It started very like any other season, but this has become without doubt cricket’s annus horribilis. Last night, a pitifully meagre crowd watched a pitifully meagre cricket match at Cardiff in what should be a warning to ‘the authorities’, to the players and to their agents.
Those who bothered to go to Cardiff watched a game of 196 balls and paid between £35 and £55 pounds for the pleasure, which Third Man calculates was 23p a ball for the average £45 ticket holder, and 25p a run. But it was the one-sidedness of the affair that was such a ‘turn-off’.
Those who love cricket are distraught, bewildered and struggling with the effects of this season; its disrupted, inconsequential fixtures, confused competitions, over supply of T20 matches, weak Test cricket, tainted faire and arrogant pricing.
At what stage will someone paying close to £40 a month for a Sky package, including cricket, phone to cancel their subscription and tell the operator to get back to them when England reach Brisbane?
How many people are likely to ‘walk-up’ to watch the remaining ODI’s and how many with tickets will resent their gullibility in having forked out in advance, trusting the ECB to be staging a skilful, aboveboard and entertaining match?
When will a county with a great history and loyal supporters go bust having over bid for an international match and lost a fortune?
It is now more and more obvious that the so called contest with Pakistan should have been cancelled on the Saturday night of the Lord’s Test when officials would have been aware of the material that the News of the World had or even much earlier (as much as a month before the Lord’s Test) when those in authority and positions of trust were made aware of the concerns over match fixing and improper activity and when the ACSU apparently served notices seeking information from certain players.
In this emergency, players from across the globe could have shown their love of the game and their gratitude to cricket supporters by volunteering to form a World XI to honour the outstanding fixtures.
They might even have done it for the benefit of the millions in Pakistan who are still copying with the calamity of the great floods and for whom international cricket has been a hindrance and not a help.
As it is, in more ways than one, the game is dancing with death.
UPDATE: See also Clive Rice here.