PM’s XI must start earlier to attract young fans

Charlotte 23 September 2019 5
Another sunset view. Photo: Charlotte Harper

Two small boys in our house are asleep on their feet this morning after staying up an hour past their bedtime to see Adam Voges hit 50 runs off 29 balls in his final international appearance during last night’s Prime Minister’s XI match under lights at Manuka Oval.

It was a warm, clear evening, with the sunset and bright lights against the night sky the perfect backdrop for the T20 game.

The kids loved the fiery blasts around the ground each time one of our batsmen hit a six, the foot-tapping music between overs, and spectacle of fast run-scoring playing out in the centre, but we took them home at the end of the first innings. They were already bleary-eyed and today will be a struggle.

Some of the action in the centre during the PM's XI's innings. Photo: Charlotte Harper

When we bought the tickets, we contacted the parents of our son’s cricket team-mates to see whether they would join us. Four children, four families. All passed. They were too polite to say they felt it was too late at night for 7-year-olds to be out and about, but they were right, it was.

I knew it, too, but I have so many childhood memories of chasing the likes of Greg Chappell, Rod Marsh, Dennis Lilley, Greg Matthews, Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Joel Garner and Gus Logie for autographs with my father at Manuka or my grandfather at the SCG as a child. I want my sons to feel those same waves of nostalgia when they look back on early cricket experiences.

Cricket Australia, Cricket ACT and the office of the Prime Minister need to put their heads together and come up with a more family friendly timeslot for the annual Prime Minister’s XI match.

Manuka Oval under lights. Photo: Charlotte Harper

The four families we approached weren’t the only ones who stayed away. There were empty seats throughout the ground. The official crowd figure was 7,120, and seated capacity is 13,550, so it wasn’t my imagination that the ground felt half empty.

If it was because families were concerned about drunken louts sitting near them, they needn’t have been. There were two designated areas of alcohol-free seating. It was very pleasant in the area we found ourselves sharing with several Sri Lankan families.

Other commentators have argued that crowds will come with bigger name players (two of the more high profile players, former one day international captain George Bailey and Australian fast bowler James Pattinson had to withdraw in the lead-up to the match due to injury), or a scheduling change to a date earlier in the season.

Certainly, if the match was held during school holidays, families would be more likely to embrace it even at the late starting time, but for my part, I reckon the organisers could boost crowd figures by making one simple decision, to start the match at a more family-friendly time.

Manuka Oval curator Brad van Damm enjoying the atmosphere in his 'office'. Photo: Charlotte Harper

With so little international cricket on offer in the national capital, the sport has few opportunities to inspire our youngsters to develop a passion for seeing games live.

Seeing elite players perform at the highest level is one surefire way to inspire children to play the game themselves, too.

Our Oval is one of the finest in the country, so good that we’ll be hosting Test cricket in 2018-19. We have one of the most respected curators around (and the most committed – insiders tell us Bradley van Damm worked from 1am till after the end of play during the last one day international at Manuka). Let’s encourage as many families to appreciate all of that as we can by making it as accessible as possible.

By the way, those who stayed till the end last night saw Sri Lanka win the match by 5 wickets (with 17 balls remaining), a result that would have pleased the visiting Sri Lankan Prime Minister and his entourage in the Bradman stand. The PNG contingent were a happy bunch, too, with their side having defeated the ACT XI by three runs in the curtain raiser.

Should the PM's XI match start earlier, at say 5.15pm or 6.15pm, to encourage more families to attend?

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Pictured above are the sunset over Manuka Oval last night, some of the action during the PM’s XI’s innings, the lights sparkling after nightfall and the Oval’s curator, Bradley van Damm, enjoying the atmosphere in his ‘office’. Photos: Charlotte Harper

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5 Responses to PM’s XI must start earlier to attract young fans
Shane123 Shane123 9:54 am 17 Feb 17

My son was about 5 and we still took him there. I don’t think the starting time is the problem but more of what’s on offer. T20 was a good format for this match since the PM XI was very outclassed so it was good to suffer through a shorter period of misery and boredom.

If there was more on offer in terms of player quality, more attractions then perhaps it’d be better

Holden Caulfield Holden Caulfield 3:05 pm 16 Feb 17

Agree that it would be better if the PM’s XI match was earlier in the season.

Don’t agree that we don’t get enough international cricket in Canberra. That used to be the case, when the PM’s XI match was the only game. But we’ve already had a men’s ODI and two women’s ODI matches in Canberra this summer.

I’m not sure what more we can expect.

Playing a T20 in the daytime doesn’t make much sense to me. The bells and whistles associated between overs etc are best suited to night time.

It might just be that a T20 is not an option that suits families with young children too well.

You can please some of the people some of the time and all that.

twiggy6 twiggy6 12:29 pm 16 Feb 17

The empty ground wasn’t due to the late start, in fact an earlier start would have the same issue. If the game started at 5pm I personally would have missed the first two hours due to work. I can’t help but think there would be plenty in the same boat. The poor crowd is due to the ever diminishing quality of players playing the game. The days of the PM XI being full of fringe Australian players seem long gone and instead we are left to watch a team that collapses to easy defeats. No one likes to watch that, no matter what time the game starts.

John Moulis John Moulis 12:16 pm 16 Feb 17

Canberra is the victim of Cricket Australia playing sillybuggers over this game. Years ago it was held a week or so before Christmas during the summer of cricket and during the day time. But someone had delusions of grandeur and wanted to hold it under those very expensive lights. Then for some strange reason the game was switched to late February after the rugby league season had been launched and after cricket had been absent from Channel Nine for almost a month.

The ACT government should lobby for the game to be moved back to December at the peak of the cricket season. It speaks volumes that TV stations today have relegated the match to a quick mention at the end of the sports segment after long filmed reports about the football codes.

Rollersk8r Rollersk8r 10:46 am 16 Feb 17

Well to be fair this is the first time it’s been a T20 match. There’s been plenty written about there being too much cricket in our summer – and too many matches that don’t mean anything. And I thoroughly agree. The whole point of the PM’s match is a season preview. A chance for emerging players (and one or two established stars) to stake a claim before the main season gets underway. A token T20 thrown in at the very end of the season is worthless.

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