The good news is that change in County Cricket coming. The bad news? Only in 12 months time.
It’s the change which County Cricket’s fans, it’s players, even it’s coaches have wanted, a new structure which promises to reduce the season by eight to twelve days.
Having watched county sides slog it out game after game over a domestic summer, it’s a change that is long overdue. Good quality cricketers may actually get sometime to rest and recover between games, a situation which ought to eradicate the frankly farcical situation which Somerset faced when they had to dash from the Twenty20 finals day (which to boot they lost!) straight to a Pro40 match against Lancashire two days later.
In total Somerset, who ultimately ended up winning zero trophies despite being in two finals and finishing level on points with Nottinghamshire for the title, played almost 50 games from May to September. Premier League teams play less matches in a nine month season.Before the season former England coach Duncan Fletcher, no fan of County Cricket’s slog, wrote:
“Nothing is ever done about the glaringly obvious fact that county cricketers play too much cricket. It has to be the major reason why England have never won a global one-day trophy.
“Not only do they play too much, they also play it at the wrong time. Generally games are tagged on to the end of four-day championship matches, when players are tired, and sometimes from long hours of travelling as well as playing. There is no time to think and reflect, no time to rest, no time to practise.”
Thankfully having seen the error of their ways, the ECB has devised a strategy which will eventually reduce the number of days which players play cricket.
However, the details are muddled and unclear, with few sides yet to agree on what form the cuts will take. Furthermore as the talks regarding the cuts have gone on so long, they will not be implemented until 2012. Which means one more year of the county treadmill which neither players or spectators want.
Then you get to the minor details, for instance the reform of the Pro40 competition back to 50-Overs or the refusal to consider changing the County Championship format or the Twenty20 competion.
These are good competitions, producing good cricket and cricketers when there is less cricket being played. County teams play a huge number of Twenty20 games which has prompted talk of overkill, with county’s struggling to attract spectators on a consistent basis.
Though some counties, Essex and Yorkshire in particular, do very well out of Twenty20, other poorer counties do not-so keeping the competition in a status quo is hardly ideal.
County Cricket is the lifeblood of English cricket, a quintessential part of being a cricket follower and as we have seen recently, a fine breeding ground for players to graduate into the England team.
The cuts in playing time, if and when they eventually come could be a vitally important step to preserving the game.
Good quality cricket can attract spectators in vast numbers, but equally too much of it can drive them away. Reductions in the number of games, helping to preserve the quality of the cricket, can only be a good thing.
The domestic game may never be able to fulfil the needs and hopes of players, fans, coaches and administrators, but it can still do a lot more to help ensure that all parties’ concerns are catered for.
Though there’s a long way to go but perhaps this decision, after years of piling more cricket onto the County calendar, could get things moving in the right direction at last.