Trend-spotters across the Atlantic are starting to predict the hot new accessory for a New York summer – a cricket bat.
The quintessentially English warm weather game of cricket, which predictably we exported around the Empire only to watch other countries become better than us, is proving a growing hit in the US.
More especially, New Yorkers appear to be embracing cricket – both as a sport and a cultural phenomenon.
There is a certain irony in knowing that as New York finally starts to get turned on to cricket, there is a good deal of soul-searching taking place about the state of the English game. This doesn’t simply relate to on-field performances, but whether the business of cricket in its current format has a long-term, sustainable future.
Cricket has been chasing the corporate pound in the UK for some time, but efforts seemed to have redoubled in recent times and there is mounting concern about the impact this is having on the game itself. Familiar concerns for most professional sports, maybe, but cricket seems to have been skirting around them for a long time.
The old buffers don’t want to talk money on a summer afternoon when there’s cricket to be watched. So when will they talk about it?
This is especially true of the attitudes displayed towards the emergence of the Indian Premier League. The UK cricketing authorities have remained largely sniffy, although some players are warning it could have a devastating impact on the sport in this country.
The IPL is undoubtedly changing the face of cricket, but does it represent a solid foundation to build on?
The summer game now has more competition in the UK – from rugby league which changed its season for weather-related reasons; from football and rugby union and the myriad close-season tours and tournaments that now take place; from golf and the widespread TV coverage it is now afforded.
Cricket is trying to move with the times to compete, but progress is slow and new ideas tend to be tried in isolation with very little (if any) joined up thinking.
There are some brighter and noteworthy stories, not least the redevelopment of Glamorgan’s Sophia Gardens ground in the centre of Cardiff into a test match venue that will stage next summer’s opening Ashes match.
Indeed, the way in which Glamorgan went after and secured test venue status and created a new-look stadium within budget and on time suggests it might have found a blueprint for others to follow.
Certainly some of the initial negativity and scepticism surrounding Glamorgan’s successful bid has been replaced by worthy praise for what has been achieved. Obviously success on the cricket pitch is still massively important, but a more stable and optimistic off-field outlook is also vital.
The fact that criticism is still being levelled in the direction of Wales highlights one of the biggest problems cricket faces – it is stuck in its old ways. The sport might have developed new formats such as 20/20, but old habits and attitudes die hard in cricket.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that as New Yorkers look to embrace cricket, Paul Russell – the chairman of Glamorgan who has spearheaded the redevelopment of Sophia Gardens and put the club on a firmer business footing – earned his own corporate stripes in the US.
Instead of continually asking “Why Cardiff?”, the critcs would be far better served asking those behind the Cardiff bid: “How?”