Twenty20 has got into full swing this week and we've really enjoyed it at Sussex, with two fantastic wins against Hampshire and Kent which have put us in a strong position in our South Division. The grounds have been packed and there's been a fantastic buzz everywhere. At Hove we've created a carnival atmosphere with loads of extra stalls and marquees; at The Rose Bowl they've got a fairground ride going on while we're playing; at Chelmsford they've created a portion of the outfield for kids to play matches on with soft balls which was jam-packed when we were there.
Unfortunately, though, the competition has received some bad press this week because of one or two incidents. There have been suggestions that a football yob culture has come to Twenty20, but we have been crying out for that sort of interest in the county game for years. It is not the numbers through the gates that is the problem it is how we, as counties, deal with the paying public.
There were problems at Southgate on Monday in the Middlesex v Hampshire match with some vandalism and theft, which is horrible and beyond a bit of crowd banter. I have sympathy with Hampshire, but they then refused to sign autographs. That is the wrong way to deal with it as you are punishing the majority for the stupidity of a few and it sends the wrong message to kids after a souvenir from their heroes. If every team refused to sign autographs after getting stick, no one would get a signature and we would have walked away from The Rose Bowl this week without looking back.
The stick can be ferocious and personal, but you can't react. Sussex's James Kirtley has worn some but he's a strong character. It is a shame it happens and it needs to be eliminated. That is the counties' responsibility so Twenty20 remains a family day out. Crowd banter is not new but Twenty20 intensifies everything and some players aren't used to playing in front of full houses and dealing with it
At Chelmsford there is always some lively banter. On the boundary there can be a group of 40 people behind you calling you names, winding you up and oohing and ahhing when you field the ball. If you slip up, that's it for the night. It's like Headingley's Western Terrace. At Kent they have a similar area and The Rose Bowl can be hell as it is open terracing all round. Usually it is good-humoured and there is respect between fans and players.
Another factor this summer has been the rain and keeping the crowd informed of what's going on. There was only the three-hour slot for the games to be played in - something the ECB yesterday extended - and so once the start time has gone the fans can get edgy about play starting. If the game is delayed and then the sun comes out yet they only see a five-over game, it is disappointing. I understand it. If a family have bought tickets, food and drinks they can be 120 quid down and they want to see action.
It is not about the public accommodating the game, the game has to accommodate the public. We need to educate them about pitches getting damaged and the implication for future games. There is also the danger; in the outfield at Hants it was like running on ice because of the surface water, but the public don't see it. However, in Twenty20 the onus is on us to get play going.
I hope the coverage has not damaged the game. The last thing we want is to scare families off. We have a product the public love, it generates huge finance, and great fun. Let's weed out the few and keep it that way.
Experience of crowds is invaluable
The full grounds are a new environment for many players and add a new dimension to county cricket. It is priceless experience and while it doesn't mirror the international stage it is a step closer than most players will have been. It teaches us how to handle pressure and intimidating atmospheres. When you play in a C&G final, as we did last summer, in front of 26,000 it is not an alien concept any more.
It can bring the best out of some and it certainly has for our star of the week, Luke Wright, who hit 103 from 45 balls on Tuesday against Kent and 49 v Hampshire. He is only 21 and has a straightforward plan: hit the ball hard! But he plays proper shots and has come of age this season, finding some consistency. In the 50-over game young players can sometimes get confused - should I work it around or biff it? - but with Twenty20 it is simple and the fear of failure is gone. Luke has certainly cashed in.
Selectors miss a trick
England's selection for their Twenty20 matches against the West Indies has brought the first errors made by the new regime. They are obviously focusing on the 50-over games but they have missed a trick with the World Cup looming. There are county players ideally suited to Twenty20. Youngsters such as Luke Wright, Mark Pettini of Essex and Surrey's James Benning, who is lethal with the bat, mixed in with some old hands like Mark Ramprakash and Mr Twenty20, Darren Maddy. They could have focused on the Twenty20 stats for selection rather than gone for one squad which seems to have the 50-over games in mind.
It would have added some excitement for the public to see what the domestic game's stars can do. Ian Bell and Alastair Cook are right for 50-over cricket but I'm not sure about Twenty20, where they have little experience. But there is 50-over cricket round the corner so maybe it gives players a chance to settle in the one-day environment.
Frustration is name of game at Wimbledon
I have caught a bit of tennis this week and can't help but have Jekyll and Hyde feelings about Tim Henman. I love watching him and he was the centre of attention on the dressing room TV but he frustrates me. He hits the greatest shots in what must be a really intense environment. I just wish he'd lose it now and again. Let out the emotion. You have to as a sportsman. He is a brilliant player but never won and yet has Henman Hill named after him. It is all so English. The Australians or Americans would not do it.
My handicap is... debatable
The rain has scuppered most things this week and Georgia has not been able to hit a cricket ball in anger either. Sophie has entered a sort of triathlon, of all things. She's going to do the biking and two of her friends will swim and run. Good plan!
I got 18 holes of golf in on Thursday at Royal Ashdown. At the turn I was one under but came in at eight-over after holes 10, 11 and 12 were particularly unkind. Not bad for my second round of the year though and it was enough to win. I have a handicap of 12 at the moment, although some people will dispute that. But I tend to get worse the more I play. That second nine would have looked more familiar to people who know my game.
Brothers in business
I've been a bit of an entrepreneur this week. Or rather, my brother David has. He has set up a business, of which I am a director, supplying high-quality sports equipment chosen by professionals. He is concentrating on athletics, rugby, hockey and cricket and the full range of goods from sunnies to bats. It's at www.pro4sport.co.uk. Keep an eye out for us on Dragons' Den!
Great Sledging No 7 in a series
The best sledge of all time came from Jimmy Ormond on his England debut against Australia at The Oval in 2001. Shane Warne was bowling, Justin Langer was bat pad and Mark Waugh was at first slip. Ormond kept playing and missing and it got too much for Waugh, who said to Jimmy: "What are you doing out here? You haven't got a clue." "At least I'm the best batsman in my family," Ormond replied. Apparently, Langer fell about.Reuse content