Cricket: Lamb launches strong defence of English game

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The Independent Online
Tim Lamb, the chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board, has defended the state of English cricket, following the damning observations on the domestic game from the editor of Wisden, Matthew Engel, in the 134th edition of the Cricketers' Almanack.

Lamb took the unusual step of responding to the criticisms in Engel's Editor's Notes, where it had been claimed: "Cricket in the UK has become unattractive to the overwhelming majority of the population."

According to Lamb, however, English cricket is in good shape both on and off the pitch, citing six reasons for his optimism. He said more children than ever are playing the sport; the ECB investing heavily in grass roots development in every county; there are a million youngsters playing cricket in schools and clubs (4,000 clubs have junior sections), and there are more than 10 million followers of the game; there is an excellent revenue base fuelled by ticket sales, broadcasting contracts and sponsorship; almost all tickets for the forthcoming Ashes series are sold, and broadcasting agreements provide for hundreds of hours of media coverage of the game; the England A team and Under-19s teams are consistently successful and there was a marked improvement in the senior team's performances in New Zealand.

"Cricket is thriving in this country, and the general level of interest in the game has never been higher. All this hardly points to a game in crisis," he said. "However, we do accept that it is inevitable that the game will be judged to a large extent by the performances of the national side and we accept that our results at Test level need to improve. But the game as a whole is in a very healthy state."

Engel claimed: "Amid the general global mood of cricketing expansionism, England is a spectacular and potentially catastrophic exception. In 1996- 97 the national team reached a point where even the good days were bad."