Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Franchises raise their head...again

Excuse the big sigh as I start this piece, but over on Cricinfo there's discussion regarding tinkering with the T20 format, yet again.

Not only are envious glances (or brazen stares) being cast towards the IPL, but now the success of the Big Bash in Australia is the catalyst for all manner of suggestions regarding the English T20 competition, under whichever moniker you care to choose. For Derbyshire fans of more recent vintage, that's the competition that we have thus far played abysmally, but spend each Spring convincing ourselves that this year could be different. Maybe this year will, but that is a subject for another piece in the future.

I'm not a fan of gimmicks. There, I have said it. I can live with Power plays and see the merits. I can understand and appreciate a 'super over' to decide a tie, and follow the logic of restrictions on bouncers. I just don't follow suggestions to spice it up with additional fielding limitations, more power overs and assorted nonsensical ideas. If it carries on, we'll soon be seeing the batting side getting double runs, if they make more than ten in an over from the bowling of a player who was born outside the county boundaries, but only if the names of the two batsmen at the crease can be rearranged by anagram into 'We are cocking up cricket, big time'.

I have watched some of the Big Bash and have not been all that impressed. Yes, there have been decent crowds for the franchise sides, but Australian cricket has created two sides each in Melbourne and Sydney and for me the cricket has been distinctly average. The bowling has been better than the batting, though whether because of sub-standard wickets rather than genuine skill I'm not sure.

In England there are effectively two choices - a T20 compacted into a month in the middle of the season, when the nights are longest and the weather potentially the best, or spread over several weeks to fill cricket grounds on Friday nights with those straight from work and looking forward to the weekend. That's the model we currently have and most in its favour is that it avoids burning out players too much. Against it is that luring a big name overseas star to play for one night a week is nigh impossible, meaning that counties generally have to be content with second tier stars from overseas. You can have success with some of those mind...

You will note the word 'potentially' in bold above. As I said when putting in my tuppence worth over on the site, there's less appeal in a game when you're sat with a heavy jacket on and wondering whether the drizzle is worth putting your brolly up, or it will simply convince the umpires it is time to take the players off.

I have said many a time on this blog that I am not a devotee of T20 and would sooner watch one four-day game over any ten of the shorter format. But it is cricket, Derbyshire play it and I would follow their fortunes if they were playing a one over a side competition in a barn. I entertain hopes that sometime soon we might actually become decent at it, but I really don't want it to be so complex that I need Stephen Hawking to explain the rules, nor do I wish to watch a composite East Midlands (or 'Mercia' side, as one correspondent called it) in action.

Therein lies the crux of the matter. For decades we have enjoyed local rivalries and attended games in the hope that we would hammer Nottinghamshire, or Leicestershire, or Yorkshire, because we're not fussed in being so partisan. Their supporters are the same, so are those of Middlesex and Surrey, Lancashire and Yorkshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire. The powers that be cannot expect such rivalries to be overturned on a whim and I couldn't ever see myself attending Trent Bridge and cheering on a side that featured, notionally, six of their players, three of ours and two from Leicestershire.

There's already a composite East Midlands side anyway, They play at Nottingham and feature the best of former Leicestershire talent, with the exception of Shiv Thakor, potentially the best of the lot.

And he'll be playing for Derbyshire. Long may that continue, and the meddlers stay out of our game.

5 comments:

Spenno said...

Fully agree. Franchise cricket is horrendously indulgent and takes the genuineness out of being a fan.

Sam said...

Franchises wouldn't work in this country. t20 in general is much harder to sell in this country because the weather isn't always conducive to it, every other year the competition has to compete with a big football tournament during the summer, and many of the pitches (not our own, but maybe it's the bowling...) are too slow, sides batting first get a below par total and the opposition just pace themselves to the target without much urgency. Reducing the number of teams and playing in a compacted season would mean some counties go 6 weeks with no cricket at all, and the fans themselves would have to on average travel further to watch their local team. There still wouldn't be any england players playing because the ECB wouldn't let them, and there still wouldn't be any overseas stars because the money would never be there to compete with the Caribbean and Indian events! And it would still be raining...

There are a few things we can learn though from Australia. It staggers me in this day and age that not every ground has floodlights and therefore the freedom to start matches at more convenient times. Flashing bails and stumps are probably things you'd class as gimmicks, but they do make the show look better on TV, might encourage the kids and wouldn't be too obtrusive for others. Given the big bash has had them for some time I fail to see what's stopping us using them. The lack of any coverage on free to air tv clearly doesn't help either, perhaps a highlights package of the weeks cricket shown on a Sunday afternoon might encourage a few more people to attend matches, without losing the money from Sky. There wouldn't be much to show of course if it all got rained off though...

Anonymous said...

I am not a 2020 lover...much preferring the longer format(s). However, I've been lucky enough to be in Oz while the BBL has been at play. A couple of points struck me (other than the weather!)....it's on during the main holiday season in Oz with heavy promotion both on TV and around the City. There is a high number of kids/families at the games and the fact that there is a game on every evening on FTA TV seems to be VERY popular...I applaud Sky's coverage but FTA for this type of cricket is essential to attract more kids IMHO.
I abhor the Indian TV coverage of the IPL (gurning faces) but the BBL coverage is pretty good with some decent 'commentary'...I also think that the standard is better than the IPL...mainly because the bowling is better and the grounds/boundaries are generally a more decent size...at least until now when the top players are taken out for International duty.
I am in the camp that thinks that our competition should be played over a month in summer (July?)....the issue of to franchise or not probably wouldn't make any difference.....

Peakfan said...

Excellent comment Sam! I do like the flashing bails, as they are excellent for helping with tight run out and stumping calls, aside from their novelty value.

Our window of opportunity is reduced by the IPL, Wimbledon, World Cup, European Championships and Olympic Games and there's not the money to attract the biggest names - nor the window in the international calendar.

Put it another way - I'd only go to a game that featured Derbyshire and while I may watch a little on TV, composite sides leave me cold...

Huw Lloyd said...

"Lets get more people interested in cricket by reducing the number of people who can go and watch it live!" Is what in effect the message behind franchise cricket is. Which doesn't work in my opinion.

The problem with our T20 competition is not the number of teams, but the format and marketing of it.

If you want families then Friday nights is not your best bet, if you want groups of lads then it is. If you want to market T20 at families, then use the middle Summer Sunday afternoons.

I would take my young family down for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon to watch, I wouldn't take them on a Friday night when a lot of people are there drinking before a night out.