Western Counties president Teresa Burrows upbeat despite non-competitive fare
While two virtual walkover triumphs on consecutive weekends have served to extend and further confirm Southampton Rangers’ status as the pre-eminent force among the Western Counties member clubs, the likely adverse effect upon the on-field health and commercial wellbeing off the pitch will have been less welcome.
Having potential seven-hour matches of high drama unfurl as predictable, one-sided affairs occupying less than half the prescribed time would only diminish the west’s relevance, while substantiating the Eastern Counties’ pedigree as a standard unrivalled.
Three-hour matches can be fantastic theatre — they are commonly formatted and marketed as T20s — but 50-overs matches that last less than 40 overs in total are rarely substantive, and such has been the dilemma of the first two rounds of the Western Counties Cup competition, where first Somerset Bridge and then PHC failed to extend Southampton beyond 20 overs combined, while themselves occupying the middle for only 47 out of a possible 100 overs.
Western Counties president Teresa Burrows is well aware of the difficulty in marketing and garnering enthusiastic support for a product that has offered the appearance of inferiority. However, after Saturday’s feature at Southampton Oval, she noted how the atmosphere at matches was lively, family-friendly with an array of offerings to be enjoyed and that, no matter the length of the matches, there remained a positive vibe and honest sense of togetherness.
“Unfortunately the game has ended early the last two weeks, but hopefully it gets a little better the second half,” said Burrows, referencing the next two rounds set to feature Warwick against Rangers, with Willow Cuts lined up to face the winners in the final. “It’s been a rough year, period, for cricket, if you take a look at the overall standard.
“Still we go forward and look to get better. I try to keep encouraging people to come out, show their face and show their love for the county.
“Regardless of the outcomes on the field, we’ve had two beautiful weekends and that’s all we can ask for. Play will improve with more support and we want people to come out, show your face and support your team, support your community … support the day.
“We show our love for everybody else’s county and we would like to have the same respect shown back.”
Speaking to the unrivalled potency shown by the host club, Burrows was not blind to the reality that the talent contained at Rangers outstripped most, if not all, member clubs. However, she was also aware of the nature of the game, where change in the balance of power can happen at any moment.
“I mean, hey, they are the premier team among the bunch, so the results we’ve had are not unexpected, but county is a different game,” she said. “I’ve seen champions get taken down by a lower team; it’s all about what happens on the day, and each day is different.
“The unfortunate part is that Rangers is a smaller area, so it’s not as big as, say, our field at White Hill, which has more space. But there’s space for people to bring their children, it’s still kid-friendly with child activities, such as the fun castle for them to play on, as well as watch the game.
“We have vendors here offering a variety of things, like alkaline food. There’s a food truck and as well we have a Wacky Waffles food truck, different things like that. So all we are asking and encouraging is that people come out and support this community because it’s needed. There are positive, fun things to be enjoyed here.”
Admitted was the existence of an inhibiting reputation that hovered among an area that has seen its share of unwanted incidents of untoward activity, something she was sure could be overcome through concerted, collective action that could be accelerated in its cause with increased participation by those within and without the immediate vicinity.
“Yes, we have to get past it [negative reputation], but the most you can do is continue to have the games and demonstrate that we are getting better and that we are continuing to put in the effort to continually improve the product off the field and on the field, and all that goes with it,” said Burrows, her countenance signalling an aura of reassurance. “There’s a good feel here and many positives with the Western Counties. This is what we are emphasising and building on, and we want everybody to join with us.
“It’s all about a building process and stacking positives on one another.
“I don’t expect things to happen overnight, but the hope is that things happen sooner rather than later.”