LONDON (AP) — England's cricketers have been told to spice up their playing style to attract a new generation of players and fans, even if it reduces the chances of winning.
Encouraging the national teams to take more risks and produce exciting cricket is a central pillar of the England and Wales Cricket Board's new strategy to attract youngsters into the game.
The ECB leadership wants to shed the image of a sport that can seem like a "privileged pastime" and inaccessible to the masses — a message that has been delivered to the England players.
"The England teams are very clear that part of their responsibility is playing bold and brave cricket," ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said on Monday. "(Test captain) Joe Root and (one-day captain) Eoin Morgan understand their responsibility to be playing exciting cricket for future generations to connect with and for fans of the game to get behind us.
"It's a very deliberate strategy. It doesn't work every time you go out on the park. But we understand that it's more likely you're going to be forgiven for having a bad day if you're doing everything to try to win a game, as opposed to not trying to lose it, which is a very key difference in positioning."
Asked if boosting the health of the game with exciting games was more important than winning a one-off test match playing boring cricket, Harrison responded: "One hundred percent correct."
"We're in a competitive world now," he added. "The reason why Twenty 20 cricket blows other ratings out of the park on television and attendances — and this is not just in the U.K., this is around the world — is because people want to watch. They know they're going to go there and see some dramatic cricket, they're going to see some amazing skill."
In a bid to swell participation numbers, the ECB is trying to get more five to eight-year-olds playing cricket and reposition the sport as a game for all.
"This is the working class man's game of the north — cricket is not a privileged pastime in this country and we just have to get away from that," Harrison said.
"This is about winning the battle of the playground but it's also about winning the battle of the car park," he added. "And the car park is critical because that is where mums come into play."
The ECB is preparing to emulate India and Australia by launching a new domestic Twenty20 tournament in 2020 to attract the world's best players based around eight city-based teams rather than the traditional county teams.
What would further help to broaden cricket's appeal is gaining a spot on the Olympic program, but there are many hurdles to overcome, and Harrison cites a lack of universal support.
"If you want to talk about expansions in to markets such as China and America, it is going to be a lot easier if you are an Olympic sport," Harrison said.
Rob Harris is at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports