Monday, 26 May 2008

ECB so out of touch they may as well be govening UK Kerplunk! championship

The latest barmy ECB ideas go far beyond the normal bizarre proposals they dish up.

The ideas:

FC Championship:
Abandon the current format and move to a 3 day, regional competition, each with 6 teams. Their exact plans are not completely clear, but would seem to involve playing 10 games against the other sides in your region. Possibly with some kind of play-offs involved at the end of the season.

Pro40:
Change the format to two innings of Twenty20.

Twenty20:
Play loads more of it. Being mooted is a 21 team league. (presumably the counties plus Ireland, Scotland and one other). This could mean around 300+ Twenty20 games.

OneDay Trophy:
No mention of this, so I can only assume it remains unchanged.

I have been tossing these outline ideas around and I have to say as a county member I am struggling to find anything to recommend them. The move to a three-day championship would be a disaster in my opinion. It would inadequately prepare players for test-cricket and with the increase in Twenty20 cricket it is vital that the testing ground for future internationals is not cheapened or diluted.

The Pro40 needs to die. We, as a compassionate, forward thinking society needs to listen to the doctor's advice and just let it go. Of course it will be hard for the county chairman, who have always felt very attached to it, to give the medical staff permission to pull the plug. But sometimes we have to just let things go; while we can still fondly remember the happy days of One Day league cricket. Before it became a dribbling, shambling embarrassment, dependant solely on life support and unable to feed itself. Changing it to Twenty20Twenty20 will not save it.

The drive to move to almost solely regional cricket would also be a mistake in my opinion. You could end up with Warwickshire playing every year;

10, 3-day championship games a year, 2 against Northants (or Leicestershire, or Notts),
8 one-day trophy games a year, 2 against Northants.
10 Twenty20Twenty20 games, 2 against Northants, and potentially
40 Twenty20 games, again 2 against Northants.

Conversely they will play the likes of Lancashire, Yorkshire and Surrey twice each at Twenty20 only. Leaving the Twenty20 aside they will face a maximum of 48 days of cricket, 30 of which will be against Northants, Leicester and Notts. Where you have so many games, and with leagues there will inevitably be meaningless games, with largely non-existent "local" rivalries (compared to Warwicks v Worcester or the Roses match) the spectre of match fixing would be ever present. And could even the Roses match sustain 8 derby matches a year?

As for Twenty20 itself, it is not my favourite format, but it is an enjoyable evening out and is still a novelty. The real worry has to be though that the counties and the ECB would rather make marginally more money from far more games with far lower attendance and lower interest, than keep it as a money spinning, popular novelty.

Financially I assume it is not so good to have 5 games a year with 15,000 in the ground, as it is to have 10 games a year with 8,000 in, or 20 games with 4,000 in, or even 40 days cricket with 2,000 people in the ground. Hang about... that's beginning to sound like the county championship....

Of course the ECB can't stand still, after all the English invented the game, not to mention Twenty20, and now the upstart Indians have gone and created all this razzmatazz with their IPL. If they're not careful people will be making the assumption that India is no longer part of the Empire and is instead a wealthy successful nation of over a billion people with the vast majority of world cricket fans therein. Not to mention many millions of wealthy middle-class young men who will buy what merchandise they're told to.

The ECB is charged first and foremost with making a successful England team, not to propagate outdated imperial ideas that they must have more and better cricket than "the colonies". They don't need to "react" to the IPL, they need to decide what is best in the long term for English cricket (both International and County) and do it.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Take a look too at the Guardian article on the proposals:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2008/may/26/cricket
A few bits worth a comment:
"The proposal to revamp the Pro40 reflects the fact that, while the format is incongruous - no international cricket is played over that distance - it is popular with supporters and relatively lucrative for counties."
Surely it is a limited-overs game that is played either on Sunday or in the evening (under floodlights) that is popular?

"No decision will be taken on the EPL and the Pro40 competition until it has seen the results of market research that will be carried out during the coming T20 competition"
Interesting to see who the sample for this 'market research' will be: county members? Those who currently attend >1 county match a year? The whole population? Makes a big difference.

The regional county championship is the most absurd bit though: given 3 regional champions, how do you decide who is county champion? 3 play-off matches? What if they win one each? Or draw them all?

I'm not even going to mention the idiocy of going back to 3-day matches. If they want to spend less time playing f-c cricket to free time up for T20 (which seems to be their only agenda), I'd have thought the obvious thing to do is leave it as it is but only to play each opponent once rather than twice. That'd free up 30 days.