The great man is he who does not lose his child's heart. (Mencius, Chinese philosopher 372-289 BC)

Friday, 12 July 2013

Ashes? What Ashes?

Ashton Who? on his way to 98 runs yesterday

The fantastic summer of sport that we are enjoying this year keeps rolling on.

First we had the British Lions beating the Australians.

Then we had "Sir" Andy Murray ending Britain's 77 years of hurt by finally claiming the men's Wimbledon title in a thrilling final 10 days ago.

Chris Froome is currently leading the pack in the Tour de France.

And now we have the Ashes.

The Granddaddy of Cricket Test series.

England and Australia battling it out with the Willow and the ball.

The series has made an epic start. We had 14 wickets tumble on day 1 and the greatest total ever posted by a no. 11 batsman yesterday when Ashton Agar scored 98 in his debut Test innings.

The commentators on BBC's Test Match Special are falling over themselves to tell us what a great sporting spectacle this is.

This is a sporting battle that should be gripping the nation. The boys and girls who were rushing out every playtime with racket and ball to re-enact the heroics of Andy and Laura on the Wimbledon grass should now be doing the same and flinging yorkers and googlies at each other as they re-live the previous day's play.

It's not happening.

A quick survey of my kids' schools indicates that there are still more children playing tennis than cricket in the playground. A quiz of my children's cricketing knowledge tells me that they have no idea who Ashton Agar is and can only name one member of England's cricket team (Kevin Pieterson) - and this at a time when the England cricketers are arguably our most successful sporting outfit.

The 2005 Ashes series genuinely did grip the nation. Children did take to the parks and streets to ape their white clad heroes and for 1 glorious summer we were cricket crazy.

Why is this not happening this year?

Why are my children not in the least bit bothered?

Why can't they tell their Alastair Cooks from their Graeme Swanns?

In 2005 the Ashes was broadcast by Channel 4. Ever since it has been live and exclusive on SKY. Since 2005 Cricket has been chasing the cash of this sporting behemoth. As a result they have had millions of pounds pumped into the sport but at what cost?

Sadly this pursuit has led to Cricket disappearing from the radar for millions of English children. If I were a cricket administrator with a view that extends beyond this summer's payday I would be worried for the future of my sport. I would question whether a big payday today is worth an obscure future.

Cricket is a difficult game for schools to run. It takes a long time to play and it requires a lot of space. As a result it has disappeared from the curriculum of many state schools. It therefore becomes even more important that it gets plenty of television exposure in order to build up cricketing heroes and establish cricketing dreams among the young so that they seek opportunities to play this game which we are currently very good at.

So, Dear Administrators of Cricket - please look beyond the size of your wallets and look to the future - or your sport will die.

Speak soon
JH

PS Photograph courtesy of the Daily Telegraph
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