Chris Waters – Youth of today are being switched off from this great game of cricket

NOT only am I the black sheep of my family, but also the only one who is interested in cricket.

Master blaster: Viv Richards.
Master blaster: Viv Richards.

Although my dear old dad does his best to keep up with events out of loyalty to me, buying his daily copy of The Yorkshire Post as a result, I’m sure he won’t mind me telling you that he once thought that the “reverse sweep” was called the “reverse brush”, which is not the sort of thing that is easily lived down.

Yes, the only cricket fan in the household was yours truly, with “cricket” meaning little more than a chirping insect to everyone else.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

I distinctly remember when I caught the bug – by doing something that is not available to the children of today. It was the summer of 1983 and I was off school for a couple of weeks with jaundice.

Looking to while away the hours of boredom on the sofa, I happened to flick on the cricket World Cup on BBC1 and was immediately hooked by the stream of live games.

I remember the great Viv Richards and the West Indies’ team, the incomparable commentary of Richie Benaud (who knew the value of keeping his mouth shut as opposed to the modern trend of constant talking), and being fascinated with the television scorecards and their interesting quirks – not just Viv Richards, mark you, but “I.V.A. Richards”.

I bought a Playfair annual with some pocket money and began to play cricket for a local club.

Even my beloved Lincoln City FC temporarily took a back seat as I became, first and foremost, a cricket fan – especially in those dark, depressing days in the Eighties when my sporting first love experienced, in quick succession, three appalling tragedies in Bradford, Heysel, Hillsborough, enough to dampen any child’s enthusiasm.

Fast forward 36 years – can it really be that long ago? – and what chance do today’s jaundice-ridden children have of chancing on cricket via the current World Cup?

Sure, they might come from a cricketing family and/or have access to satellite TV to watch games.

But if, like me, there was no history of interest in the game (and we wouldn’t have been able to afford satellite television had it then been available), the answer is they have no chance.

Unless, that is, they happen to be tuning into Channel 4 in the early hours of the morning on a school day to watch the World Cup highlights programmes.

Nothing, bar nothing, has damaged cricket’s popularity and its ability to attract young spectators more than the decision to take the game off terrestrial television following the 2005 Ashes, a move that has caused irrevocable harm.

Yes, it is always possible to record these highlights shows but, in my case, I wouldn’t have had the pre-existing interest in the sport to think of doing that.

Without the oxygen of free-to-air there would have been no chance for me, as youngster, to chance on cricket.

Small wonder that many people have reacted on social media to the timings of the Channel 4 highlights by questioning whether there is actually a World Cup going on at all.

This, in fact, is a serious point.

For those of us who love the game and/or are involved in it in some way, it can be very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everyone else is following what we are following.

But are they?

Who, in fact, is watching Channel 4 from 1.00-1.55am on a Monday to see highlights of India versus Australia, for example?

A few insomniacs, perhaps, but surely not great swathes of youngsters who may never develop a love for the great game of cricket.