Cricket faces ‘substantial crisis’ warns Surrey chief
Warning comes as the third Test begins in front of a far from full Oval
As the first day of the third Test against Pakistan was played out in front of a far from full Oval, the chief executive of Surrey CCC has warned that cricket could be facing a major crisis.
It was the first time that the first day of the Oval Test had not been a sell-out since 1996, when England were in the doldrums and the visitors were once again Pakistan.
Surry chief Paul Sheldon said the problem was being caused by "too much cricket", which was putting people off. He said there was a need for fewer, more "meaningful", games and pointed out that while Surrey hosted eight Twenty20 matches this season the total audience was the same as it had been the previous year, when they hosted five.
"It is a complex situation we find ourselves in," he said. "One does wonder if it is the beginning of something. If Lord's and the Oval Test are not selling out it is time to ask some fundamental questions."
He said he was concerned that there could be a "substatial crisis" looming for the sport and said that the situation was even worse for less fashionable counties.
"We need less cricket and more meaningful cricket. That has to be the answer. Every match must matter and must be of high quality. I have an absolute conviction we are playing too much cricket," he warned.
There is also a concern that an over-reliance on Twenty20 is undermining the popularity of other forms of the game. This season the County Championship was put on hold for several weeks to accommodate the 20-over tournament.
But other counties are adamant that they must have more T20 games, and have rejected the suggestion that there are too many such matches. For most counties the only time they get anything like a full house is for a T20 game.
Essex chairman Nigel Hilliard said: "We still take more in one night of Twenty20 than we do in three years of Championship cricket at Chelmsford."
At the Oval on day one of the Test, those who did turn up saw Pakistan's bowlers rattle through the England batting line-up until Stuart Broad and Matt Prior put up some resistance and guided England to a below-par 233 in their first innings. In reply Pakistan were 48-1 at stumps. ·
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