What can you say about Cardiff? Well, based on our research it’s the capital of Wales, home to around 361k people and in 2011, it was ranked sixth in the world in National Geographic’s alternative tourist destinations. Good old Wikipedia never lets us down, apart from that time around the release of Wolf Of Wall Street when we tried to use it to find Margot Robbie’s home address.
In the world of cricket Cardiff is of course home to the catchily named SSE Swalec Stadium, site of the first Test in this year’s Ashes, which England won by 169 runs in what turned out the be the least one-sided match of the series (and which featured Shane Watson doing his best impression of a glacier). There was much discussion about the standard of the pitch provided for that game – a pitch produced by groundsman Keith Exton, who has since been sacked for the low quality strip used for the abandoned Royal London One Day Cup game against Hampshire. It reignited a long running debate about the validity of Cardiff as a Test venue, a debate that this week’s men’s and women’s T20 Internationals reminded us we should probably get involved in.
Matt H: For the record, I am not Welsh. Nor am I Bristolian or Somersetian. But if I were, I’d like the chance to travel for fewer than 90 minutes to watch Test cricket. Until Cardiff hosted Test cricket, the west of England and Wales was remote from the Test match circuit, despite three counties being located within the area. With Durham also hosting Tests, all first-class counties now have reasonable access to the ultimate form of the game. Of course, many cricket fans don’t live within one of the 18 counties, but nevertheless, having Tests at Cardiff has filled a void (now for Tests at King’s Lynn to service the missing East Anglia region).
I get the impression that other counties are annoyed that Sophia Gardens benefited from public money. Residents of Cardiff are no doubt fuming that Cardiff Council wrote-off millions of pounds that was owed to them by Glamorgan County Cricket Club. But time can’t be turned back, even if the money, theoretically, could. Cardiff has a ground that has good enough facilities for international cricket (apart from the lack of a sight screen at the Cathedral Road end), is popular with the fans who do actually attend, and hosted the Champions Trophy with relative success.
Assuming six or seven Tests a summer, of which two will be at Lord’s, there are still enough games to go around – although the accountants may disagree. Why not have a cycle, with the grounds not getting a Test one summer having all the limited overs games instead. The cycle could be switched or altered so that the Ashes, and other headline series, are shared a bit.
Lord’s x 2, Southampton, Birmingham, Chester-le-Street, Leeds
Lord’s x 2, The Oval, Cardiff, Nottingham, Manchester
Howzat for a slice of fried gold?
Nichael Bluth: Before I go any further, I’d like to get it on record that Cardiff is a great city. I should know – I lived there. [Richard Keys reference: check – Ed.] The issue is, as with all these things, around money and greed. By encouraging Glamorgan to spend beyond their means, the ECB have got themselves into a situation where they have to keep awarding Ashes Tests to Cardiff, just to keep the wolf from the door. This then means that some other county then has to go without – be it Durham, Lancashire or whoever else – leaving them short of cash and thus perpetuating the cycle.
In order to try and keep everyone happy, or at least less unhappy, the ECB end up trying to cram in as much pointless international cricket as possible. ODI matches being played at the County Ground in Bristol are a perfect example of this. Did the UK really need a tenth international venue, one barely 30 minutes away from Cardiff? At one point there was even talk of Somerset looking to upgrade Taunton to host international cricket, but luckily they chose to lose all their money by hiring a bunch of shit Kolpak players and getting relegated instead.
The Australian way of doing things – five main Test venues, each of which (mostly) get one Test a year – isn’t without its flaws; the WACA having been allowed to become more outdated than Noel Edmonds, for example. But it does consolidate the spending around infrastructure and allow some degree of financial security. There’s no enormous spend on upgrading any of the other stadia to try and squeeze them into the calendar, no matter how appealing the prospect of Test cricket in Rockhampton might be. Which is not very.
The English market is obviously different – less concentrated in cities, more likely to actually turn up if their team isn’t winning – but the fundamental economics are the same. The ECB have been downright negligent in trying to encourage too many potential international venues, purely to play them off against each other to increase their own incoming cashflow, regardless of the impact on the counties doing the actual bidding.
All of which is to say that none of this mess is really Cardiff’s fault. Given the current situation it seems that international cricket will be heading across the Severn Bridge on a fairly regular basis, if only for financial reasons and regardless of what our mighty website says about the situation. It was the decision to actually allow this situation to occur that the ECB should be truly ashamed of. That and the fact they allowed Giles Clarke to wear the same suit for the entire duration of his stewardship.
Matt H: Well that’s something we can all agree on for once.