Don Topley: Cricket came home, but there is still work to do to secure our sport’s future
- Credit: PA
In his latest cricket column, Don Topley savours England’s historic World Cup win – but wonders if it’s enough to secure the future of the sport.
What a game of cricket - probably the very best cricket match ever, and it was watched by over eight million people on Sky or Channel 4.
I watched it initially at home and then listened to it on BBC TMS, before completing the match in a London pub, with hundreds of strangers who could not believe what we were all watching.
The pressure, the sheer exultation of almost winning, the heartbreak of probably losing and then to do it all over again, in an amazing super over.
The super over is cricket's version of the penalty shoot-out. Not sure it should have come down to a boundary count, but clearly someone had thought of the rules of a tie, despite the remote possibility of another tie actually happening in the super over of the World Cup Final.
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In the past - in professional cricket - we have had many different ways of defining a winning moment when a match doesn't decide the winner.
We had the simple toss of the coin. We have determined which team had lost least wickets when scores were equal. We have endured entertaining and pressurised bowl-outs where six bowlers bowl one ball at a set of stumps, but today we have the 'boundary count'. Well it is a batsman's game, designed by batsmen, made for batsmen and dominated by batmen - we bowlers are simply the peasants of the game!
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The 'Boundary Count' rule will probably now be changed as it is an unfortunate way to declare the winner. It's unsatisfactory. Perhaps Lord's, last Sunday, should have had a second super over, bowled by a different player, as long as there were many paramedics at the ground!
The emotion and then utter devastation of all those associated with New Zealand was plain to see, and our hearts went out to each and every Kiwi player and supporter.
But for Eoin Morgan and England cricket it was sheer ecstasy. The four years of planning by Team England, the many cricketers who have worn the shirt, not forgetting the likes of the tarnished Alex Hales - who certainly would have been a member of the squad - and also David Willey, who was jettisoned at the last minute to be replaced by new hero, Jofra Archer.
And then the sadly injured but popular Sam Billings. They all have stories to be told, but I really did spare a thought for these men, as they were a part of building - without the glory at the end - a World Cup winner. That's professional sport.
Cricket made the headlines on the news and front page in all newspapers that Monday morning. GMTV and Piers Morgan dedicated their entire morning programme to England's World Cup win on home soil.
Kids were enthused, adults - including non-cricket fans - enjoyed a good feel factor, on buses, at work and in the street. Why? Because over four million people watched it on free-to-air television on Channel 4.
This is so important as cricket has been behind a pay-wall, where the game is no longer relevant. This is a crying shame.
The other side of the argument is the enormous income received for the last Sky TV deal ensuring the future of many counties, as all 18 counties were struggling. Even then, five counties have very nearly gone to the wall in the last ten years.
Next year, we will see some of the new '100-Ball' competition on terrestrial TV, which is a must. I would also like to see the annual 'Lord's Test' on free-to-air TV as a protected event, as the FA Cup Final and Wimbledon are - important to ensure cricket as a sport is visible to the public.
Free-to-air TV and the 100-Ball are just two areas the ECB want to build on, to secure the popularity of the game.
The ECB had a plan to capitalise on the interest generated if the World Cup was won on home soil - there were e-mails with proposals distributed to each County Cricket Board back in the early summer, but sadly the timing of this World Cup win is inconvenient.
The much-heralded 'All Stars' eight-week junior programme has ended and most junior cricket club matches are finishing too as schools, parents and young cricketers turn their attention to summer holidays.
A 'few' cricket clubs/'hotspots' do carry on their Junior sections but generally many kids will have to wait to next year.
Some county boards or cricket clubs will hold the odd multi-day junior cricket course which is new, but most amateur club's junior cricket slows down as even the coaches will take time off - these tremendous volunteers have been involved since late winter/early spring in indoor facilities.
So, with the football season just two weeks away, can cricket and England's momentous success invigorate sufficient interest to secure the sport's future?