Please be aware any opinions are my own and are not representative of any North Wales League official, player or club (especially Llandudno CC).
Grow the Game
Over the last month, the World Cup has gripped the nation.
The standout cricket skills on show, combined with nail-biting and tense finishes, have made this tournament an absolute must watch for everyone.
The crowds have flocked in and made for sensational atmospheres at every ground.
But how do we as a league use this to our advantage to draw in crowds of our own?
It is a given that the best way to grow our game is to attract more juniors to the clubs, although not all Premier League clubs have junior cricket teams at 11s, 13s and 15s which is scandalous. But what else can we do besides getting youngsters playing?
I look at the results every week and see so many close games. You look down the list and see Mochdre have won off the last ball for a second week in a row. Or someone else has won by 2 wickets with 7 balls remaining. These are close and exciting games between the top players in our region, but nobody is watching.
There are only a smattering of spectators at the ground to see a brilliant game of cricket, generally in the sunshine, with alcohol readily available.
You then look at local football. Spectators have to pay to watch some games in the lower regions of the Welsh pyramid, yet they will get 200 people watching in the pissing rain. So how can we get a slice of that pie?
There is one thing that I think is glaringly obvious to add to our league that will make our game more attractive, not just to juniors, but to spectators in general. Coloured playing kit. As a sport, cricket has to get over this pre-conceived idea that cricket is dull.
When you ask a Joe Bloggs in the street about cricket, they will immediately say it is boring. It is a lazy comedian’s standard joke. To an extent, people are right. If you have no idea what is going on, then it probably does look boring watching 13 players all dressed in white running around randomly. Let’s add a bit of colour to the league!
Every club has their own club colours anyway, the kits would just be an extension of those cap and training top colours already available.
Make it something that the younger generations want to wear and get involved in. Each player can get their name put on the back of their playing shirt, complete with their squad number which is assigned to players by the individual clubs. It is happening in the most sacred of our formats (Test Cricket) so why not at local level too?
Use pink balls, or white ones. They absolutely fly off the bat early on and the condition of them cannot be any worse than the red ones we have been using for the last decade.
At Llandudno, we have bright yellow stumps and they are extremely easy for spectators to see. Making it easy to see when a wicket has fallen, wherever spectators are in the ground, will make is easier for them to understand what is going on.
Umpires can wear the same as international umpires. Change the white coat to red, with black sun hats and immediately we have made the game looking more like the professional game people see on the TV.
I have no doubt that millions of people (some new to the game) will be tuning into the World Cup Final on Sunday and will be drawn in by the bright colours, only to turn up at club grounds to see everyone on the field of play dressed in white.
“But we have white sightscreen!” Nothing a lick of black paint on one side of the screens cannot solve. One side black, the other side white gets the best of both worlds for league, junior and cup cricket. Or alternatively a couple of black sheets to go over existing screens would do the trick.
I went to Lord’s to watch England get beaten by the old enemy and the ‘extra entertainment’ that day was OTT.
There was some Mick Hucknall lookalike playing a guitar made from a cricket bat at every wicket and spectators trying to catch ‘cricket’ balls with a giant velcro helmet on their heads.
An Uber Eats delivery man would deliver hampers to lucky spectators and the big screen kept showing members of the crowd who were celebrating wildly, making themselves look like morons.
Although we don’t need to go that far, having an audio system set up to play music at boundaries, wickets and between overs is another way to encourage locals to come down and watch.
Families coming down is important. Entertain them and they will come. At the end of the day, they don’t have to pay to watch, they have a bar to keep them ‘hydrated’ and there is a big field for the kids to pay on whilst watching the game. What more could they want?
These changes can be brought in as a gradual process. Start with the Premier League, then introduce down the ladder as the seasons tick by. It would be a big change for the league to make, but I feel it is needed and would be welcomed by the majority in the league, although I am happy to be corrected.
In a time when cricket is struggling for numbers at grassroots level, we have to be proactive to try and stem the flow of people leaving our game at junior level.
Not only that, we need to attract the next generation of players to our game and compete with football, which has now become an all-year round sport. I am a traditionalist when it comes to cricket but times change.
We need to adapt and grow as a sport in North Wales, we have had major changes previously, there is no reason we cannot do it again and build on what has been a brilliant World Cup competition.