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  1. ITV Report

Cricket clubs hope World Cup will boost struggling grassroots game

Coaches hope England's World Cup campaign will boost local cricket. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Cricket clubs in the east say it's vital that England's World Cup campaign sparks new life in the grassroots game.

While Eoin Morgan's boys in blue prepare to take on New Zealand in the final on Sunday, local cricket leagues are beset with player shortages.

  • Watch a full report from ITV News Anglia's Rob Setchell.

Clubs across the region say more needs to be done to encourage participation in cricket.

In 2016 a Sport England survey revealed a 12% fall in the number of people playing cricket.

It prompted the ECB to launch the All Stars scheme, introducing the game to children aged five to eight - but there is concern that many youngsters don't continue playing into adulthood.

Godmanchester Cricket Club, in Cambridgeshire, made the difficult decision to withdraw their first team from the league this year. They said they didn't have enough senior players.

"Twelve years ago we were runners up in the East Anglia Premier League. That's a dramatic drop isn't it? We were running three teams. We had lots of youth cricketers who were committed to playing adult cricket - all of a sudden the cupboard has become bare."

– Kevin Clement, Godmanchester Town CC

A player shortage at Saham Toney Cricket Club, near Thetford in Norfolk, also forced them to drop out of the Norfolk Alliance league this season.

It comes just over a decade after they enjoyed the company of a rather special overseas player... Australian star Glenn Maxwell.

He might be playing in World Cups now - but as a teenager Maxwell honed his skills at Saham Toney... paying to play like everyone else.

Glenn Maxwell during his time at Saham Toney Cricket Club in Norfolk. Credit: Saham Toney CC

"He came over, we knew nothing about him. We asked for a batsman who could bowl a bit of spin. Over comes Glenn and the rest is history - he's gone on to be a global player. I didn't quite think that at 19 when I met him. If you can imagine an Australian surfer, you aren't far off the mark!"

– Simon Mower, Saham Toney CC

Simon, who is the chairman at Saham Toney, says he fears village teams will continue to struggle.

"I think the biggest let down is in schools," he said. "I know I didn't play a great deal in school and I think it's far worse now."

Those who play are often those who watch - and that is another worry.

England's World Cup group stage victory over India attracted a peak audience of just 1.78m while 11.7m watched England's defeat in the Women's Football World Cup.

The main difference of course: one was on Sky, the other was free-to-air - a frustration for those involved in the game at grassroots and at the very top.

"World trophies should be on terrestrial TV, they should be inspiring the young. It's a no-brainer. It inspires kids to play, it gets them healthy, it gets them active. It's better for your country in the long run."

– Graham Swann, Former England & Northamptonshire spinner

Shorter formats of the game like Twenty20 have been thriving - and Sunday's World Cup Final will be the first live cricket on free to air TV since England's famous 2005 Ashes triumph.

Clubhouses across the country will be packed with cricketers praying for an England win and a moment of inspiration to send the grassroots game soaring once more.