Andrew Strauss plans cricket reform labeled ‘impractical’ by county chiefs

Published by
Peter Kavinsky

County heads have criticized Sir Andrew Strauss’ proposed reforms for domestic cricket, although they concede that changes are needed.

The former Test captain has spent the past six months overseeing a high-performance assessment for the England and Wales Cricket Board, launched after the Ashes’ defeat last winter, and has come up with 17 recommendations.

Fifteen of these are under the ECB’s purview and already have the necessary support, but two key proposals involving a complete reorganization of the county calendar need the support of at least 12 of the 18 first-class counties to move forward.

Andrew Strauss led the ECB high performance review (Jonathan Brady/PA)

(PA file)

But Sussex chairman Jon Filby told the BBC: “Strauss’ high performance rating is equally impractical as far as county cricket is concerned.

“When viewed through the lens of high performance, this is exactly what the game needs. But we’re not just looking through the lens of high performance.

“We are looking through a financial and commercial lens. We’re looking through the eyes of our members who want cricket and we’re looking a lot through a variety of angles that it’s not just high performance.”

Essex chief executive and interim chairman John Stephenson also questioned whether the proposals would improve the testing side.

“There are different opinions on all of this and you can have big debates about what makes a test player better,” he told BBC Essex.

“In my opinion, reducing the amount of red ball cricket is not the way to produce better test cricketers.

“Certainly, from an Essex point of view, we would not like to see a reduction in the number of cricket championships.”

Strauss’ panel advocates a reduction from 14 Championship matches per team to 10, with a six-team major division above two minor conferences that would vie for an annual promotion.

Games would be played more evenly over the course of the season, rather than the current model which sees four-day cricket packed at the start and end of the campaign, while the possibility of red ball ‘festival’ matches during the August for The Hundred is also discussed.

Vitality Blast, a popular money source for several counties, would also be reduced from 14 group stage games to 10, with the Royal London Cup moved to April as a knockout tournament.

“We have to be careful not to miss too many games,” Surrey manager Gareth Batty told reporters at the Kia Oval after his team’s decisive triumph over Yorkshire on Thursday.

“I think it would lessen the emotion (of winning the title) a little bit, because it was built over so long. Ultimately county cricket is here to serve an England team but I hope we are doing this for the greater good of the game rather than keeping celebrity cricket alive.”

The overall reduction of days is intended to create time for more rest, training and analysis, creating more intense competition.

“If we want to be the best test nation, we have to make sure our players are playing enough red ball cricket,” Warwickshire cricket director Paul Farbrace told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“My personal opinion is that I would like to see all three groups of six – that would be a good way to go.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean in Warwickshire that we’re going to vote that way. There’s a lot of work to do to get to that stage, but I like the best against the best because that’s the only way to compete and be the best test nation in the world.”

The answer to quality is not quantity. We need to understand that it’s not all about volume.

Mr Andrew Strauss.

But there is a clear financial implication at play, less games means less revenue, not just at the gate but also amongst the members, who will effectively see less cricket for their money.

“If it was just high performance and you forgot about limbs and finances, then yes, go for it,” Surrey cricket director Alec Stewart told BBC 5 Live Sports Extra.

“But it’s a little bigger than that. In my opinion, we should respect members who pay members money to come watch and support. The finances that make the game happen, does it all balance out well?”

But Strauss, whose bold mission statement is to make England the best multi-format team in the world in five years, believes change is needed.

“The status quo is not an option. Everyone in the game is telling us this. We have listened, now we must act,” she said.

“I honestly feel that this set of proposals can make a huge difference in the game. Of course, everything in our domestic structure is very contentious and it’s for the game to go away, talk and debate.

“I think we can still do very well without the final two recommendations, but I think they are a good demonstration of the tough decisions we need to make as a game and how seriously we are trying to achieve that ambition. ”

  • London Royal Cup – April
  • LV= County Championship – May, June, July, September
  • Vitality Blast – May, June, July
  • The Hundred – August
  • Red Ball ‘Festivals’ – August

Core funding for counties would also be linked to performance goals, including providing players for the international path, and encouraging good quality courses is also suggested.

A final decision on the structural changes is expected by the end of November, but the earliest they can be adopted is the 2024 season.

A statement from the Professional Cricketers’ Association read: “The PCA and most professional players agree that the current schedule is unsustainable and requires reform.

“The PCA and the players support the vision of making England the best team in the world across all formats.

“For this to happen, players need to have room to grow and develop with adequate rest and recovery to maximize performance and protect player well-being.”

Peter Kavinsky

Peter Kavinsky is the Executive Editor at cablefreetv.org

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