The latest Ashes series starts today. For my international readers, the Ashes is a series of Test cricket matches played between England and Australia. Each match lasts up to five days, with around 6 hours of play per day – plus stops for the players to have lunch and high tea – and the match may or may not end in a positive result. There will be five such matches over the next few months, at the end of which one of the teams may have won, or not, as the case may be.
The Ashes Tests are very popular – at least in the UK and Australia – with crowds of 20,000 or more every day. They are at the core of the history of the game and have generated some genuinely memorable sporting moments.
But Test cricket is unlikely to be the future of the game. Outside of the Ashes series, attendances at Test cricket are in decline.
Conversely, the Indian Premier League, which is a format of cricket that lasts around 3 hours and creates a positive result (almost) every time, attracts huge audiences, both in the grounds and on TV across the world. It’s a format that appals some of the more traditional cricket lovers, but it has helped the game become far more accessible and popular.
The challenge for the sport is how long it tries to pursue both formats. At some point, a choice will need to be made, and it won’t be in favour of Test cricket.
It’s similar for businesses when they face the decline of their traditional sources of income. Inertia can take over and many companies struggle to shift their offer and organisation to new market realities. As I’ve put it before, nothing fails like success: just ask the leaders of businesses such as Kodak, Blockbuster, Nokia and John Lewis.
I’ll enjoy this summer’s Ashes series, but at some point the cricket authorities will need to reach out to the future, rather than hold onto the past. What parts of your business and organisation are you holding onto when you should be letting go and reaching out?
Off The Record: Ashes to Ashes by David Bowie
Ashes to ashes, funk to funky,
We know Major Tom’s a junkie,
Strung out in heaven’s high,
Hitting an all-time low.