Friday, 9 October 2009

The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind of change...

I came across an interesting article earlier today from the Daily Telegraph. It's a few weeks old, but may have considerable bearing on our plans for next season. It is reproduced below, and I acknowledge the Telegraph as the author of the following:

"Plans by the England and Wales Cricket Board to introduce age-related payments to counties for next season have been opposed by 96 per cent of county players.
The ECB hopes to encourage counties to play more young English players and make them less dependent upon Kolpak or European-qualified imports by changing the system of central funding.

The new payment system, included in a Memorandum of Understanding that has been circulated to counties, would change the emphasis of Performance Related Fee Payments. Instead of penalising counties for playing non-England-qualified players, they would be rewarded for selecting up to two players under the age of 22, three under 26 and a maximum of four over 28 with a sliding scale of payments.

More money will also be invested by the ECB in county academies, second XI cricket and the development of level three and four-qualified coaches. But the ECB proposals are not popular with players, as 283 of the 296 county cricketers who responded to a survey conducted by the Professional Cricketers' Association said that team selection should be based on merit and not on age bands.

Only six players who responded to the survey, which was answered by all but 60 of the PCA's playing membership, supported the age-related system proposed by the ECB.

"While we believe that the intention of the MOU to encourage England-qualified cricketers is sound, there are very strong cricketing reasons why the age-related PRFP should not go ahead," said PCA chairman Vikram Solanki.

"This is nothing short of a quota system and quota systems have not worked in other parts of the world.

"We believe that if teams are not selected solely on merit it will lead to a lowering in the standards of county cricket."

Though counties are not obliged to comply with the memorandum of understanding, the PCA is concerned that financial pressures - counties who fully comply will receive more than £206,000 next season, those who do not will receive £82,000 less - will make it difficult for most counties not to.

"In the current economic climate you can see why clubs might adopt the policy of playing players of a certain age when there might be players more deserving of a place," Solanki said.

Despite PCA concerns, the age-related payment scheme looks set to go ahead. Some counties have already signed and returned the memorandum of understanding to Lord's and the issue was not even discussed at a recent ECB cricket committee meeting, despite attempts by the PCA to have it included as an agenda item.

"Ideally we would like the age-related payments to be scrapped totally, but at the very least we would like them to be put on hold while proper consultation takes place," Solanki said.

"The ECB feel that proper consultation has already taken place with the PCA and the cricketing world in general, but we do not agree with that."


Given that Derbyshire have by some distance the smallest playing budget of the first class counties, the comments in the middle of this article, which I have both italicised and put in bold, may have been written about us. We have done well, extraordinarily well, to make a small profit in recent seasons and those at the club who have worked to ensure this deserve our congratulations. It is clear, however, that we could not afford to take the financial "hit" suggested here by non-compliance.

Solanki is right. It is a quota system and players are rightly opposed to it. It is little different to when South African sides were expected to pick a given number of non-white players in their sides, irrespective of merit.

The likelihood is that the wealthy counties at the Test grounds will wave two fingers at the system and carry on regardless. They can afford to, but we can't. So what happens if we have to play two players under 22? Dan Redfern would get in OK, and Paul Borrington is close to the first team. Yet what happens if one of them is injured? Do we then pull in Tom Poynton and drop our new keeper? Or play Atif Sheikh and drop Steffan (if he signs) or Tim Groenewald? I can understand players concerns as this is tinkering with their careers and dictating that sides will not be selected on merit.

It is the same with the under-26 category. It might mean that Jon Clare HAD to play, even if out of form like this year.

It is, in short, ludicrous and given the track record of cricket administrators will almost certainly go through. That 283 of 296 players oppose it suggests a depth of feeling, but the "suits" at Lords know best, of course. We all know that the game is not about the players....

On a different tack, and taking into account the story above, I think that I, in common with a number of fans, may have been getting carried away in recent days or weeks. I've read a few stories about the salaries being demanded for players by agents in the light of the new legislation on visas and quite honestly think a lot of them are outside our compass.

Players that I would deem as ordinary are looking for substantial - maybe ridiculous - salaries, some of them in this week's poll. We can't afford them, in my humble opinion. What I forgot in my calculations last night on money available, was the improved contracts for the likes of Park and Smith, probably Rogers, maybe others, contracts that will keep them at Derby. I also hope that Steffan Jones signs, which will be more money.

John Morris went on record when Wavell Hinds was released to say we were going in a different direction. That could mean he's not going to go the Kolpak route, or he's going to sign a bowler. He also needs to find, ideally, another Twenty/20 player for the second overseas berth, someone who will put a few bums on the seats that Keith Loring is having installed this winter.

All things considered, we haven't got THAT much money available, so here's a pledge from Peakfan.

The blog will, from now on, be a conjecture-free zone. There's loads of it on 606 and In Morris We Trust and I'll happily contribute to both fora. I'll only write about new signings as and when we make them though. Yes, I think we need a spinner and perhaps another seamer. Yet the story at the top of this article suggests that Rogers, Madsen, Park and Smith will HAVE to be joined by Redfern and Borrington next year. That's no bad thing as they're good young players, but there's no point Morris signing a Durston, Shafayat et al if we can't play them and I don't rate any of the names in this week's poll as better than our top four.

Finally tonight, I queried yesterday why Charl Langeveldt didn't bowl his full allocation last night. The answer is that his shoulder has gone again, a real shame. I wrote at the start of the season that I didn't see Charl playing for us again and with a dodgy shoulder, approaching his 36th birthday, I am afraid that I was right. I hope he recovers, but I'd be very surprised if we see Langers at Derby again.

See you over the weekend!


Anonymous said...

If DCCC adopt the stance of adhering to these guidelines in order to maximise income, then a contingent of younger players will have to be earmarked within the squad/2nd XI, probably above and beyond what we have previously had in mind.

In many respects, this change further supports the notion that fringe players players/journeymen such as Lungley, Hunter and Sadler, who have not established themselves at 1st class level with us, may no longer fit in with the strategy JEM has to develop for future squad construction. If fewer 'mature' players are to be fielded, you would only want to employ the best. Could this be why certain contracts may remain unsecured? (Lungley's 1 year option aside)

I also understand a cap of £1.85 million will be applied to the wage roll each county may use to remunerate its playing squad. It appears this may well be above many current county budgets, but could start to bite more in seasons to come. This feature should help smaller clubs such as DCCC to compete.

Despite the individual hardship that would initially be felt by a significant number of county pros, I can see the bigger picture and applaud the clear aim of raising standards within the county game. After all, there are a lot of very average players struggling to make their mark and, effectively only block young, burgeoning talent from coming through.


Peakfan said...

You've a point or two here, mastervillain, but you can only employ "the best" if you have the money to do so. Counties that are less affluent will still need to employ the useful journeyman pro if they don't have the money for bigger names.
It does increase the pressure on Academies to produce and ours is pretty good at Derby.
The cap you refer to is notionally a good idea, but I reckon John Morris would snatch your hand off for that level of playing budget!
The big problem, of course, is that the slow developer may be lost to the game altogether. Greg Smith only in this past season has become a really good, dependable player. He's now over 26 and may not have had the development time in a quota system.
Time will tell.

Anonymous said...

I guess it could come down to the equation of whether a relatively expensive proven performer plus a youngster will cost more than, say, two journeymen. To restructure a squad to comply with the new incentive scheme would take time, probably more than a season. We will have to wait for Morris's next move.