A Way to View the County Championship

Third Man had a piece on Dexter prepared for this morning’s session.  He’d arrived at the pavilion.  There was that lovely smell of fresh mown grass.  The stumps, far off in the middle, reflected the sunlight in that magical way.   The groundsman had the urn on in his shed and was doling out the coffee and tea.  The sky was blue and as free from jet vapour trails as it used to be in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

But the modern Third Man must look at his in-box.  There he found this message from Brian Carpenter at Different Shades of Green  reacting to Dr Dave’s  double on the future of the county championship:

“For a long time it’s been my contention that the authorities are happy with the fact that first-class cricket is largely played on days and at times when hardly anybody apart from students, the unemployed and the retired can watch it, and there’s little or no little prospect of that changing. As someone who works full-time and who doesn’t want to use all my leave watching cricket each season, I find that I can see less and less. But then, as the sides weaken and the ‘product’ declines, I find that I want to watch less and less. My Somerset subscription has survived into this season, but for how much longer?”

Professional cricket endures - the Surrey of now reflect on Bedser. They stand on the same turf, share the same concerns, practice the same skills.

Coffee in hand, and with the buzz of arriving players in the background, he set about an immediate reply.

Brian, Third Man urges you to keep writing the cheques, especially to Somerset!

The County Championship is now more than anything a meal ticket to ECB funding.  Even so, the fact is that the long form of the game is being played, the players compete with great intensity for their team and for their individual careers. 

The Championship (even if cut to 12 matches) will continue to have its particular and unique attractions for spectators.  Perhaps some of its functions and attractions have fallen away but this only more closely focuses attention on its role as the nursery for Test Cricket and as part of the way skills are exercised and developed for all forms of the game.

Should we not view it as such and find fascination and pleasure there?  

Besides following ‘our’ team, should we not see it as a way of getting involved in the dramas of each player, their bids for Test selection (or more probably for a central contract), and experiencing with them the challenge of keeping their place in each of the various forms of cricket they play.

The new strings-attached funds from the ECB will force Counties to find, develop and play young cricketers.  Third Man thinks that one of the pleasures of watching professional cricket over the next few years will be to watch these young people make their way, some blossoming into wonderful players, others dropping back down into the leagues.

TM has just recalled how his father posted off to Gordon Greenidge a 50p note when he had made his first 1st class century.  By watching Gordon from his first outing in the Hampshire Colts to the glories of a Test match double hundred, one ordinary cricket lover had a stake in one of the world’s great batsmen.

If counties are to keep their followers and members they should encourage their young players to get out of the dressing room and meet the public, to invite and welcome the patrons in to their training sessions and net practices.  To get away from the trite PR approved comments and to learn to express themselves in a way that shares the personal excitement, challenge and drama of being a professional sportsperson with those who treasure the game and will treasurer the fulfilment of their talents.

Just a few thoughts should any Chief Executive or Director of Cricket be looking in.

TM notes from their website that the Lancashire 2nd team is on its way to Stamford to play Yorkshire in what is quaintly described as a ‘friendly’.

Compare the Drives #2 featuring Dexter tomorrow.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “A Way to View the County Championship

  1. I can’t disagree with any of that, really, it’s just I’d love to see more of it. And the point about the effects of the ‘strings-attached’ ECB funding is particularly pertinent.

    Nice to see the photo of Surrey lining up to remember Alec Bedser. If ever there’s a physical structure outside a ground which evokes memories of cricketing times past, it’s the Oval gasholders.

  2. Yes, Brian, you should be able to see more. Why does the last day of a four day match have to be a Saturday when play is often either very dull or the result occurs at 11.35am?

    There is an argument that if there is change and a reduction of matches then there should be greater effort to make the Championship more and not less accessible.

    It’s is a weird doubling of standards that a club seeking ‘Club Mark’ or funds from ECB has to ensure it is open and welcoming, yet there seems no such injunction on county cricket which is receiving millions.

    The photograph of the Kennington gas holder at A Different Shade of Green (http://differentshadesofgreen.blogspot.com/) took TM’s breath away when he first saw it.

    He had the good fortune to play much of his schoolboy cricket near Glastonbury and the Tor dominated the experience of being on the field or batting. It was always ‘there’, a factor in the peripheral vision, an orientation. A similar effect must be felt with even greater intensity by all Surrey players.

    Come to think of it all cricketers playing at home or at a familiar ground experience this to an extent – the presence of a church spire or tower, even the window of a nearby house or, of course, a pavilion full of character.

  3. I’m glad that Third Man likes Tom Shaw’s photo. I think that the quality of the light, the fact that the gasholder is so perfectly framed and the precise moment that’s captured make it one of the best cricket pictures of all time.

    As soon as I saw it I knew I wanted to put it on the site. Getty Images charged me for the privilege but it was money well spent.

    I agree about dead Saturdays at the end of Championship games, but this season we’ll be lucky even to get those as there are a dubious number of Monday-Thursday and Tuesday-Friday games. Oh well…

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