Edgbaston Diary

By Stephen Brenkley
Click to follow
The Independent Online

To be seen at Edgbaston, relatively unnoticed but with a smile of understandable self-satisfaction, is the man who saved English cricket. He did not perform the rescue act alone and he will never play a Test match but Stuart Robertson's contribution will endure.

He did not quite invent Twenty20 cricket when he was marketing manager of the England and Wales Cricket Board, but he orchestrated the research and pursued the vision.

The result has been a transformation of how the domestic professional game is perceived and watched. For the third season in a row, crowds have increased.

"It was known more as 'Short-form cricket played for three hours in the evening' in those days," said Robertson, now marketing head at Warwickshire.

"And from our sample of some 2,500 people it seemed that this would be popular," he added. "We eliminated a third of the group with the first question, which was 'do you like cricket?' and ended up with a third to whom the game had some appeal. But it wasn't middle-class, middle-aged white males we wished to encourage. Where were women, families and 16 to 34-year-olds?"

So Twenty20, a game played at night by village cricketers for generations, was born. The average attendance at matches this year was 7,000, almost treble what Robertson originally envisaged. Women, families and the young have been entranced and the latest evidence shows that those traditional observers, the fuddy-duddies, have been similarly ensnared.

"But it wouldn't have worked without the players," said Robertson. "They bought into it. I still think it can grow some more but I do think it ought to be restricted internationally."

Wheelie keeps turning

Ashley Giles, bless him, has had a few things to say about his critics. He had a point but perhaps he should have kept it to himself. The last time the admirable Giles was upset it was because the radio commentator Henry Blofeld kept referring to him as "a wheelie-bin" and thought it was hilarious. It is not without a certain irony that Giles is now voicing his opinions in a column in The Guardian ghosted by David Hopps, the reporter who first likened him to a rubbish receptacle.

The bench mark

When Michael Vaughan was struck on an elbow in the nets, the name of Samuel Johnson was beamed round the world. It was Mr Johnson who donated to Warwickshire the bench on which Vaughan sat to receive emergency treatment. "He was an old member, that's all we know," said a county spokesman. If Mr Johnson or his relations are out there, get in touch. His seat never did better service.

Nothing daunted

Matthew Hayden, Australia's opener, was out for nought in his side's first innings. It ended a run of 67 innings without a duck, thus failing to equal Doug Walters' streak of 68 and 22 short of Allan Border's Australian record. David Gower holds the world record Test sequence of 119.

Comments