I’m unfortunate (in a cricketing sense) to live in Cornwall. The nearest first-class county ground is a good 2 hours away. Want lovely views and stunning scenery? On my doorstep. Miles of beaches and blue seas? On my doorstep. Want to watch first class cricket? Best book some annual leave and start the car up. My dream for my retirement is a day when I wake up, have breakfast outside, go for a walk and then spend the best part of the day at the cricket, maybe I’ll have to move, or maybe not.
When we were growing up my friends and I used to have an annual opportunity to catch a glimpse of our heroes. The 1st Round of the NatWest Trophy. This special day in the calendar was where the Minor Counties would get their day in the sun, their Fa Cup 3rd Round, a 60 over match (that’s per side kids!) against a first-class county. This was a brilliant day out for the locals and a rare chance to catch a glimpse of the big boys. The counties would bring down their full first team and a great, often competitive, day was had by all.
It goes without saying given my Twitter account that I’m an unashamed nostalgia lover. Absolutely everything was better “in my day”. Never has this been truer than with cricket. As much as I relish the chance to watch the wall to wall coverage that my Sky subscription brings me, at the same time I deeply resent that this has marginalised various tournaments and put greater emphasis on others.
In the 1980s, when I grew up and fell in love with our beautiful sport, English domestic cricket used to have a structure. You knew where you were.
The NatWest Trophy, the Benson & Hedges Cup, the John Player League and the ultimate…. the Britannic Assurance County Championship.
Supplemented by a home Cornhill Insurance Test Series and a Texaco Trophy or two sandwiched in between you could set a marker with these competitions.
The County Championship was a constant throughout the summer, matches played in all kinds of conditions and on all manner of pitches. The players would get a chance to hone their skills and you would even see spinners taking wickets.
The Sunday League, get this, was every Sunday, an entertaining family day out. Usually some coverage on Sunday Grandstand, as long as you didn’t mind sharing the coverage with tennis or rugby league or some random motor sport.
The Benson & Hedges Cup was intense in the early months of the season culminating in a showpiece final in July. Memorable finals in the sun offering up the chance to get your hands on the first piece of silverware of the season.
The NatWest trophy built to a season ending climax in September, an always sunny Lord’s day showcasing county cricket at its finest. The final of the Royal London Cup this season is on a Thursday at Trent Bridge. Charming.
The international summer was built around this so the counties could still call on the services of their England players. Nowadays, as with a lot of things in life, I’m totally lost!
County Cricket has become a very poor relation, finances decree that it’s almost forgotten about in the cricketing calendar. The County Championship is shown the sort of contempt usually only reserved for the truth from politicians. Matches crammed into April and then late September to fit around the Blast and dare I say it, The Hundred. I’m not naïve enough to realise that this is where the money is to be made and our 18 counties would soon decrease in numbers without them but for an old romantic like myself it’s just not cricket. Central contracts have enabled England to be more than competitive across all formats but have deprived the counties of the best players for months on end during the season.
Now the IPL has come for international cricket and there’s only one winner there with the BCCI relentless in their pursuit of world (cricketing) domination. The sport I fell in love with is changing rapidly. I’m not sure I’m the market anymore and I fear for the future of the longer format of the game.
At least I won’t have to move I suppose.
Follow me on Twitter at: @80s90sCricket