Joe Root has welcomed the ECB’s grand plans for Twenty20 cricket but has underlined the need for it to be shown on terrestrial television.
The England and Wales Cricket Board has unveiled a blueprint for the future , declaring that its proposed eight-team T20 format was needed to ‘future-proof’ domestic cricket.
England’s new Test cricket captain believes the tournament needs to be broadcast on free-to-air television for it to emulate the Big Bash League in Australia, for instance.
“I think it would be a very good idea,” he told BBC Radio 5 live. “You look at other competitions in the world and they have been successful. It would make a huge difference. The coverage we are given by Sky is exceptional. They are fantastic, and continue to be fantastic.
“It is very important the public are given an opportunity to see cricket at a national level, on free-to-air TV. It will be interesting to see how things pan out and what decisions are made.”
English cricket vanished from terrestrial screens following the golden summer of 2005, when millions watched a glorious Ashes series and the game at grass-roots level saw interest rise dramatically. Sky’s grip over the sport since then has made it difficult for free-to-air broadcasters to compete and viewing numbers have inevitably tailed off.
The former England skipper Michael Vaughan argues that the ECB needs to seek out new audiences, like the Big Bash has done in Australia. “Cricket in this country needs something that changes the way we talk and think about the game,” Vaughan said.
“Sixty per cent of people that go to the Big Bash are families, people going to cricket for the first time, and I think that is where the ECB are looking.
“They took the game from the fifth favourite sport in the country five years ago to the first. They have improved attendances by 71 per cent in that time. The Big Bash has worked remarkably.
“Every one can see every ball of the Big Bash. Cricket is there for everyone to see. I love the thought and talk of terrestrial partners and the game seen. But I don’t think that is the be-all and end-all. I think it is important, but I think cricket has to do so much more.
“This tournament will get a huge amount of marketing. A massive juggernaut because it will be seen everywhere. And I can understand a county who say ‘how come we never got that?’. Where I am hoping the ECB want to take this new league is to this new environment of support.”
The new tournament, set to begin in 2020, will have 36 matches played in 38 days of July and August. The ECB has stated it wants “at least eight games” shown by a terrestrial broadcaster.