On the eve of his first Test as England captain Ben Stokes has said ticket prices for England Tests “need to be looked at”.
Stokes will lead his country against New Zealand on Thursday having inherited the job from Joe Root and hopes to make an instant impact on a side who have won only once in their last 17 games.
But his first game in charge is unlikely to be taking place in front of the usual packed crowd at Lord’s, with around 16,000 tickets still available 24 hours from the start of the match. Only about 750 of those are for day one, but more than 9,000 remain unsold for Sunday’s play.
The Marylebone Cricket Club, owner of Lord’s, believes the Queen’s platinum jubilee has placed a squeeze on demand but with many tickets costing more than £100 and premium seating at £160, many suspect a financial aspect.
Stokes did not shy away from the cost-of-living debate when asked about the prospect of gaps in the stands. “The ticket prices is something that I think is going to have to be looked at properly, because what is cricket without its fans? What is sport without its fans?” he said.
“We want to be attracting people to come and watch us because of the cricket that we play and how successful we are but I guess you have to look at how much it’s going to cost someone to get into the ground. I don’t set the prices but I think it does need to be looked at.”
Stokes also insisted that every England player will be handed “a blank canvas” under the new regime. “There’s been a lot of talk about a ‘reset’, which is a word I don’t like,” he said. “I just see it as a completely blank canvas. I just want everyone to feel free under my captaincy.
“This is our time and we are going to dictate how things go forward. Everyone is starting fresh, whether it’s Matty Potts or James Anderson and Stuart Broad.”
Stokes’s Durham teammate Potts has been handed his Test debut after being chosen ahead of Craig Overton, in an attack led by the two most prolific wicket-takers in English history, Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad.
Anderson, 39, and Broad, 35, were dropped for the recent tour of the West Indies but return at the first time of asking under Stokes and the new head coach, Brendon McCullum.
“He’s been outstanding in the games I’ve played. It’s not been all plain sailing for bowlers and he’s created things out of nowhere,” Stokes said of Potts. “The thing that made my mind up about Pottsy was when he bowled us to victory against Glamorgan. He turned up with a bit of a stiff side, with Test selection coming he could have just sat back and said ‘I’m going to look after myself’ but he didn’t. He ran in and won the game for us.
“That’s the attitude that opens your eyes. This kid is an athlete and everything I expect this team to be about going forward.”