Trying to Seize The Moment…
In an Ashes year that doesn’t feature a World Cup, European Championship or Olympics, cricket has to try to grab the spotlight before the all-conquering behemoth that is the Premier League swallows up all the attention once more – Liverpool recently managed to fill the MCG with 95,000 fans for a meaningless friendly! With England having just won the Ashes 3-0 with a magnificent last session at Chester-le-Street, cricket should be poised to enthuse the nation, especially with the Twenty20 Finals which took place on Saturday and the Yorkshire Bank 40 boiling up nicely, though disappointingly for Kent.
However the Ashes this summer haven’t quite captured the imagination of the wider sporting population in the way they did in 2005. Part of that is obviously the current Aussie side is but a pale imitation of the team of legends that were so brilliantly defeated eight years ago, also rather than an 18 year wait to win the Ashes England have now made it four series win out of five.
Crucially though, another factor undoubtedly is the absence of live Ashes cricket on terrestrial television. The Channel Five highlights are well done and Test Match Special remains a national institution and those already gripped by the wonderful game of cricket will have spent the last few weeks following every ball whether it be online, on the radio or in the packed grounds. When Andy Murray won Wimbledon millions tuned in, not all necessarily regular tennis fans, for a national event, just like the 2005 Ashes. However the reality is less than half the nation have access to Sky Sports and the audiences have often been in the hundreds of thousands rather than many millions.
Those that have followed the Ashes have been thrilled by how they’ve panned out, especially anyone old enough to remember the debacles of the 1990’s, but perhaps cricket has missed it’s chance to capture some new converts to the game. Obviously Kent Cricket, like all the counties are very thankful for the monies Sky pay the ECB, a large chunk of which can help keep cricket at The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence, it’s a quid pro quo, a compromise, but it is a shame that the incredibly tense denouement at Trent Bridge and the astonishing collapse at the Riverside weren’t played out to a wider casual audience.
A similar thing has happened with domestic cricket, the Members, the aficionados, the hardcore supporters follow the season as avidly as ever, but with not one ball bowled on terrestrial television, even in highlights form, for too many potential supporters it is a case of “out of sight, out of mind”. My teenage nephews know more about the IPL than the domestic game here because they get to see the IPL live for free on ITV4. Even in the greedy and cynical world of football there is a realisation that they want to reach as many people as possible and make sure terrestrial highlights are available.
We might not know the long term affect of a lack of coverage on television for all for perhaps a generation, but for someone that first discovered cricket growing up watching Test matches and the Sunday League live on the BBC, it seems like that won’t be the case for the foreseeable future.
Eddie was born in Canterbury and now resides in Harbledown. He started watching Kent in 1979 and has been an active Member since the mid/late 1980's. Eddie has provided regular blogs during the 2013 season. The views expressed within Eddie's blogs are his personal views and not necessarily those shared by the Club. We thank Eddie for his regular contribution to the Club website.