The annual census of cricket in Australia has revealed the pain points felt by the game at its grassroots across a uniquely challenging season owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the pandemic, Australia readied a complete summer schedule. The nation hosted more than 170,000 cricket matches throughout Australia over the past 12 months, despite the restrictions imposed by the lockdown.
However, as per the census, there was a significant impact on the game in the country, as the registered participation plummeted by up to 24 per cent. Although the continued growth of junior participation programs and club cricket contributed to two per cent growth in 2019-20. It represents a considerable number of children registered for participation in a non-Ashes census year since 2014-15.
It includes a 17.5 per cent increase in girls registration for club cricket and the Woolworths Cricket Blast program (teaching basic cricket skills to children aged 5-10), which in turn contributed to a 19 per cent increase in girls’ participation last year.
Women’s cricket in the country saw a major boost in the past year, registering a participation growth by 70 per cent in club cricket or Cricket Blast since the 2016-17 census.
The pandemic heavily impacted participation in both men’s and women’s cricket, as a decline of from around 710,000 in 2019-20 to 539,000 last summer was observed.
Even though the pandemic greatly affected the school and club competitions, there was a COVID-adjusted increase in total participation across all cricket of around 11,000 (2.1 per cent) from 2019-20.
“What surprised me (in this year’s census) was how much cricket we were able to play,” CA’s Executive General Manager Community Cricket, James Allsopp said.
“It’s quite extraordinary when you consider what’s been going on in the world, that 170,000 games of cricket were able to be played.
“It’s a real testament to the amazing volunteers we have out there, and the support that was provided by the Australian cricket field force to get so much cricket played in the circumstances”
Some of the key details contained in the census, which CA has been conducting annually for two decades (as per the inputs from cricket.com.au):
• Year-on-year increases in Indigenous participation (1.2 per cent) and among people living with a disability (1.4 per cent) in club cricket and Woolworths Cricket Blast, while multicultural participation dropped by 4.2 per cent (partly due to decline in overseas student numbers nationwide).
• Cancellation of tournaments and leagues due to COVID-19 saw participation numbers in indoor cricket drop by 56.4 per cent, with similarly large declines in school cricket (52.9 per cent) and social competitions (39.6 per cent).
• Among the tournaments and leagues that went ahead, club competitions reported year-on-year growth of 3.4 per cent.
• The continued growth of girls registering to participate in cricket competitions and programs means for the first time they now account for one-fifth of all participants in Woolworths Cricket Blast.
• There were no significant COVID-related events in the more than 170,000 matches staged in Australia over the past year.