Daniel Gregory: Subtle changes could safeguard future of local cricket

Send your suggestions for change in local cricket to daniel.gregory@jpress.co.uk
Send your suggestions for change in local cricket to daniel.gregory@jpress.co.uk

There has been a lot of chatter on Facebook and Twitter regarding a thirst for reform in the local cricket leagues of late.

As a sports journalist covering all three cricket leagues and from experience playing for Scalby Cricket Club in two of the three leagues, I can see changes are necessary, but how drastic do these changes need to be?

Of the three leagues that operate in the area, I feel the Evening League is the most worrying/at risk, as the resignation of Brompton last week highlights.

I think anyone who is associated with any sports club will tell you, participation is down. People (especially younger people) don’t want to give up two, three or sometimes even four nights of their week to don the whites and play bat and ball.

From personal experience, it seems to be a generational thing. Speak to the lads who are in their late 30s or older and they’ll give you rhyme and verse about how they ‘used to play every night of the week back in the day’.

Times have most certainly changed. People aren’t as active and people definitely have more things to do, and subsequently teams are struggling to raise the full quota of players for evening fixtures.

As much as it word hurt the people in charge of the league to do so, the fixture schedule needs reducing or teams will simply drop out over time, leaving the better teams at the top playing in one division which would be a shame.

The main problem for me is the cup competitions. If you were playing every Tuesday and the odd Thursday here and there, I don’t think there would be a massive problem.

I would cut back the cups and focus more on the league games, giving people more nights away from playing cricket.

I’ve played in a lot of games, cup games in particular, where you get the feeling nobody actually wants to be there. If nobody wants to be there, what is the point? Are we getting paid? No.

I think there is still a place for evening league cricket, but it needs looking at. More and more players are walking away from night games and clubs are struggling, even folding.

Another way the evening leagues could be boosted is by revamping the Cayley Cup.

The Cayley Cup is the competition that would get my main focus in modernising the local game.

Why is a Saturday cup competition even played midweek?

Move it to a Sunday, play in coloured kits and freshen things up.

I think that would really help and I can’t see many drawbacks weighed up against the obvious benefits. You could keep it at 20 overs and have a finals day at North Marine Road, or revert it to the 40-over type competitions.

I would certainly be more excited by watching the Flixton Fire play the Staxton Snakes in coloured kits as part of my job for the paper than watching just ‘another’ cricket match in whites with the usual night league rules.

Yes, it’s a dramatic change for a traditional game, but sometimes you have to make a giant leap to ensure the safe future of the competition.

There are also other subtle changes that could be made to help boost participation. I think Saturday games should start at 12.30 rather than 2pm.

You might lose one or two who have to work early on Saturday mornings, but you’d gain more players by allowing them to make plans for their Saturday evening/weekend, rather than them being out of the house from 12.30 until sometimes gone 9pm.

Bowling restrictions are needed too. The teams in the Derwent Valley League seem to like the introduction of the bowling restrictions, so why not bring them in in the Beckett League?

After speaking to Beckett League secretary Ashley Winspear and his Derwent Valley and Evening League counterpart Bernard Goulding this week, they are keen to hear from clubs and players as to what changes, if any, they would like to see.

We want you to send us your ideas so we can pass them on to the leagues for their suggestions ahead of this year’s annual general meetings.

The date for any proposals from member clubs for both leagues is Saturday November 30, but we want to meet with the league beforehand to gauge their opinions on any suggestions you might have.

Send your ideas to me at daniel.gregory@jpress.co.uk or write to me at 17-23 Aberdeen Walk, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, YO11 1BB.