes to shove – I’m just not that good, and I can admit it.

I’ve never been that good, but now it seems to matter, where previously it didn’t.

I work hard at improving, but really, I’m a bog-standard seam bowler with little consistency. I can’t catch, and I’ve never hit more than 20 with the bat.

Yet for so long, players like me played cricket in spite of a lack of ability.
We fielded poorly, getting a bit better each year, nipped in with the odd wicket, occasionally did something great, then turned up at winter nets to have a chat in February.

But there is an increasing pressure at this base level of club cricket, which has been eroding recreational players’ place in the game.

In the last decade, participation has gone down steadily due to a number of reasons.

No doubt cost is one, weather another, the fact that cricket is no longer on free-to-air TV is certainly up there, and probably, the prevalence of T20, offering fans regular high-octane action to feast on.

There were roughly 430,000 club cricketers in 2008, and in 2015-16, this had plummeted to below 280,000, according to http://www.statista.com, which is almost half of what it was 20 years ago. Admittedly, I saw other stats flying around, talking about recreational club cricketers being in the millions. I certainly haven’t found evidence so far.

As the numbers of players reduce, clubs are forced to downsize, and in turn opportunities dwindle for fringe players such as myself.

Instead of there being three elevens, like there was in my local side when I first started, there’s now only one eleven.

That one eleven plays only on Sunday in a league, which means if I play, I don’t bowl. I’m way down the pecking order. And more often than not, I don’t get to play, full stop.

This is a damaging chicken-and-egg situation.

The more recreational players that stop playing because they no longer get a proper game, the lower chance there is for fringe players like me, to get a game at all – as clubs have less players to chose from  week-in-week-out –  in the long term.

This vicious circle makes it increasingly harder to grow local clubs and attract players.

The options for a player like me, is to have uncertain playing time, if I commit to my regular club. Or to not play, and contribute to the decline of participation in club cricket, or I guess, to go elsewhere; severing ties to friends I’ve made over the last 10 years.

In reality, I am just a domino.

I’m one person, in a long line of recreational players, who have reached a point where they don’t feel it’s worth playing.

This isn’t meant to be a self-indulgent sob story, but unless something is done to incentivise clubs to keep fringe players like me, struggling clubs will only struggle more, as recreational cricketers drop off the radar.

For now, I am not going to give up. I love playing cricket, even if at times it’s the most frustrating thing in the world. But I know of so many people who have, and even more are considering it, and there is a certain sense of inevitability, that at some point, it may be me.

Investment in Moeen shows way forward for top-order conundrum

The trust and persistence placed in Moeen Ali is how England should approach their top-order conundrum.

After a decade of success, English cricket demands instantaneous results, but this approach has cut off the side’s nose to spite their face.

Selection policy has become impatient and short sighted when it comes to the top order.

Alastair Cook has gone through 11 opening partners since the retirement of Andrew Strauss in 2012, now compounded by more gaps at numbers three and five.

Yet in the midst of chaos, Moeen Ali has emerged as a reliable and increasingly threatening allrounder.

But, it’s easy to reflect on his 25 wickets and over 252 runs against South Africa with rose tinted glasses.

It hasn’t always been plain sailing. Moeen Ali has batted in every position from one to nine, only scored one century in his first 20 Tests, and was averaging more than 50 in 2016.

England stuck with him, because they believed in him. They wanted Moeen because of the potential he offered. Perhaps the biggest seal of approval, was the bringing in Saqlain Mushtaq to assist him. Moeen has now said he wants him there permanently.

Ali has been an investment for England. His form has been changeable, but the concept is right.

The question, is why have England openers not been invested in? They have been tried and trashed. Quickly.

It ultimately lies in trust.

England have picked openers because of county form, with the hope they’d continue that. But they couldn’t, or at least not instantaneously.

But, It takes time to adapt. Keaton Jennings, like Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook scored a century on debut, and now he looks frail. But, no more frail than how Moeen himself looked in the first two years of his career – when he showed inconsistency.

They kept him and trusted him to recover. The investment was seen as worthwhile.

Jennings, and the hoard of other openers, haven’t been trusted to be able to adapt.

Within five or six Tests of his debut hundred, there are calls to drop Jennings and replace him with with yet another cab-off-the-rank from county cricket, with no-doubt, an impressive domestic record.

Why pick them in the first place if they aren’t going to be trusted?

England set a precedent in May 2013 when they dropped Nick Compton for the first time, and they’ve been doubling down ever since. They’ve been too afraid to change course.

Nick Compton had success opening for England. He scored two centuries in New Zealand, and had a good partnership with Alastair Cook. He was experienced, and in form. He needed to work on his game, but who doesn’t?

Dropping him set the ball rolling for England’s opening policy.

Openers are disposable, not investments.

Until a new Andrew Strauss comes along, domestic performers can be used once and thrown away.

This is a ruinous policy. England need an opener. They need one that will work in the long run. They may struggle at first, but Moeen Ali’s progress shows what can be done with hard work.