World Cup? What World Cup?
Most teenagers can't name a single famous cricketer.
24 May 2019
[This blog post was written before the sensational World Cup Final that gripped the country. At some stage I will repeat this experiment to see how much cricket's profile has been raised. There will of course have been a short term effect, but what will teenagers remember in six months time?]
It's 14 years since England beat Australia in one of the greatest Test series of all time. It was a summer when the nation was hanging on every ball. Nearly ten million people watched the gripping final match on TV. Fatefully, 2005 was also the last summer when live cricket in the UK could be watched on free-to-air television (Channel 4).
Today I was in a state school in leafy Dulwich - a corner of London that is filled with cricket grounds. If you're trying to find cricket fans in London, Dulwich would be a good place to start.
I was with a class of 30 "Year 10s", many of whom were born in 2005. So I thought I would ask them to fill in a short questionnaire for me:
(1) Name two famous footballers
(2) Name two famous cricketers.
I have just been through the results. All thirty of them named at least two footballers.
Only five were able to name even a single cricketer.
The cricketers that they mentioned were:
Freddie Flintoff (3)..... [Flintoff has been retired for ten years]
Alastair Cook (2)..... [Cook retired from international cricket last year]
Joe Root (1)
Jimmy Anderson (1)
Ben Stokes (1)
Few of the class were aware that a World Cup is about to begin (down the road at The Oval), nor was there much awareness of this summer's Ashes series.
If I'd asked a similar age group in Australia to do the same survey, I suspect almost all of them could have named two famous cricketers. That's partly because cricket is still on national free TV there.
Cricket is still, supposedly, one of the top three most popular sports in the UK. But if my sample is anything to go by, for many of the younger generation it might as well not exist.