Sir Andrew Strauss called on county leaders to vote in favor of proposed reforms to the national structure which would reduce the amount of cricket played, stressing: ‘Status quo is not an option’.
The former Test captain has spent the past six months overseeing a high performance review for the England and Wales Cricket Board, launched following last winter’s ashes beating, and came up with 17 recommendations.
Fifteen of these fall within the remit of the ECB and already have the support required, but two key proposals involving a complete reorganization of the county calendar require the support of at least 12 of the 18 first-class counties to move forward. before.
Strauss’ panel advocates a reduction from 14 league games per team to 10, with a six-team top division sitting above two secondary conferences, which would play for annual promotion.
Matches would be played more evenly throughout the season, rather than the current model which sees four-day cricket crammed in at the start and end of the campaign, while the possibility of red ball ‘festival’ matches during the August window for The Cent is also hinted at.
The Vitality Blast, a popular cash cow in several counties, would also be reduced from 14 group games to 10, with the Royal London Cup being moved to April as a knockout tournament.
The overall reduction in the number of days is intended to create time for more rest, coaching and analysis, creating more intense competition.
While this is likely to do well with large proportions of players, many of whom have found the 2022 model to be an unsatisfying jigsaw puzzle of competitions and formats, there is a clear financial implication at play. Fewer matches means fewer income, not only at the door but also among the members, who will actually see less cricket for their money.
But Strauss, whose bold mission statement is to make England the best cross-format team in the world within five years, thinks a change is needed.
“The status quo is not an option. Everyone in the game tells us that. We have listened, now we must act,” he said.
“I honestly think this set of proposals can make a huge difference to the game. Of course, everything in our national structure is very controversial and it’s up to the game to go away, talk and debate.
“I think we can still do a lot of good without the last two recommendations, but I think they’re a good demonstration of the tough decisions we have to make as a game and how seriously we try to achieve that ambition. .
“What we need to understand is how important it is for us to have a consistent schedule, and the answer to quality is not quantity. More intense and higher level red ball competition should be good for the members, for the players, for the ground staff, for the coaches. We have to understand that it’s not all about volume.
“We think it’s a very complete package, but there will be elements that some people think won’t be in their best interests, and we understand that. That’s the reality of the domestic structure. You can’t solve one thing without solving another.
Other suggestions the ECB will push include a pilot use of the Kookaburra ball in county cricket – used primarily by Southern Hemisphere Test nations as opposed to the Duke ball used in England – as well as a return for overseas ‘North vs South’, expanded and refocused England and England Lions age group programs and a new look at the central contract system amid threats from the World Tour of franchises.
Central county funding would also be tied to performance targets, including supplying players to the international path, and an incentive for good quality pitches is also suggested.
A final decision on the structural changes is expected by the end of November, but they could be passed for the 2024 season at the earliest, meaning one more year of a structure that Strauss’ side have effectively discredited.
“We’ve been in a race against time to get these recommendations out so counties can vote on them for the 2023 season, but I think we’ve run out of time,” he said.
“But these are difficult conversations and important decisions. Sometimes you have to look at the big picture and understand that walking towards the right solution is better than jumping off the edge of a cliff.