Thursday, April 05, 2012
Why I rarely go to county cricket games these days
I don't go to these games half as much as I used to. In fact the last game I went to was Leicestershire vs Sussex in July 2010, when I had arranged to meet the admirable blogger Backwatersman.
In part this is because I have grown up and reluctantly recognised that there are more important things in life than sport. But it is also because something very odd has happened to the first-class fixture list in recent seasons.
Twenty years ago, if I woke early on a summer Saturday and felt the desire to see some cricket, I knew that if there was not a game starting that day at Grace Road then there would be one at Trent Bridge or Northampton or Derby.
Then four-day fixtures were brought it. In many ways this was an admirable move, and I supported it at the time. It did away with contrived finishes and declaration bowling and it gave young players down the order time to play a proper innings while forcing teams to try to bowl the other side out rather than just restrict their scoring. I am sure that these changes have played a part in the improvement of the England test team
But one effect of this move was to do away with reliable Saturday starts to fixtures. Games seemed to start on random days of the week and if you wanted to see one you had to plan the trip in advance.
Then came Twenty:20 cricket, which now dominates high summer. So county championship games are concentrated in the early and late weeks of the season. Hence today's ridiculously early start to the season - a few years ago we would still be at least a fortnight from the first, tentative university fixtures.
So far the cricket authorities have got away with this early start - in fact you could have played a test match last week. But one year soon it will rain for the whole of April and the county championship will be diminished as a result.
I once went to a game at Canterbury at the very start of May - I was sure it was in April until I looked up that scorecard on Cricket Archive. The day was so cold that I swore a solemn oath that I would never again go to a match before the start of June.
If I want to start watching county cricket again I shall have to break that oath.