Saturday, 19 March 2016

World Cup whets the appetite

A few days laid low by a virus this week has allowed me time to catch up on my cricket news and also to watch a little of the T20 World Cup.

There's mumblin' and a grumblin' in the shires about the change to the county programme for this year and future summers. Not just in Derbyshire mind, but around the counties. Few people are happy with only one team going up this summer (apart from those who support division one teams ). Fewer still are happy with the future concept of a division two where teams don't play all the other sides, deeming it a step too far.

I share their pain, but, like most other things in life, it isn't new. Until the Second World War, counties played differing numbers of matches, except that all counties were required to play 28 matches in each season from 1929 to 1932 inclusive. When the championship resumed in 1946, teams played 26 matches per season, and the pattern of a fixed number of matches has continued since then, although the number has varied. From 1960 to 1962 inclusive, counties could choose whether to play 28 or 32 matches. All of the above were in a seventeen-strong championship, so local derbies were always going to be home and away and those that proved the most logistically challenging were played just once.

Of course it is less fair. If you play, because of location, two less talented sides, the chances are that you will get more points than if you play the good ones. When we won the championship in 1936, Glamorgan were quick to praise Derbyshire and the fact that our win was not the result of two easy games against them. Yet the championship and life went on and goes on. The game will evolve and continue to do so and I suspect clubs have little option but to fall in line - or else.

It is not an easy time for the county game. For all a big international summer whets the appetite, the visit of lesser lights will see the available money to counties diminish. At a time when the champion county is millions of pounds in debt and many others are only remaining solvent through selling off land, the warning bells are ringing. That such solutions are finite is obvious...when you have sold the available land and spent the proceeds, what happens next?

Derbyshire remain an astonishingly well-run club and the return of successive profits is a minor miracle and object lesson to all. While as dependent on ECB money as the rest, the club has embraced the need to change and started to produce its own talent with success. Tom Taylor going away with a development squad and Matt Critchley with the Lions this winter is recognition of that.

We need only some of these lads to confirm their talent on a regular basis to fully justify things - and they will. Some are getting close now and may burst forth this summer.

Meanwhile, over at the World Cup, I allowed myself a smile at the number of armchair critics bemoaning England on Twitter after an admittedly poor bowling and fielding effort. Too many erratic balls and too many that gave the batsmen room to manoeuvre cost us, together with mediocre fielding at times.

Yet, as I have written many times on here over the past year or two, never call a match until both sides have batted. While the England attack looks ordinary - be fair, there is no world-class bowler in the side - the batting is long and powerful. The danger was that the South Africans two world-class bowlers might top and tail them, but while Tahir demanded respect, Steyn looked off his game and the rest are neither better nor worse than our bowlers. Without Morne Morkel, it enabled England to get off to a flyer and they paced it well.

Joe Root is an extraordinary batsman and by the time he has done will go down as one of the greats. He has all the shots yet still seems to play classically and there is grace and charm in most things he does. Having said that, the opposition attack was guilty of equal poor control and gave away far too many wides.

The team to really impress me so far has been New Zealand. They bat deep, have good seamers and, in Santner, Sodhi and McCullum can field an attack to take on anyone when the ball's a-spinning. They have lost Brendon McCullum, but have an equally astute replacement in Kane Williamson, who was quick and shrewd enough to omit his two star seamers against India. His side field like tigers and have a team spirit second to none.

If they can maintain that  - and remember they have beaten both India and Australia so far - then they could go on and win it.

Hey - we have three Kiwis at Derbyshire this year.

Maybe its an omen...

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