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Cricket must seize day

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Mihir Bose | 08:00 UK time, Wednesday, 6 May 2009

This should be English cricket's great year.

Not only are the Ashes at stake but the ICC World Twenty20 takes place on these shores in June, the first major international sports event to be held in Britain since the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

More than that, this is an off-year as far as football is concerned, no World Cup or European Championship and no Olympics.

Yet why do I get the impression, shared by many I have spoken to, that the cricket season is creeping in like a thief at night?

County Ground, Nottingham, April 2009

My impression may be coloured by the fact that I have just come back from India where the Indian Premier League's coverage has at times overshadowed the country's elections.

It also does not help that tradition, which matters more in cricket than any other sport, has taken a blow this season with a Lord's Test match not only beginning early in May but on a Wednesday not Thursday and carrying such little conviction for the visitors, that the West Indies captain Chris Gayle only arrived in the country two days before the match.

Not surprising then that tickets for the Test have not gone well and, even allowing for how far the once mighty Windies have fallen, this is a worrying augury for the season.

The reasons may be well known. There is the inexorable rise of IPL. Add to that the fact that the West Indies are the third choice team for the early summer series, after Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka for various reasons had fallen by the wayside.

But even allowing for all that my worry is that English cricket will fail to construct the sort of narrative a sport needs and English cricket craves.

I realise the old narrative has gone and will never return.

The narrative which saw the visiting Australians take in the FA Cup final at the end of April, then drive down to Worcester for the a match starting on 1 May and hammer their way around the country before the Tests began.

Now football never ceases and nor does its appeal. Its ability to combine Victorian pot-boiler with the hypnotic allure of the modern-day sitcoms, so compelling that in the unlikely event of the established Dickensian characters such as Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger ever fading a new one is always ready to emerge. Guus Hiddink seems to have been barely five minutes in this country yet ..

Cricket has nothing remotely like that to offer. To be fair cricket is not the only sport in search of a narrative. Flat horse racing is particularly aware of this but to its credit it has recognised the problem and is addressing it.

Yes, ideas are being considered to freshen cricket up. Lord's is bidding to stage the first day-night Tests in this country next year, and is looking at having a Middlesex day-night county match later this summer. Starting at 1430 this could see players wearing pastel shades and with two new balls, one for each end. I have long been an advocate of a county match starting at 1430. Not only would it make much of the light we have in the summer but it would mean first-class cricket would be in harmony with club and village cricket.

But welcome as such ideas are they remain isolated. Our cricket administrators remain averse to change and they give the impression that like Mr Micawber they are hoping something will turn up.

It worked in 2005, a season that began slowly but developed into an enthralling Ashes series and a memorable England victory. But as Mr Micawber found out you cannot just wait and hope. You need to venture out and seize the moment.

If English cricket fails to do that in this of all summers then it will have no-one to blame but itself.


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