Twenty20 must remain a sporting spectacle: Luke Sellers

The lifeblood of the county game or an irritating distraction, the Friends Life t20 has returned in all its opinion-dividing razzmatazz.

And chief executives up and down the country are left trying to strike the balance between fairground fun and simply clowning around.

Not content to let the cricket do the talking, and with last year’s crowds down on previous years, the counties have come up with a big, bold and brash array of events to tempt the crowds.

If you have ever been to Cardiff on a rugby day it will be of no surprise that the Welsh capital is once again leading the way when it comes to combining partying with professional sport.

While other counties have secured big-name signings such as Muttiah Muralitharan (Gloucestershire) or Martin Guptill (Derbyshire), Glamorgan have brought in the tribute act talents of Elvis Presley, Abba, Take That and Tom Jones to the Swalec Stadium.

The Essex Eagles are also making a song and dance about the stellar line-up of acts they hope will attract/distract fans at home games this year. The June 3 match against Gloucestershire was accompanied by a West End show tribute while the Stepukaz Dance Group hope to have people hot-footing it to Chelmsford for the match against Sussex Sharks.

Over at The Oval, Surrey believe they will hit the bulls-eye combining cricket’s sharpest shooters with the dead-eye heroes of darts. Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor, reigning world champ Adrian Lewis and legendary caller John McDonald will be part of a dart-themed home game versus Essex on June 13.

Elsewhere, Hampshire are holding a Caribbean night, at Grace Road Leicestershire are going Hawaiian while Warwickshire are bringing out giant inflatables and bungee trampolines.

The ECB claims that T20 offers something for everyone but there is a worry it increasingly may not include cricket fans. While tribute acts and dance troupes may bring different types through the gate it may well put off more fans than it encourages.

With 151 domestic T20 matches set to take place again this year, you can’t blame the counties for trying to add something extra to this flabby competition.

But the success or failure of T20 cricket is down to the quality of the sporting spectacle. Unless the competition returns to its slimmed-down version, county grounds could become like a pier at a forlorn seaside resort, full of twinkling lights, gimmicks and empty benches.

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