But when it comes to the longer form of the game at both domestic and international level, time appears to be going backwards.

You’ll be able to hear bat hitting ball up and down the country, because most county grounds will be close to empty.

We all know the stereotypes. One man and his dog sat in the stands, freezing cold, while tumbleweed blows across the pitch as players stand shivering in the outfield with their hands in their pockets.

The impending death of county cricket has become an annual debate because attendances continue to fall off the edge of a cliff.

Only the most ardent cricket supporter is interested in going to watch a championship match these days, and I dread to think what the average age of this person might be.

But even those a bit long in the tooth must appreciate how utterly ridiculous it is that two sides can compete against each for days at a time and
still not generate a winner and loser.


England star Alex Hales

Yet the public are not to blame for the apathy that is killing this form of cricket, because if the superstars of the sport themselves can’t be bothered with it, then why should supporters be?

Change is to blame. Cricket is undergoing a revolution and, just like football, greed, hard cash and player power are at the heart of it all.

Not too long ago lucrative T20 competitions around the world were nothing more than a chance for players past their prime to top up their pension pots.

But white ball cricket has grown at such a remarkable rate and become so popular with live crowds and global television audiences, it is superseding Test cricket as the staple diet of modern day stars.

England duo Adil Rashid and Alex Hales are in their prime but have no intention of messing about with Test cricket. The shorter form of the game is now their bread and butter.

Who can blame them? Who in their right mind would reject the chance to earn bigger wages for less work?

T20 cricket is fast, furious and fun. The game engages the crowd, while Test and county cricket sends people to sleep.

In the recent Tri-Series in New Zealand fans who took a catch in the crowd could win themselves £50,000.


Cricket is undergoing massive changes

All that pensioners traipsing to venues like Headingley and Edgbaston for a county game this season will catch is a cold probably.

But while the growth of white ball cricket should be embraced, the rulers of the game have to accept it will come at a cost.

The romance of first class cricket is being killed by the razzmatazz of something far more exciting, railroading future generations down one particular route.

The greatest players we ever produced all learned their trade in first class cricket and the same rule has applied in Australia, India, South Africa and Pakistan.

This is where legends were educated in the basic skills of the sport as the foundations for their futures were laid.

Youngsters coming through now will take a different view, however and focus on the form of the game that will make them the most money, turning their back on the ‘Holy Grail’ of their chosen profession.

Earlier this month the ECB announced the Test venues for the 2023 series against Australia.

The Ashes remains the one Test series people of all ages still care about, but this winter’s instalment Down Under wasn’t even competitive.

So the equation is simple. Unless the ECB can make red ball cricket more attractive and sustainable then it will be hit for six and the Aussies needn’t bother even getting on the plane.

GOLF has long been known for being a game of manners.

But some of the current professionals are lacking such basic courtesy towards those who help make them rich and famous – the fans.

At this weekend’s Honda Classic in Florida, American Justin Thomas left a fan with blood pouring down his forehead after hitting him with a wild tee shot.

Thomas didn’t shout ‘fore’ to warn the unsuspecting individual of the potential danger heading his way.

Too many players do nothing more than simply waft their club in the direction the ball is hurtling, pick up their tee and head off to find it.

To be fair to Thomas, the reigning PGA champion took to social media to make it clear how bad he felt about what happened, which at least showed he cares.

But a signed golf glove won’t cover the victim’s medical bills will it?

Fans are too star struck to do anything but appear grateful for something with an autograph on it.

But just once it would be great to see one of them take a moral stance and remind the likes of Thomas that the very least players can do is show some thought towards the safety of those behind the ropes.

Gregor TownsendGETTY

Gregor Townsend is in the running to become the next Lions coach

THE race to become the next British & Irish Lions coach no longer involves just one horse.

England boss Eddie Jones is regarded as the firm favourite to lead the Lions to South Africa in 2021.

But he now has a serious rival for the coveted role in the shape of Gregor Townsend, who led Scotland to a remarkable Calcutta Cup win over Jones’s men on Saturday.

Townsend won his tactical battle with the Aussie hands down at Murrayfield and will become an even better coach with more experience.

When it comes to appointing Warren Gatland’s successor, Townsend has to be given some serious thought.

ELISE Christie insists her spectacular failures at the Winter Olympics will not define her career.

Good luck with that, because she’s going to have to win a hell of a lot of medals in the near future to make people forget what happened in Pyeongchang and four years earlier in Sochi.

Falling once is unfortunate. Falling twice is careless, but falling three times and then getting disqualified is just daft.

She went to the Games as a triple world champion.

But when someone thinks of Christie in two decades’ time it’s a fair guess that person will recall what happened in the Olympics.

Horror shows like hers are not easily forgotten.

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