LV COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP
‘Common sense’ is a much-used expression but perhaps the most misleading in our language. Sense is anything but common and, at the offices of the England and Wales Cricket Board, it appears to be almost completely absent.
How else can their plans for the restructure of English cricket be explained? The limitless expansion of Twenty20 cricket; the reduction of championship cricket and even considering the madness of four-innings Twenty20 games: these are not the ideas of cricket-lovers. They’re the ideas of people wanting to leave their mark.
The problem is largely the personnel at Lord’s. They are highly-ambitious men promoted above their worth and entrusted with responsibility for something they cannot fully understand or appreciate. No-one who values county cricket could support these proposals.
In this new world Tim Groenewald is a more valuable player than Mark Wagh; a Luke Wright would be paid more that a Geoffrey Boycott. County club members will be replaced, eventually, by shareholders. Everything will become disposable, immediate and fickle.
The major mistake of recent years has been to allow the assumption that ‘county cricket exists to breed England players’ to go unchecked. It is a line trotted out routinely by county coaches (though often just to blur the boundaries between what constitutes success and failure) and has become a far too readily-accepted ‘truism’.
It is wrong. County cricket has worth it its own right. It provides entertainment. It is followed – albeit at a distance – by millions. It sustains the values and spirit of the game and is, at times, played to the highest standards. It nurtures the young and provides an environment for the best players in the world to flourish up and down our country. It matters.
Yes, counties require money from international ticket sales and television rights. Yes, Twenty20 is a worthy and vital part of the schedule. But mess with the championship and you damage the foundations of the remainder of the game.
Sometimes, however, salvation comes in unlikely forms. Take Colin Povey. He hasn’t exactly endeared himself to some Warwickshire members since he took over as chief executive but he (and several other chief executives) now provide the best hope of thwarting an ECB executive hell-bent of stamping their mark on a game that actually managed rather well without them Povey will not be supporting the ECB’s proposals for a ‘three conference’ championship. He will not be supporting the proposal for a 21-team Twenty20 league and he is not especially keen on the idea of scheduling the season into ‘blocks.’
“It’s hard to make much progress in the absence of any firm proposals from the ECB,” Povey said yesterday. “But is it fair to say that we [Warwickshire] see no appeal in a 21-team EPL. No-one sees the rationale, do they?
“We would like a sensible amount of more Twenty20 cricket but it must be county based and not city or franchise based. I’d think between 12 or 14 of the chief executives would see it that way.
“We’re happy with the championship the way it is but we do think it’s time to make up our [collective] mind about whether we should play 40-over or 50-over cricket. Probably we should be playing only one of those and spreading the schedule out more so there’s more time for practice and the quality improves.
“We’d also like some regularity in the schedule. So if we’re going to play Twenty20, let’s do it every Wednesday, or every Friday. Let’s help spectators know what’s going on.”
Makes sense, doesn’t it? One idea that is not on the agenda but surely should be is the re-introduction of a knock-out competition. The demise of the C&G Trophy is often lamented by spectators and could easily be brought back, perhaps as 20 overs a side, incorporating the minor counties.
Surely that would prove easy to market and immensely popular?
Those who have grown jaded of Twenty20 will be delighted by the return of championship cricket to Edgbaston tomorrow. It may not seem the most glamorous fixture but there should be much to savour.
The Gloucestershire seam attack is highly impressive. In Steve Kirby, Jon Lewis and AJ Harris they have a trio to rival any in the country while David Brown should also be fit for selection following a hamstring strain.
Kadeer Ali is available after injury while Alex Gidman will play as a batsman. Craig Spearman is due to undergo surgery on his fractured right cheekbone and fears remain over possible damage to his vision.
The Warwickshire side also features a new opening pair in Navdeep Poonia and Michael Powell. Both are out of contract at the end of the season and have much to prove. Chris Martin also comes in for his championship debut in a team that will, perhaps, miss Darren Maddy as much for his bowling as his batting. Ian Bell will come straight from England duty tonight to take his place in the side.
Warwickshire: N Poonia, M Powell, I Bell, J Trott, J Troughton, T Frost (wkt.), A Botha (capt.), I Salisbury, N Carter, C Woakes, C Martin. Reserves: L Parker and J Anyon.