This blog is about the state of our professional game and the future.
Currently professional cricket is based around 16 counties. I follow Leicestershire. There are 3 main competitions. The county championship which consists of 4 day games with win, lose or draw with points for batting and bowling is the closest to test cricket (played between countries over 5 days) and is currently organised into two divisions (if a player does not play in the first division they are extremely unlikely to get selected for their country). Each county is allowed one overseas player for this competition. There is a 50 over competition (the Royal London Cup) organised on a regional basis. Then a shorter version is the Twenty20 or T20 known as the Vitality blast. In terms of popularity (as measured by attendance) the championship is the least popular and the most popular is T20. I don't enjoy T20 so don't go but there are some good crowds and attendance is growing across the country.
England are probably the best country at the short game but this week have been hammered by the West Indies in the second test losing by 10 wickets after being resoundingly defeated in the first test.
So whats going on that I (and many others) are unhappy about?
The ECB who run the game in England and Wales are launching a new format - the 100. This will run for the first time in 2020. T20 as the title implies is 20 overs per side - 120 balls maximum per side. This takes about 3-4 hours and is often played after work under floodlights. The 100 is 100 balls a side with the overs structure (perhaps 10 ball) to be decided with 8 city based teams. My nearest would be Nottingham. The ECB rationale seems to be two fold:
- They have a deal with the BBC and T20 is deemed too long! They could easily make T20 shorter time wise by limiting drinks etc and improving the over rate.
- They think this will attract women and children who don't attend T20. This is demeaning. Women's cricket is on the up and up. At Leicestershire T20 there are lots of families who have great fun.
In 2020 is also the 50 over world cup to be played in England. So there will be county championship, Royal London Cup (no overseas and essentially a second team), Vitality Blast and the 100.
The counties have been given a £1.3m bribe to agree to the 100 even though 8 counties won't have games. Vitality blast is an earner for counties and I expect it will be the last year it runs to be replaced by the 100. Those not hosting a team have signed their own death warrant. And what about the championship? This year nearly all games are at the beginning and end of the season and are played in the working week meaning those in work will have to take holiday knowing rain could interfere! The playing at the ends of the season means games are played in the cold and damp with slow wickets etc. This is not conducive to building a Test team. This is made worse by the fact that good players can make a very good living playing around the world in T20 games that require little effort and are forgotten as soon as they finish. Great test series are remembered forever.
Although not a fan of T20 the current formats broadly work. The fixtures are badly organised for fans of championship and test cricket. There is no need for a new format!
Sorry this has been a ramble....