HAS the spirit of Welsh Cup cricket died?
It would certainly appear that way after an awful weekend for the famous knockout competition in north Wales.
Connah’s Quay’s round one tie with Bethesda was called off after the north west Wales outfit failed to raise a team, while Hawarden Park will face Brymbo in the next round after Bodedern conceded.
Perhaps most disappointing was Premier Division Northop’s failure to raise a team for their tie with Llandudno, who will now face Llay Welfare in round two on June 28.
Only Buckley’s trip to Abergele was played across the region, with the Flintshire side winning by 29 runs thanks to Simon Nicholls’ knock of 62 which he followed up with 4-21.
Brymbo secured an 81-run win over Denbigh in a tie played a week earlier, while Mochdre also received a bye. Pontblyddyn and Mold have not entered this year.
For decades the Welsh Cup was the trophy every side wanted to win but in recent years it has become something of a distraction for North Wales Premier Division clubs.
The latest disappointment for the Welsh Cup comes just days after the ECB released figures stating over 60,000 people stopped playing recreational cricket in the past year.
“It’s frustrating, the spirit of the Welsh Cup has been lost,” said Connah’s Quay captain Gavin Parry.
“You can compare it to the FA Cup in football in that it just isn’t a priority for clubs nowadays.
“The amount of travelling early season doesn’t help and after everyone has played on a Saturday it is difficult to ask players to commit for another full day on a Sunday. The Cockspur Cup has also suffered.”
Parry believes setting aside certain Saturday’s would help to restore some pride in the famous cup.
“Moving the games to Saturday’s would be a fantastic idea,” he said.
“You’d have to ensure all Premier and Division One sides would enter, but setting aside a few weekends in the season for Welsh Cup ties would definitely improve it.
“If you start the season a week earlier and bring back the Bank Holiday fixtures then it’d be workable. Regionalising the earlier rounds would help to reduce the travelling required.
“The standard has definitely suffered a lot across North Wales since I started 15 years ago. The quality has dropped, perhaps the overseas don’t help.
“They bat and bowl 12 overs, but what’s the solution? If you go without an overseas you’re taking a big risk of getting relegated so it’s a double-edged sword. It’s one for the league to address.”
Pontblyddyn did not enter this season’s competition although captain Ben Mason believes there is a lot to be said for a cup run.
“We always look to enter a team but we didn’t get the registration email in time this year,” he said.
“It’s annoying as I think it’s always good to have a cup run. The issue is the senior players won’t play Saturday and Sunday, which is understandable, but it’s a good chance to play the young lads.”
Peter Hybart, chief executive officer at Cricket Wales said: “Of the 30 first round Welsh Cup ties scheduled, eight were conceded. It’s a disappointing number, and the reasons will vary from club to club.
“We know that many players have less time available for cricket these days, so Cricket Wales has taken measures to minimise concessions.
“The competition has been reduced to a shorter format (40 overs per side) and journey times in the early rounds have been kept to a minimum as far as is possible. This year, we also kept back the first round ties until early June to avoid clashing with soccer and rugby.
“Despite these efforts, some clubs were still unable to meet the demands placed upon them. That is disappointing, but it does not devalue the competition.
“The ties that were completed were mainly entertaining and well played - with several games being keenly contested - and we are confident that, given good weather, the competition will again be completed successfully.”