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Gooch fears for long-form cricket

Cricket | Published:

LEGENDARY England captain Graham Gooch fears for the future of Test Match cricket, as the popularity of Twenty20 surges across the planet.

And the right-handed batsman describes ECB plans for a new 100-ball competition, set to launch in 2020, as ‘another nail in the coffin’ for long-form cricket.

Gooch remains the second highest Test run scorer for England, notching 8,900 in 118 international appearances, but he admits he is anxious about the prospects of the form of the game he loves.

‘T20 cricket started in the UK in 2003 and I have to say I’m slightly amazed that none of its lustre has disappeared,’ said Gooch, who describes himself as ‘an old traditionalist’.

‘It’s gone from strength-to-strength. The crowds still love it as they did then, evening cricket starts at seven o’clock, finishes at ten on a Friday night, so the form of entertainment has brought in a different viewer and it keeps growing.

‘The worry is that the lustre of T20 has not diminished; it’s growing and growing, we’re seeing more competitions pop-up around the world. The Caribbean Premier League happening very shortly, a new league in Canada, the Big Bash and the IPL, the Pakistan Super League in Dubai, and I think South Africa will be starting their own T20 league in September.

‘This is all putting pressure on the traditional game, the five-day game, even the four-day game, first-class cricket, because more and more players are seeing the finances available in T20 cricket. Players are moving towards that form of the game which is a real worry for Test match cricket.’

Gooch was speaking while visiting the Island as a guest of Seven Investment Management, who have recently opened a Jersey office. As well as being guest of honour at an evening event, the Essex-born batsman spent time coaching some of the Island’s most promising youngsters.

He added: ‘What you do [to preserve Test cricket], I’m not really sure. You could go to four-day cricket, that might make a difference. How can you make it more appealing? I don’t know.

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‘In England we have to put an emphasis on good slots for Test matches and four-day games. Four-day cricket in the UK is the breeding ground for Test players and we have to look at it to maintain that otherwise it will become less important.’

Many clubs across the country continue to struggle to attract players – a trend matched in Jersey over the past two or three decades – leaving folding or merging with nearby neighbours as often the only option. It’s not a problem specific to cricket either, with most team sports facing similar problems.

Gooch’s passion for his sport is infectious – one of his primary goals while visiting Jersey was to ‘spread the word’ about cricket – but he concedes that the traditional forms of the game face an uphill struggle in an increasingly modern society.

‘That’s just the generations we are now; everything is quicker, everything is more instant, people want it straight away,’ continued the 64-year-old, who is an ambassador for Essex County Cricket Club.

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‘They haven’t got the patience or the time to go and watch Test matches, four-day cricket, so you get smaller and smaller crowds. That’s the world we live in at the moment and it doesn’t seem to be changing to attract the younger player, to keep the interest.

‘Clubs have folded around the country, amalgamated. I don’t think it’s because cricket popularity has completely waned, but the pressure on home life, working to make ends meet etcetera means players don’t commit the same time anymore.

‘Families don’t go to cricket and watch all day anymore so there’s much more pressure on players than there used to be.’

Earlier this year the ECB announced its intention to adopt a novel 100-balls per innings format for its new eight-team city tournament, which will launch in 2020.

‘The 100-ball cricket in two years’ time; I can’t honestly say how I think it’ll go,’ Gooch continued.

‘I suspect it’ll get a lot of support at the beginning but it’s forever shortening the game so if you’re an old traditionalist, a bit like myself, I want to see Test cricket survive, I want to see four-day cricket survive.

‘I’m being told by people in the hierarchy that that’s what the public want, that’s what the surveys show – they want an entertaining shorter-form of the game. I’m reluctant to knock it, but it is another nail in the coffin for long-form cricket, there’s no doubt about that.’

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