Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Decision day for counties and T20

There's a big decision at Lord's today, regarding the future of the T20 game in this country.

I say decision. Using an analogy with that other 'phenomenon' in the news, The Great British Bake Off, part of the problem appears to be that there are too many options on the table. Do you want it with jam, or butter cream? Maybe fresh cream instead and perhaps with vermicelli topping? No, scrap the vermicelli, let's go for a chocolate topping and tell you what, have chocolate filling instead.

It is nonsense and yet, for the parochial cricket fan of a lot of cricket counties, it is worrying. The crux of the matter appears to be the creation of an eight-team competition, based on the Indian IPL model (yawn) played in eight major cities. You can bet your bottom dollar that we won't be one, nor will Leicester, while Hove, Worcester, Taunton, Durham and Chelmsford won't be either. Let alone Northampton, regardless of them winning the T20 this year. That a lot of these towns and cities are in counties that have made T20 successful on and off the pitch is more than a little ironic.

So will we have Manchester and Liverpool? Two great cities after all, but both in the same county. There's two Sydney teams in the Big Bash after all, another model the powers that be seem keen to emulate. Will anyone in Yorkshire outside Leeds get behind a side that doesn't actually represent them? What about a London side, a composite of Middlesex, Surrey and Essex?

Research shows that only 25% of the UK population is likely to be catered for in the populations of these eight cities. Outwith them, interest may well be akin to mine, which is minimal. How many people used to be overly fussed by the result of the North v South matches? Or the Gentleman v Players? Or indeed Smokers v Non Smokers?

The idea appears to be to have a month-long tournament, with players drafted in and bid for as they do in India. What happens if or when a player is injured playing in a franchise team and ruled out for his substantive employers is worthy of consideration.

Whether the cricketing authorities like it or not, cricket fans ARE parochial. Their club's history goes back generations and few can just give that up. There's likely only three or four of our players would likely be involved and I certainly wouldn't follow that team's fortunes as a consequence, probably as a squad member in most cases. I don't support Worcestershire because they have Ross Whiteley, or Somerset because of Tim Groenewald, nor would I expect others to.

It is what happens to the traditional game that is of the greatest concern to me. Talk of reducing the championship still further to ten games leaves me cold, then they will moan that we're not producing Test cricketers any more. If the proposed tournament is to be played in July, does that mean that what I would deem 'worthwhile' cricket is played without a hundred of the best players? Or do we have no cricket worthy of interest in one of the best summer months? It would make booking my summer holiday easier, right enough...

Then there's the overseas players. However tough it is to get decent overseas players for the T20, to run a suggested 'traditional' T20 alongside it will make it nigh impossible. The big names will go for the 'money' competition in the cities, because as mercenaries they generally don't care who pays them. That will leave the counties picking over the lesser lights, with reduced appeal for the matches as a consequence.

A two-tier league system would be my preference, based on the current county set up, but then I am one of the accursed traditionalists, nor especially a fan of the format anyway. It appears to me that those in the senior roles of the game must always try to justify their existence by tinkering with the game to 'enhance' it. Comparisons with India and Australia are odious, because the social and economic issues in the game as it is played in these countries differs considerably from that in England. And I've not even mentioned the weather and the potential of its impact...

Be sure of one thing. If counties vote for the new competition, accepting a reported sweetener or  'bribe' of a million pounds-plus per county to get it through, the game as a lot of us love it will change forever.

For the better?

Not in my book.


Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more and I'm a traditionalist despite being only 26!
Great blog, Daniel.

Anonymous said...

I'm just wondering whether the club will be making any statement on the vote?


Huw Lloyd said...

I am very much against the City based T20 franchise plan, and am more than a little disappointed that our county wasn't one of the three that voted against the proposal.

I just don't see how this will improve cricket and increase its viewing numbers.

There is no way the ECB will allow there new presumed crown jewel to go onto FTA TV as no FTA Channel will be able to our bid Sky, which will mean the minority will continue to be the only ones who can watch this.

Also our population demographic does not lend itself to a city based teams if there are only going to be 8 of them. Will people of Derby travel to Notts, will people of Dudley travel to Birmingham, probably not, Warwickshire's numbers have not increased since their rebranding.

I also feel that the reported £1.8 Million offered to counties may be a goose sized golden egg as this will turn out to be a lot less, when reduced gate receipts, sponsorship and interest in the club kick in.

Plus there is the destruction of tradition and lack of opportunity for younger players to come through with less teams for them to play for.

It just has to be a no, and really hope Derbyshire will hold a members forum to allow members to sit their views and let us hear the Chairman's.

Huw Lloyd

Roy of the Falcons said...

The T20 format brought me back into watching cricket a game I enjoyed as a child so I am probably biased. With the success of the Big Bash and the IPL it became inevitable that we would have to run a format along similar lines.
The leaders at the top of cricket are sitting on the problem of Test/County cricket v T20 cricket. It is becoming impossible to fit the two formats into the calendar at an international level and the same is fast happening at a national level.
At some stage one of the two formats will become the winner and my money is on the T20 format because we live in a world where TV cash has a strong influence.
I have enjoyed watching county cricket but have come to the conclusion that it is for the rich or the retired whereas T20 regularly attracts families or groups of friends.
I appreciate I am talking in general terms and may be wrong in my opinions but in the long term I can only see T20 cricket being the winner. We may be the last generation that watches a credible test/county game.
Hard hat placed on head ready for the replies.