So we have a sporting fixture clash, which is a little irritating. The ECB have known since approximately 1930 that there would be a World Cup this summer. Its schedule was finalised and released in July 2015, three bally years ago, and the draw held last December. For seven months they have known the dates of England’s group games, and of their likely knockout ties. There were only two days when England might have played in the Round of 16. Tonight England play simultaneously in the World Cup, and against India at Old Trafford.
The ECB knew three years ago – or at least they could have found out given a couple of minutes on Google – that there would be a rest day last Friday. They knew there would be rest days this Wednesday and Thursday. Yet instead of judiciously avoiding a clash they snubbed the days when they could have monopolised our attention and instead scheduled matches for tonight and on Friday, when Brazil and Belgium – and it might have been England – play a World Cup quarter-final. True, they finalised their own plans for this period last summer, before the World Cup draw, and tickets for this match went on sale in October. But even if they were determined, as it appears, to go head-to-head against the World Cup it was not beyond the wit of man to build in some kind of contingency in case it was England that they ended up competing with.
When Colin Graves, the ECB chairman, says that “the younger generation, whether you like it or not, are just not attracted to cricket”, and then hides the sport on subscription channels and schedules England games against crucial World Cup matches – which are on terrestrial television, free to view in the UK, and the subject of wild media hype – he and his organisation look way beyond foolish. And they will look foolish tonight, when we find out the abysmal viewing figures the majority of this match can reliably look forward to attracting.
You may detect in all this the irritability of a man who is contractually obliged to watch a relatively meaningless cricket match while the World Cup is on, and you would not be entirely wrong to do so. There is a certain glory to periods of sporting overindulgence, to having a day of tennis followed by genuinely enticing cricket and football, but I am grumpy because I have been denied the right to watch England play in both sports, live and without Likely-Lads-style carry-on, a feat which with a little intelligence and foresight should have been eminently possible. The ECB will be punished for their own ignorance, every time tonight’s crowd cheers or groans about events they are preoccupied with but are happening 2,000 miles away, and when the result is reported in brief on the 87th page of tomorrow’s sports sections.
This game could be an absolute belter. It could turn out to be a wonderful advertisement for the sport. But it’s an advertisement that nobody will see.
Anyway, enough whingeing. Here’s some more pre-match reading:
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