Concerns voiced over future of club cricket

IS CLUB cricket facing an uncertain future?

That’s the question posed by one veteran who is concerned whether today’s youngsters will still be playing later on in life.

Former sports journalist Neal Manning, who has been playing locally for more than 50 years, is worried that youngsters have no regard for the social side that has always been part and parcel of playing club cricket.

Manning, who started at Stutton in 1959, before playing for Brantham for 14 years and Mallards for five years and then joined Browns nearly 30 years ago, is still playing regularly.

The 69-year-old, who turns out for Ipswich and the Marshall Hatchick Two Counties Championship Over-60s representative side, said: “I know things have changed from when teams used to still be in the bar at midnight, but some teams now do not even go into the clubhouse after a game and have a drink.

“I think youngsters today don’t know how to socialise and talk to the opposition. They often sit on opposite sides of the pavilion after games, and in later years I am sure they won’t know who they are playing against.

“I played in a Seniors match recently and because of a late call-off a youngster played. He was looking at his telephone so I asked him a question; he looked up, said ‘yes’ and went back to looking at his phone!”

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There has been a staggering growth in veterans’ cricket over the last two decades as a combination of people living longer and the opportunity to play representative cricket has led to increasing numbers to carry on playing.

The Two Counties alone have 53 matches arranged for Over-50s, Over-60s and Over-70s this season in their 25th anniversary year which includes a tour to Yorkshire.

Add in the Suffolk matches at the same age groups and the number of matches totals in the region of 70 or 80 games.

Manning, who is 70 this year, said: “When I was 49 there were barely half-a-dozen fixtures a year, but Geoff Newman and the late Keith Croton have overseen an incredible growth in the last 20 years.

“Everyone plays hard on the field and then socialises off it. After these games everyone stays behind unless someone has to shoot off due to another commitment, and there is often food laid on, which is a big attraction for the players.”

While Manning appreciates that not every club has the resources to lay on food after matches like his own club Ipswich, he said: “I can’t see that happening in the future if today’s youngsters don’t know how to socialise with the opposition.

“The emphasis is on win, win, win, and I have heard players say they hope next week’s game is rained off because of who they are playing. There is no thought given to the fact that there will be no subs, no bar takings and no food profits if games are called off.

“Three matches were conceded the weekend before last in the Two Counties, after almost a month without matches due to the rain, when you would have thought players would be queueing up to play.

“The commitment of players is not as strong as it used to be, and that is a concern for the future of club cricket,” added Manning, who was sad to see such an established club as Bawdsey withdraw from the MSC Suffolk Alliance this season.

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