Saturday, 13 February 2010

Has English cricket "missed its chance"?

The ever-excellent Andrew Miller writes here on Cricinfo about a discussion with Surrey's very own Chairman, David Stewart, and the MCC Chief Exec, Keith Bradshaw.

In 2008, following the success of the inaugural IPL, Stewart and Bradshaw, together with Rod Bransgrove at Hampshire and Lancashire, floated the idea of a system of city based franchise cricket in England - nine franchises playing 57 matches over 25 high-summer days (mainly at the test grounds). The idea barely got out of the starting blocks because it could never command the support of a majority of the ECB board.

I wrote a few weeks ago about my sympathy for the consideration of city based franchises in the UK, and that remains my opinion. From 2008 to 2010 the financial situation of many of the counties will have worsened significantly and I do wonder if the franchise system - for Twenty20 cricket alone - might have served county cricket better than the current structure.

Members of county sides, myself included, still consider the County Championship the most important competition, indeed many members don't bother to show up for the Twenty20 games (I do, cricket is cricket, and I want my money's worth!). So why not give a clear delineation between the longer form and the shorter? There's no way to sex-up four day cricket, there just isn't. Ok, you can encourage more result-oriented wickets, but there's still a lot of standing around. I love it, but I'm in a huge minority.

The opinion of Stewart and Bradshaw is that the ship has sailed on a joint venture of this kind, and the fact that Hampshire are now in bed with the Rajasthan Royals seems to back that up, but there must be a way back. The ECB needs to get the counties around a table and thrash out a way to increase revenues by creating a more vibrant and enticing Twenty20 tournament, but in doing so it must not compromise the four day game.

I don't doubt that there would be huge barriers to progress, not least of which individual players' contracts with counties, but I'd rather see some sort of domestic resolution than see one more county, with over a century of history, taken under the wing of a three year old IPL franchise.

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