There is no need for another blog post from a cricket-lover who doesn’t like the idea of a 100-ball game. The concept is not aimed at me. It is, I assume, meant to be noticed by the non-cricket-loving public on account of it being different. Going from 120 to 100 balls makes little odds in cricketing terms, it is just ‘different’, allied with the new city teams.
So, the opinion that matters is not mine. You need someone who doesn’t watch cricket but might attracted by something…. different.
I’ve found one. Leonard. An eight-year-old who happens to live with me. Being my son, and all. He should be ripe for the picking, having a cricket-obsessed father with ready access to all the cricket that is on TV. Yet, despite my best efforts, he is unmoved by the bat and ball.
Patiently, I explain the 100 ball, franchise, concept, and ask: would he like to go?
“It wouldn’t be exciting – not like football.”
I should point out here that he is football-mad.
I enquire as to why football is more exciting and, here, in no particular order of importance, are his reasons:
- There are no Match Attax cards or Panini stickers. “You can’t swap cricket cards at school like you can football.” He points to some boxes of Coco Pops that are running a Panini football sticker promotion. “They don’t do that for cricket.”
- No cricketing equivalent of Ronaldo, Messi or Harry Kane. “You don’t get players like that in cricket.” I venture Ben Stokes and Virat Kohli but draw only a blank look. Here is a boy, born and bred in Sussex, wearing a Barcelona shirt with Messi printed on the back.
- “You don’t get skills like Messi dribbling round someone or Ronaldo doing a bicycle kick.” Again, I plead the case for the mysteries of leg-spin but he shakes his head. “It’s just people hitting the ball miles. No-one at school is going to go ‘wow he hit the ball miles’ the next day.” [Apparently, sixes and entertainment are not synonymous.]
- “Everyone at school is talking about who is going to win the World Cup. You don’t get that in cricket.”
He speaks some sense – for once. If you want kids to take notice, they need something to talk about. Someone to hang their hats on. Heroes. And they, and it, need to be sold. Really sold – not just adverts on Sky Cricket or billboards selling an abstract concept. Make it about the people. Whether it be 50 overs, T20 or 100 balls, that doesn’t matter – the personalities need to be sold. Trading cards, stickers, annuals, let the kids know who they are and what they can do, and next year’s World Cup is the opportunity.
After that, the format ceases to be important. If I can get him to be excited by Jos Buttler and Jos Buttler is allowed to play for Lancashire in a T20 (a big ‘if’ there), and they play Sussex at Hove in a quarter-final, then he might come along. At present, 120 or 100 balls, without the personalities, it’s all just cricket. Which isn’t – as I’ve been told many, many times – as exciting as football.