England are getting set for a tough fixtures this summer Image: Getty Images Get the biggest daily news stories by email Subscribe We will use your email address only for the purpose of sending you newsletters. Please see our Privacy Notice for details of your data protection rights Thank you for subscribingWe have more newsletters Show me See our privacy notice Could not subscribe, try again laterInvalid Email The southern hemisphere's big guns are in Europe for a blockbuster four month of rugby union. It marks the final time that these sides will face off against one another before next year's Rugby World Cup in Japan.
The atmosphere within the grounds, particularly for matches involving teams from the Indian subcontinent, has been electric. Pakistan match a few weeks ago.
Not a single game is being shown live on terrestrial television. This should have been straightforward. The English team is one of the best in the world, with a number of swashbuckling players who should have captured the public imagination.
Yet in spite of these favourable circumstances, the Cricket World Cup has so far failed to become part of the national conversation. These performances — free-to-air on the BBC — have the left the England cricket team trailing in their wake.
How have the English Cricket Board failed to take advantage of such a golden opportunity? This led to an Ashes test match famously attracting fewer viewers than a repeat of Columbo on BBC1 at the same time.
The long-run consequences for the game could be disastrous.
It was only 14 years ago that cricket genuinely did play a role in the national imagination. The peak TV audience during that golden summer was over nine million. The top audience for England during this World Cup has rarely exceeded one million and has slumped as low as , Rugby Union, once a sport that, in England, spoke mainly to a private school minority, now enjoys audience figures of well over eight million and has used terrestrial TV coverage to broaden its appeal.
Cricket, on the other hand, risks becoming a second-tier sport having relinquished its once-proud status as a national sport with an appeal second only to football.
Put simply, fewer people are playing the game and those who do tend to come from more privileged backgrounds. Although the ECB promised that the revenue from Sky would be used to boost participation, the number of people playing the game has actually plummeted since Participation figures show that the number of people regularly playing the game has almost halved over the last few decades.
In losing terrestrial coverage, cricket has also lost the benefit of capturing accidental viewers and has shut off its heroes from national view. Terrestrial TV coverage lends enormous oxygen of publicity to a sporting event and means that viewers who accidentally tune in might end up hooked.
Members of this England cricket team should be household names.