In the past couple of years, the England Cricket Team has built a highly dangerous limited- overs unit full of players with explosive playing skill sets. There has been a sudden surge in use of the attacking approach and new-age cricketers like Sam Billings, Jason Roy and Alex Hales have stepped up to the plate.
Cricket fans were amazed to see such changeover and many felt this was an attempt at stamping their authority in the ODI and T20 format. However, this was just a sort of short- term goal. The makeover England team has undergone took place with broader goals, which is set to help the game in a great way.
Ahead of the Champions Trophy, the top leadership of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have asked the England team to play with a carefree and risk-taking approach to attract a new generation of players and fans. In order to encourage the players to make the move, the ECB has also chosen to give liberty of playing without bothering about their chances of winning.
This feature has become the central pillar of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s new strategy to attract youngsters into the game. The ECB leadership wants to shed the image of a sport that can seem like a “privileged pastime” and inaccessible to the masses — a message that has been delivered to England players.
“The England teams are very clear that part of their responsibility is playing bold and brave cricket,” ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said on Monday.
“(Test captain) Joe Root and (one-day captain) Eoin Morgan understand their responsibility to be playing exciting cricket for future generations to connect with and for fans of the game to get behind us.
“It’s a very deliberate strategy. It doesn’t work every time you go out on the park. But we understand that it’s more likely you’re going to be forgiven for having a bad day if you’re doing everything to try to win a game, as opposed to not trying to lose it, which is a very key difference in positioning.”
Asked if boosting the health of the game with exciting matches is more important than winning a one-off Test playing boring cricket, Harrison responded: “One hundred percent correct.”
“We’re in a competitive world now,” he added.
“The reason why Twenty 20 cricket blows other ratings out of the park on television and attendances — and this is not just in the U.K., this is around the world — is because people want to watch. They know they’re going to go there and see some dramatic cricket, they’re going to see some amazing skill.”
In a bid to swell participation numbers, the ECB is trying to get more five to eight-year-olds playing cricket.
“This is the working class man’s game of the north — cricket is not a privileged pastime in this country and we just have to get away from that,” Harrison said.
“This is about winning the battle of the playground but it’s also about winning the battle of the car park,” he added. “And the car park is critical because that is where mums come into play.”
The ECB is preparing to emulate India and Australia by launching a new domestic T20 tournament in 2020 with an aim of attracting players from around the world to play in the eight city-based teams. England currently hosts the successful Natwest T20 Blast; however, it isn’t based on the franchise model and features the traditional county teams.
Harrison feels this would further help broaden cricket’s appeal and place a firm bid of becoming an Olympic sport. It isn’t easy but he feels taking the game to USA and China would help the cause greatly.
“If you want to talk about expansions into markets such as China and America, it is going to be a lot easier if you are an Olympic sport,” Harrison concluded.