Mr Colin Graves
England and Wales Cricket Board
St John’s Wood
London NW8 8QZ
May 23, 2018
Dear Mr Graves,
Regarding your recent comments about young people not being attracted to cricket, I feel obliged – as a lover of the game and a father to two young girls – to stick my bat in.
Young people are very much in love with cricket. The kids who love cricket are in the home dressing room at Lord’s and they’re padding-up. The long game, the short game, the men’s game, the women’s game. They’re playing it in droves. The kids are playing cricket, not because they have to, but because they’ve chosen to.
This is no misty-eyed yearning for something that’s gone before: as the summer term begins boys and girls – yes, girls too – are turning their arm in school corridors and cover driving to an imaginary boundary. This is not Morris dancing after tea, or Just William, these are kids in 2018. Stumps chalked on a wall, jumper at the bowler’s end, one hand one bounce, not out first ball? It’s still going on.
My local club in Ludlow, Shropshire, hosts ‘All Stars Cricket’ during the summer months on Friday afternoons. Presumably you’re familiar with All Stars Cricket? It was set up by the ECB, and this is where the grassroots take hold, and the lawn begins to grow. Boys and girls of varying ages larking about with bats and balls. They’re throwing, catching, running and jumping; they’re learning how to communicate with their teammates; they’re learning you don’t argue with the umpire. They are being taught about the spirit of the game, which is something that transcends sport, and is so very, very important.
According to your own literature, “It’s not all about winning at All Stars Cricket. All you need to do is your best, be nice to each other, and whatever the outcome, enjoy yourself!” Well, bravo! That’s a lesson for life, right there. And, while they’re learning all this stuff, they – like you and I did as youngsters – slowly start to fall in love with this sport that is so very much more than the sum of its parts. Curiously, your people at Lord’s were reluctant to give me exact figures when I called and told them I was writing this piece, but 50,000 children across 2,000 venues? Sounds pretty healthy to me.
You say that young people “…want more excitement, they want it shorter and simpler to understand.” Well, we all did at that age. You don’t love the long game by nature; you learn to enjoy it, like eating your greens. All of a sudden you come to realise it’s good for you and then – because you’re growing up – you can’t get enough of it. Think olives, or sexual intercourse. Same thing. Some of the older children are walking through the Long Room onto the hallowed turf. They may not yet know it, but we all face our first delivery from the Nursery End eventually.
I took my girls (then aged four and six) to the last day of the Edgbaston test against Pakistan in 2016. Their first, my umpteenth. What a day! Cheapo tickets, family stand full to bursting. What went on in the middle (a most unlikely 140-run England victory mainly thanks to Moeen Ali) was largely incidental to me, because I was watching my children catching the bug; they were catching the bug with the hundreds of other kids who were there at their first Test.
Here, in south Shropshire, cricket is alive and well. The older kids join in and we all have a chuckle when our opener gets skittled by a 12-year-old girl. We bring our sons and daughters, and those who are too young to play sit by the boundary rope making daisy chains and they laugh when daddy takes his box out.
I believe your comments to be untrue, unhelpful, and unnecessary. Perhaps from your position in your office behind the dusty members, you’re not actually watching the cricket. The kids are alright, Mr Graves. They’re loving it.
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