“Cricket is at the crossroads” … so said Sir Donald Bradman in a letter to Wisden, the cricket almanac, in 1934.
The quote from the Australian, arguably the most celebrated cricketer of any generation, is brought to mind by similar comments from those who follow the game in 2020 – including many in the north-east of Scotland where the leather-on-willow sport has been played for the best part of 200 years.
Bradman said: “We cannot blind ourselves to the fact that cricket, apart from test matches, is becoming less attractive, or other forms of entertainment are gaining ground.
“It is a state of affairs calling for very serious consideration from player and legislator alike.”
The Don went on to say much, much more about the state of cricket and the influences of American commercialism.
But it was his insistence that the game was losing its place to other sports which catches the eye and brings the comparison with a similar situation today.
It should be remembered that at the time of writing, the Don was playing to capacity crowds in England, and not just in the Ashes series – at every county ground he graced during the tour, huge crowds were attracted.
There is no record of the reaction to his “cricket at a crossroads” bombshell, only to say that 86 years on it seems there has been little dramatic change, apart from the authorities merely tampering with the game and making the abbreviated versions more attractive to the wider public.
Bradman’s pulling power was again in evidence at Aberdeen’s Mannofield in 1948 when 21,000 people gathered over two days at the home of north-east cricket to watch him play.
What would Bradman have made of the situation at the same ground 71 years later, when Scotland played two one-day international World Cup qualifiers against Oman and Papua New Guinea which attracted fewer than 400 people over two days?
And this to watch a Scotland team who had the temerity to give ODI champions England a beating in Edinburgh the year before.
Worse still, the same Scotland who turned out at Mannofield had three local heroes in the squad – captain Kyle Coetzer, Matt Cross and Michael Leask.
Tomorrow was to have been the start of the domestic season, but due to coronavirus, there will be no games until June at the very least.
In the meantime, the custodians of the game – today’s equivalent of the legislators referred to by Sir Don – have the opportunity to get their act together and form a strategy to market cricket to a wider public who will, hopefully soon, have the opportunity to discover, enjoy and help develop the sport.
The famous Australian would have expected no more or less from a part of Scotland he knew and loved.