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Sunday, Sep 15, 2019

What does the English victory mean for cricket worldwide?

Andrew Strauss, the former England captain, believes the World Cup can be “a launch-pad for something bigger”, and thinks the 100-ball game due to start soon can convert the casual viewers, who watched their first-ever World Cup final this year, into cricket fans.

columns Updated: Jul 27, 2019 19:07 IST
Mark Tully
Mark Tully
The England cricket team with Prime Minister Theresa May, July 15, 2019, London.
The England cricket team with Prime Minister Theresa May, July 15, 2019, London.(REUTERS)
         

One might think that a column written from Britain this week should cover the Conservative Party choosing Boris Johnson as prime minister to succeed Theresa May, who has resigned after failing to get her proposed agreement with the European Union (EU) for Britain’s exit through Parliament. But it’s too early to tell what the impact of Prime Minister Johnson will be.

Therefore, I am going to turn to another story: The victorious England World Cup squad, and the impact of their victory. It’s a win not irrelevant to Johnson, and the strongly anti-immigration Brexiteers who support him. In fact, it demonstrates the benefits England and the English team have garnered from immigration.

Eion Morgan, the captain, was born in Dublin. Jofra Archer, the young fast bowler who was selected to bowl the super over was born in Barbados. Man of the match Ben Stokes, who rescued England from seeming disaster, was born in New Zealand. Tom Curran and Jason Roy are originally from South Africa. Then, of course, there were the two grandchildren of immigrants from the Mirpuri community, spin bowlers Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali.

Writing in The Guardian after the historic victory, Ali, said: “In the England dressing room, it doesn’t matter where you come from or what you believe in, if you can come together with a common purpose - in our case winning the world cup - and you show courage, unity and respect (our team mantra) you can achieve anything”. The members of the English team talked to Ali about their religion and culture, and made adjustments, as did the two bowlers. One adjustment has been the rest of the team accepting that the two bowlers stand aside from the exuberant champagne-spraying after a victory.

What does the English victory mean for cricket in the country of its birth, and indeed for cricket worldwide?

First, cricket lovers, who have been concerned about the decline in interest in the game, should take heart from the sell-out at Lords, the crowds who couldn’t get in, and watched the game on giant screens in central London’s Trafalgar Square, and the euphoria in the media.

If cricket in England can learn lessons from this competition, the depressing attendance figures in recent years can be reversed. One of the reasons for these figures is that for 14 years British cricket lovers have had to subscribe to Sky TV, which is much more expensive that Sky sports in India, to watch their favourite game. This time, fortunately, Sky TV was generous enough to allow the free-to-air Channel 4 to transmit the match. But if the English cricketing authorities care for their fans more than their finances they would give more TV rights to free-to-air channels.

Andrew Strauss, the former England captain, who was born in South Africa, and the former director of England’s cricket is credited with the turnaround that has taken place since England’s abysmal performance in the last World Cup.

He believes the World Cup can be “a launch-pad for something bigger”, and thinks the 100-ball game due to start soon can convert the casual viewers, who watched their first-ever World Cup final, this year into cricket fans. The 100-ball competition will be free-to-air on the BBC.

But questions have to be asked about the inevitable tendency of this tournament to give another boost to slogging rather than batting. The competition may also further undermine the 50-over game, which has produced such exciting cricket in the World Cup. But in these days, when cricket has to compete with so many other sports, the game in England has to move on, as it has done so effectively in India.

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Jul 27, 2019 19:07 IST