Saturday, 13 January 2018

England's travails and Taylor's county switch

I had an exchange of messages on Twitter the other evening with Michael Vaughan (yes, that one) after the former England skipper and now broadcaster came up with the suggestion that we should play a couple of county matches abroad at the start of the season. This will help our players better prepare for overseas tours, even if it ignores the fact that the ones most likely to tour are on central contracts and unlikely to play.

I wasn't impressed, and said so. He retweeted my response and acolytes were quick to come to his defence. 'What ideas have you got?' was the standard reply, which I was happy to give - and to expand on now.

I fail to see how funding overseas matches in April and May for eighteen counties - or even the ones in the top tier - will improve our overseas fortunes in November and December. Ignoring for a minute the fact that members pay a membership to watch their side and few have the money to travel abroad to do so, it remains a crackpot idea of considerable cost, which would far outweigh its benefits.

Peakfan's step one to improving things - pick the right people. I like watching James Vince bat, as he is an aesthetic delight, but his chances of sustained success on hard, bouncy tracks with an array of quicks probing off stump were always slim. Mason Crane is a talented young bowler, but played less four-day cricket last year than Matt Critchley, so why Adil Rashid was omitted for wickets where he has enjoyed success is beyond me. So too is that we picked an array of right arm fast medium bowlers that made up an attack of 'Stepford Wives' proportions. Then we pick Gary Ballance, barely see him on the pitch and decide he's not up to a subsequent tour of New Zealand. How? They got at least one of those decisions wrong, for sure.

Second  - allow all touring teams a proper warm up. It is no surprise that most international series are won by the home team, because visitors turn up out of season and accordingly under-cooked.  Teams come here, play two or three matches against second elevens and subsequently get rolled over in Test matches. On this tour, England's batsmen and bowlers alike struggled for rhythm, because all the nets in the world won't make up for time in the middle.

In 1970-71, when Ray Illingworth led England to the Ashes, there were EIGHT warm-up matches before the first Test, three against state sides. The players were ready and a more even tour was a consequence. I'm not saying we need to return to such lengths, but surely five or six good standard matches pre-series might make for a fair competition, as well as generating money?

Third - sort the county schedule. The usual detractors have said that there are too many counties, which is never an issue when England win, of course. Cut the county game down to six sides and see us rule the world, say some. I don't follow the rationale that choosing your best eleven from seventy players is better than selecting from two to three hundred of comparable standard.

With half the county schedule played on low, slow early season wickets, is it any wonder we struggle on hard and fast tracks? The only time we play on such wickets is probably the T20, when they are going at pretty much everything and getting out as England's players did consistently on this tour.

Ah, but no one watches county cricket anyway. Of course they don't, because to do so you either need to be retired, not working or taking annual holidays. As I have written before, outside of the polar days of early season, Derbyshire has TWO weekend championship days of home cricket all summer.

There are 26 weekends between the first one in April and the last in September. For what it is worth, I would make county cricket three divisions of six teams, each playing the others home and away. So that's ten weekends, Friday to Monday sorted.  Then start the summer with a fifty over competition with two leagues of nine, playing Saturday, Wednesday, Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday, Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday. The four top teams in each league play quarter finals, then the rest follows on.

That is seven to eight weeks at the start of the summer for the league and knockouts, then you start the four-day game in late May or early June. Play them all Friday to Monday, maximising the crowd and accessibility. Stick the T20 in somewhere in the middle, playing Friday nights and Sunday, then finish with the second half of the championship.

There would even be time to include more warm-up games for touring sides and an end of season five day north v south, to look at potential tourists. It would make for greater intensity, with most sides retaining an interest in promotion or relegation throughout and being unable to coast. Every game would be important, better preparing players for the challenge of international cricket.

Lastly, give our former stalwart Steffan Jones a senior bowling role in English cricket. His assertion that we are moulding bowlers who pass gym tests but continually break down makes great sense.  Ask the old-timers and they will tell you that they got fit by bowling, not bench pressing their own body weight. If a few people listened to him, we might find an English quickie again who can match verbals with venom.

Enjoy, as I did, Steffan's paper on 'The demise of the anti-fragile bowler'

Finally today, I am pleased to see that Tom Taylor is back in the county game with a contract at Leicestershire. His talent is obvious, but so is Derbyshire's desire for more immediate success than his slow development afforded.

While there has been no official statement to the effect, my guess is that the club wants a leaner playing staff and space within that for the talent moving through the academy to gain earlier exposure to second team cricket.

If we don't think that the likes of Taylor, Rob Hemmings, perhaps in turn Ben Cotton and Tom Milnes will make it, then we need to allow others the opportunity to do so. It is tough, but that is professional sport for you. Let's see if young lads who are dominating in age group cricket can learn to do so at the next level, rather than becoming blase about their talent and wasting crucial development time.

Other counties are bringing through young players who are producing regularly in their early twenties, while ours are generally several years older. Hopefully the work of Mal Loye and senior players with the academy boys may seem them ready sooner.

There's only one way to find that out.


DerbyshireForever said...

Your trouble Peakfan is that you speak too much 'Common Sense', something that the Suits at Lords don't seem to possess too much of.

Some of the answers to cricket's problems are so obvious, as you, yourself, explain far better than I ever could. The piece you have written should be read by the members of every club committee, including the chairman, up and down the country. The grey suits that run the game should all be encouraged to read it and dared to consider the changes that you suggest.

While the suits are so fixated on City Franchises etc..., and convinced that boosting attendances at various one-day domestic fixtures is the answer to our County Championship and Test decline, we will hardly significantly improve, and the poor supporter, on whom the clubs depend will see less and less cricket on days when they can actually be present at games. The present schedule for Championship games is utter madness, if, that is, you want to encourage an increase in attendances at those games.

Your suggestion of a role for Steffan Jones is a great idea, would they ever consider it - I doubt it. Again, maybe Steffan speaks too much common sense!

Ash said...

Excellent article, can't stand MV, generally turn the box off off when his drone starts and certainly turn off TMS when he starts, the move to 3 divisions of 6 makes sense. My idea on overseas and kolpak registrations would be to go the other way (stick with me on this one) instead of restricting overseas/kolpak let teams register as many as you want, BUT every team in every game played (CC, T20, one day) must field 8 players that are qualified to play for England, 8 x 18, thats 144 players to choose from, if we can't find 11 players from that pool to be competitive we may as well give up! Did anyone see the reports on Philander? I'd certainly have him however just been reading his bio and didn't realise he'd been injured that much. However wouldn't it be nice to have the hottest summer on record and have a fully fit pace attack of HV, Philander, Davis and can but dream

Ash said...

Forgot to of the best things Derbyshire could do is get Steffan Jones on board working with our bowlers to get them fit and firing

Anonymous said...

I agree with the idea of 3 divisions of 6 with the proviso that it is 2 up 2 down. Cricket suffers from too many dead rubbers, this way everyone would always be playing for something.

Al white bal cricket in June, July & early August when there is no domestic football is so obvious it would take someone as blinkered as the ECB not to recognise it. For T20, franchises could be a way forward but only if we increased to 24 teams. The powers that be are trying to emulate the IPL & Big Bash, we need to recognise that our strength is that we could support more teams, like football & rugby. This would enable us to have teams in Devon, Norfolk etc which would increase attendances & widen interest. Ok many of the games may have crowds of 3-4,000 but that is fine. So for me something like 4 regional groups of 6 teams each having a squad of 14 of which at least 9 should be qualifies to play for England. Otherwise leave as is.

On England more warm up games is sensible. What we should do is select 26 players for a tour, hire local grounds & then play warm up games between the squad. Proper 11 aside which would enable the players to show who had acclimatised & who was in form. When the test series starts you simply send 10 players home

Mark B

Knack said...

How many young players winter in India ?

Essex fan said...

3 divisions of 6 with 2 up 2 down is crazy. I think 3 divisions of 6 in the CC is crazy regardless. theres no need to weaken our premier competion further.

To say there are too many dead rubbers is also crazy.

For the last 2 seasons in division one pretty much all teams have been involved in either relegation or title until the last game. Div 2 has been similar to an extent, but it seems theres become a gap in division 2 developing in the last 3 or 4 seasons, with Gloucs, Leics, Glam, and Derbys struggling a fair bit, one dominant team and the rest all competing for 2nd place.

The championship is fine as is, albeit it should have an equal number of sides in both divisions again. it should be played through out summer.

The one day cup should be cut; falling spectators across the country, lowest prestige amongst the players, its a drag, tune into so many meaningless games on sky, with nothing on the game and halfhearted players and empty grounds its depressing, and that comp is full of dead rubbers. A one day knockout of B&H style format makes so much more sense and reduce the number of days cricket, without needlessly ruining the CC. If a one day league must be retained it should be under 23's or something like that,

Peakfan said...

That gap you refer to may be a good reason for 3 divisions, of course...
I would prefer keeping 2, but the fixation here with the one day game makes me think they wont reduce it, so...

Essex Fan said...

It could be but you wont get bolter like you did a few years ago with Derbys going up unexpectedly, or Northants. plus it would mean 10 games a season, no where near enough. Everyone says the shield has fewer games and teams, well yes Australia has a much smaller population, and shield cricket is not what it was, its weaker than Division 1 of the CC, with teams not selecting the best players as they used to. Rather youngsters get in not on merit but on promise, which has weakened the competition, and not improved the lot of the national side. Latecomers to the national side who had earned their corn over many years in an incredibly tough shield, Hussey (both, Martyn, Rogers etc, you won't see their like again, as the competition has been doctored (like the CC with incentives) to expose young players. Thats admirable in a way, but imo has done nothing for the national side in Aus, and weakened the shield a lot. If youngsters are good enough they will get a game.

The yorkshire conference proposal, is done from self interest, it makes sense in game numbers, but is a complete mess logistically, with the casual fan having no idea about the permutations, as well as the fact that the winner has to play a playoff effectively...the best team finsihs at the top in a league, its senseless to have playoffs that means the best team over the course of the season may not win the league due to an off day . A return to 9 teams in each division with one up/down and maybe a playoff for the div 2 runner up vs the div 1 2nd from bottom would make so much ,more sense.

England have been excellent and poor whilst 2 divisions has been in situ. to change it now is reactionary, and selef serving. Anything Rob Andrew supports ought to ring alarm bells after what a mess he made at the RFU...

WIll you do a peice on the conference proposals Peak fan? would be good if you did.
Kudos on the blog, it makes great, interesting reading for any county fan not just derbyshire ones, even if you do come across a bit glass half full sometimes in when things are going bad for your side and maybe critiscm is due to the regime ;) anyway keep up the good work. I miss my trips to derby, but i have a feeling we will be back in div 2 next year.

Peakfan said...

Duly done, Essex fan. Thank you for the kind words, and I suppose my 'glass half full' nature is a reflection of me and the way that I live my life.

Look at it this way - I wouldn't have managed fifty years of support without it, that's for sure, let alone ten years writing a blog!

high peak said...

haha fair point, its been a bit like that with essex in the grayson years under performing (relatively)