As inflation squeezes the pockets of the everyday punter, the 2022 Roses match(es) serve only to reaffirm the difficulty the England Cricket Board (ECB) have in ensuring the prosperity of the domestic game.
Regardless if over four days or four hours, the Roses match is always one of the most hotly anticipated events on the cricketing calendar.
I have been fortunate enough to have attended both Roses matches at Headingley this year, both in the LV County Championship and the Vitality T20 Blast.
Given its status, perhaps superseded only by the London Derby, it wouldn’t be an understatement to say that these matches show the true potential of English Domestic Cricket, providing the most exciting, high quality cricket and drawing in the crowds to match.
Somewhat worryingly, though, however much potential there may be, the Roses hasn’t delivered what, could, should and is expected of such a high-octane sporting occasion.
In both formats, undisputed superstars of the modern game have been on show.
In the Blast, as a the sun sets slowly over a two-thirds full Headingley, work cup winner Adil Rashid is working his magic over the Lancashire top order. Cast an eye to the dugout, you have the small-time Liam Livingston going through his warm up routine.
If that wasn’t enough, how does a Root-Anderson showdown sound? That’s two of the greatest cricket players that not even England have produced, the world has ever seen.
And yet, with the Ronaldo’s and Messi’s of cricket on show, attendance is good enough, but not great. As I write this in the media box, you would be forgiven for thinking that the pandemic was still in full swing, with a least 6 metres between each media mogul in attendance. At last count, there are 7 people in the media box, with about that many attending the recent 4 day match.
As previously mentioned, the crowds aren’t much to write home about either. 4 day cricket has always struggled, but the Blast, designed to bring in the crowds, really should be able to draw in near or at-capacity crowds.
Perhaps the issue is ticket pricing - with an adult ticket setting you back £20 in either format.
Perhaps it’s marketing, with very little going into making us aware of the game, or encouraging the media to even report on the match.
Perhaps the ECB has been left helpless in this regard, with external economic and social factors playing a greater role than we would expect. To understate the impact of recent world events on the disposable income of your average cricket fan would be impertinent.
With the pandemic, rocketing bills and the double-punch of stagflation, you can understand that people will find it much harder to justify the expense needed to watch a Roses match.
But either way, the Roses match remains a thorn in the side of the England Cricket Board, and poses questions about how Cricket’s reach and beyond can be extended.
With all the stars aligned, both metaphorically and physically in the slip corden, it would appear that the ECB is still unable to get people behind domestic cricket as is possible with other sports.
And with a calendar becoming ever more saturated with competing tournaments, domestically or internationally, the ECB needs to be very aware of what they are missing when it comes to these games.
If they continue to miss opportunities, and leave the huge potential these games offer on the table, then serious questions must be asked about what the future holds for the domestic game.