England offered Mad Cap vision of the future

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The Independent Online

England's principal lesson from their winter one-day circus should not be about the effect of the bouncer rule, the importance of wicket-taking or how the first 15 overs should be used in the early part of the 21st century.

England's principal lesson from their winter one-day circus should not be about the effect of the bouncer rule, the importance of wicket-taking or how the first 15 overs should be used in the early part of the 21st century.

It should be how to market the game. If India was a special case – cricket crazy does not begin to sum up the attitude to the sport and its players – New Zealand has demonstrated perfectly how it can be presented to the public. In every sense, one-day internationals are a family. In every aspect of the one-day game, England are still playing catch-up.

"This is going to be as good a crowd as we've had since I've been here and since the bumper crowds during the 1992 World Cup," the Auckland Cricket executive director, Lindsay Crocker, said. "We sold the last tickets today but I think it would have been a very good turn-out whatever happened in Napier the other night."

Crocker conceded that New Zealand's good early form in Australia and England's comeback to leave the series nicely poised at 2-1 had helped. But it is the occasion as much as the match which draws in the crowds.

It will still not be to everybody's liking at Lord's but New Zealand Cricket has devised a corporate strategy for its one-dayers which England cannot quite match. The music between overs is skilfully chosen, the crowd are urged to become involved. Youngsters and their mums are there in abundance. The female constituency is dramatically important to the game.

There was a lovely touch at McLean Park on Wednesday night when the disc jockey and announcer, said: "There are now 500 free rides on the bouncy castle." A long queue of eight-year-olds dashed for the back of the stands.

NZ Cricket has also formed, unfortunately perhaps, its own answer to the Barmy Army, which is again here in force. The Mad Caps are official and have appeared at all games so far in low key but more tuneful mood than the Barmies.

Mad Cap images are regularly seen on the giant replay screens. "This allows us to have some fun with highly visual stunts which the whole crowd can enjoy – at the expense of the Barmy Army, of course," the Mad Caps leader, Patrick Duffy, said.

They have also had frequent reason to play "Bye Bye Love" and "Se Ya Later Alligator" at the backs of departing Englishmen. All good fun and, all slicker than in poor old England where the ECB will presumably say that it is trying. All being well, the tour report from the operations manager, Phil Neale, will cover more than the state of play.

* Matthew Hayden hit his fourth century in successive matches against South Africa as Australia dominated on the first day of the first Test at the Wanderers in Johannesburg. The left-hander, dropped before he scored by Jacques Kallis off Makhaya Ntini, was eventually dismissed for 122 as the tourists reached 331 for 5.

* Shiv Sunder Das's second century at Nagpur gave India the upper hand on the second day of the first Test against Zimbabwe. Das reached his 50 off 88 balls, and his century came in the 66th over, he soon fell for 105. The hosts ended on 209 for 2, in reply to Zimbabwe's 287.

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