Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The Death of Sunday Cricket

I don't know about you, but in my opinion, and most definitely in the South East, there is something facing extinction. The World Wildlife Fund might go on about elephants, tigers or even pandas, although the only thing in England to be found in the undergrowth that eats, shoots and leaves is Paul Ross. One thing that is dying on its arse though is Sunday cricket, and that is a very sad thing for club cricketers across the land.

Village green Sunday cricket must not die!
Thirty years ago, Sunday cricket at my club in North London was stronger than Saturday cricket. Regularly we would put three teams out on a Sunday, compared to two on a Saturday. Even twenty years ago, we would play sides from the Premier division in Hertfordshire, Middlesex or Essex on a home and away basis. For the uninitiated, this means that your first team play each other, say for instance on your ground, whilst the second string play each other on their ground. This tended to work very well apart from one instance in the eighties when a fixture cock up, meant that our weak Sunday seconds, faced a strong Ilford first team containing Alan Lilley of Essex who needed to play himself back into form, after an injury. Ilford amassed a mere 380, as Lilley helped himself to a very quick 190.

It wasn't always like this though, and Sunday cricket was strong. It was also sociable with sides having a beer afterwards, always buying a jug for the oppo, as well as being good cricket. It was an opportunity to play against sides that had been promoted or relegated from your league, and against people that you knew, often on stunning, picturesque grounds that you didn't have the opportunity to play on in the league on a Saturday. You would play against wandering teams (teams with no home ground) with magnificent names like the Malcontents or Jackdaws. The day would no doubt be finished off with six or seven of you in a curry house at midnight.


Alan Lilley or Lily Allen?

Now I look at Sunday cricket and feel pity for the youngsters. Good cricket clubs, sides who play Premier League cricket can not fulfil their Sunday fixtures. I look at sides that I know who have won the National Cup at Lord's who can't put a side out on a Sunday. Traditionally big cricket clubs, with their grounds lying fallow on a Sunday, like a farmer who has taken money from the EU.

So why is this? Sunday shopping hours have made a difference. Many a cricketer who would have played back in the day, now finds himself with that glazed look upon him as he is being dragged around some faceless shopping mall on the Sabbath. There is also generally more to do these days too. Pubs are open longer; until the early nineties they opened at 12-2.30 on a Sunday and then could open from 7pm until 10.30. Now they stay open all day. I'm not saying all cricketers are pissheads (although many I know are!) but family commitments such as meals in the pub in the afternoon seem to have taken precedence. Boozers have also become more family orientated and a place to take the kids these days, as opposed to the spit and sawdust of yesteryear. It's not like many of my team mates have suddenly found Jesus, it has to be said!

Sunday cricket has just got weaker and weaker over the years. It doesn't help that many of the sides who play Sunday cricket now, won't come up to your bar for religious or cultural reasons, thus meaning that the home team are less inclined to stay. If there are opposition in your bar, the onus is on the home team to hang around and show them hospitality. Our own club has tried using Sunday cricket as a development side, but when you get a fixture through the Conference and a side comes in as weak or medium weak, proceeds to rattle up 400 in 40 overs against a few teenagers, and then rings the boundary with four outriders from the first ball of the second innings, you really wonder if it is all worthwhile?

I am a great believer in time games as opposed to limited overs, with twenty overs commencing at 6.30pm. This teaches a good skipper how to dangle the carrot and winkle a side out by utilising his slow bowlers with close catchers. There is a place still for the draw in the game in my opinion.


Still a place for fields like this!

I don't really understand why it has died though. You see sides on Saturday run five or six elevens but can't get a side out on a Sunday. Surely if you play in the fourth or fifth eleven in these teams, and playing on park or school grounds, you would want to play on picturesque club grounds on a Sunday?

We did try and join a league a few years back but the travel and lethargy by our own lads to go some distance for a decent game took its toll. Initiatives such as development elevens, or sides playing twenty over bashes on a Sunday are now starting to take shape, as something as had to be done. It had to happen as without it, the game that you and I love, was starting to die at grass roots level.

I hope and pray, for the sake of clubs across the land, that it works.

1 comment:

  1. We mirror the problem in the South West. The problem we find is that we can only raise a very junior side on Sundays & with the fast emergence of Asian sides we do not receive bar takings from either side which is killing our club & many others in our area.
    In fact only one Asian player has actually entered into the bar after a Sunday game this season & that was to borrow the microwave to heat up some milk.
    Several of our local clubs have decided that It's not worth the effort & will pull out of league cricket next season & just arrange a few friendly's between ourselves, back to good ol fashioned beer cricket - . Just need to survive.

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