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Not often I agree with this chap but he is spot on here. As members of county clubs there is much work to do to see off the wreckers threatening the game we love. I demand my county secures for me the bi-annual visit to watch my county club play first class cricket at New Road and Grace Road and Hove (plus occasional visits to Colwyn Bay and Chesterfield) and in striving for this opposes any move towards a 12 team premier league.

A return to 1 County Championship of 18 teams must be a priority!!!

29 March 2022 Simon Heffer
The ECB has failed in its duty to protect first-class cricket, so why is Tom Harrison still in post?

Perhaps I am being more than usually obtuse, but isn’t the most surprising thing about the debacle of England’s Test cricketers in the West Indies the fact that anyone is surprised by it?

Some of us never bought into the idea that the three Tests in the Caribbean would be a stroll compared with the savage route-march to humiliation that was the tour to Australia that preceded it. The same fundamentals that contributed to that shambles remained in place for this one: a demoralised team insufficiently skilled in playing serious cricket, and exploited by its employers in playing the unmemorable, rubbish short-form games that have debauched the very idea of what cricket is. Add to that what must politely be called an eccentric selection policy, with the team’s two greatest bowlers playing golf at home while English cricket became yet more ridiculous, and the recipe for catastrophe was complete.

Most of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s panjandrums have already had their P45s. It remains inexplicable why Tom Harrison, the Chief Executive, has not had his. It would be mildly uplifting if, as in one of those excellent films about Bomber Command, Mr Harrison was like the handlebar-moustached pilot who ensures the plane crashes away from a centre of population after the rest of the crew has jumped out. Sadly, one fears he lingers for other reasons, perhaps to seek to engineer some sort of continuity from the pitiful regime over which he has presided. Since the ECB needs the most radical change in outlook and strategy imaginable, the sooner Mr Harrison is on his bike the better.

And talking of change, there have been almost universal calls for Joe Root to give up the captaincy. He is the leading English batsman of his generation, and fit to be compared with any of the country’s greats in living memory. He has a poor recent record as captain; he has lacked imagination; and if complicit in the exclusion of Broad and Anderson, he is a fool to boot. He probably will lose the captaincy, and a case can be made that he would deserve to. But it would leave an ugly taste in the mouth that he was being scapegoated for the failings and misjudgments of others. May he remain in the side for years and score many more centuries and double centuries; England needs him, and he does not deserve to be humiliated. He has done his best with the miserable resources put at his disposal.

One is tempted to say we can’t go on like this; but one says it every time a fiasco occurs, and we do go on like this; and the fiascos become worse and worse until they reach a preposterous level of absurdity, which is rather what happened in Grenada last weekend.

Nothing has changed. The fixture programme that is about to start has first-class cricket – the proving ground for the Test team – consigned to the usually poor conditions of the beginning and the end of the season. High season is filled with white-ball cricket that helps our players develop appalling techniques that makes them, especially the batsmen, play such rank Test cricket. It would seem the ECB regards first-class county cricket as an obstacle to its money-making activities and therefore as incidental to its main strategies. It has never tried to market it as a viable entertainment. That is what has to stop.

Sadly, there is no sign the ECB has grasped what needs to be done, never mind being prepared to do it. One shudders at rumours that one proposal which could be put to Sir Andrew Strauss’s performance review is a ‘Premier League’ of 12 counties, with a second division of just six. The main reason advanced for this is that it would mean fewer first-class matches and more time to ‘prepare’.

Our cricketers play too little first-class cricket, not too much. The best preparation, all evidence suggests, is done in the middle or on the field. Those who want to cut the fixture lists argue that relatively few first-class matches are played in countries such as Australia, and it doesn’t do their cricketers any harm. But this is not Australia; we have a different climate and geology; above all we have nothing like the sub-structure that underpins Australian cricketers’ development and performance, their commitment and their idea of competitiveness. What the last few years have shown is that our players need to play more first-class cricket. Look at this winter’s abominable performances if you doubt that contention.

Forgotten in all this is the cricketing public. Professional cricket exists in England because people pay to go to see it. The return on the investment the average county member gets these days compared with in the 1970s is dismal; a handful of first-class fixtures, many of which end in just three days because of the conditions in which they are played; teams bereft of Test players, for whom rest is deemed a superior form of preparation than actually playing; and an increasingly low standard of cricket because of the increasing difficulty in finding promising young players who wish to make the game their career, thanks to the near-death of state school cricket. Have a second division of six Cinderella clubs staffed by nonentities and they will rapidly start going out of business. Cut the first-class fixture lists further and membership figures will decline further: no one wants an unrelenting diet of rubbish. If you lose what remains of county cricket’s public, you will also erode the base of those prepared to pay through the nose to watch Test cricket.

The counties – six of whom, I repeat, will be lucky to survive other than as weekend and evening slogfest circuses – need to wake up and take the initiative. For too long they have been manipulated by the ECB in return for being bribed with money, mainly from television rights, that they have done little or nothing to help earn. Now they are being promised a transfer system (which will break what remains of many local loyalties) and other gimmicks to keep them silent.

The committees who run the counties need to realise that an existentialist threat to some of them will, in the end, provide a threat to them all, and to the future of Test cricket. They need to start asking whether they believe in first-class cricket; and if the answer is yes, they must be prepared to mount a full-scale peasants’ revolt to provide a more credible alternative.

The counties (and MCC, which is so much the obedient creature of the ECB that it is becoming a laughing stock and a disgrace) must remind themselves of the historic responsibility they have for our great game, and for securing its future. That future will be one of a diminishing spectacle of increasingly trivial cricket unless they act now to save, and grow, the red-ball game. The alternative is for county cricket to sign its own death warrant.

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Below is taken from the preview of Durham’s fixture away to Glamorgan - starting tomorrow - by BBC Radio Newcastle’s Martin Emmerson. TMS during the week had Farbrace and Moores defending County championship cricket and the 14 games minimum needing to be kept. Farbrace suggested need to return to 3 competitions not 4 so one of the Limited Cricket comp's needing to be removed from the schedule.

Here we go again. Another six months of county cricket beckons and Durham begin their 2022 campaign at Sophia Gardens where they hope to get - what should be a promotion crack - off to a good start. They meet a Glamorgan side who they beat in September last year, but who have added a few decent signings over the winter.
However there’s to be yet another ECB review into the structure of First Class cricket following another run of the mill hammering in The Ashes. And the defeat by The West Indies. All of it nothing new! Call me a cynic, but the fact England have only won one test in eons suggests the issue might be at the heart of their set-up and not the county structure.
On the BBC county cricket podcast this week Peter Moores pointed to the fact lots of support structures which were in place for England players, like regular winter sessions at Loughbrough and fast performance bowling courses, are no longer there. The system was designed to mirror the Australian Academy but has shrunk.
However, us lovers of county cricket know it is an easy stick to be beaten with and the usual voices have been making the usual noises about the usual England predicament.
One thing’s for sure though, working for the ECB review team looks like a job for life because those reviews come along so regularly. But what we still don’t know is if there will be two sides promoted at the end of the season or not. The elite review will take place in the summer. There have been reports of a 12-team elite league and a lesser league for the six remaining counties. The ECB denies this is a done deal though and says all options are on the table.
There’s been far too much tinkering with the game in recent years and too much concentration on white ball cricket as well. How many of the test players regularly turned out in the County Championship last year? And how many played any red ball cricket in the weeks leading up to the test series at the height of the summer against India?
England were a poor test nation in the 1990s. The ECB then introduced two divisions of nine with promotion and relegation and by the mid 2,000s they were the best test side in the world. Then the messing around with the formats began and look at the state of things now. Cause and effect?
Andrew Strauss is leading the latest review and has said in the past he believes there are too many counties. He is also one of the people who had a say about scrapping two divisions of nine and left us with two uneven divisions. He’s was involved in removing the toss only to see it brought back. And I think he had something to do with heavy rollers disappearing and coming back as well. I might be wrong but there’s a theme here, surely?
With so many formats in this country the County Championship continues to be pushed to the margins of early April and late September. But it has been for as long as I can remember so that is nothing new. As I regularly say, we are an island in The Atlantic and I couldn’t point to a single day in the six months of the season and guarantee you the weather will be good on that day. Two of the last three Marches have been the driest and sunniest on record. April last year was cold. May was miserable.
But playing little to no County Championship cricket at the height of the summer, like they did last year, is wrong. They have tried to remedy that this year with the fixture structure. But it may be a better idea to start the season with the One Day Cup and move into the championship a little later in The Spring. Having said that we got sunburned on my wife’s birthday a few seasons ago. That was April 21st and was one of the nicest days of the year. The same week two days of a County Championship match against Middlesex were lost to snow!
Easter 2019 was a scorcher from memory but the One Day Cup that May was a miserable and wet affair with all of Durham’s games away from home affected by rain. So there’s no magic answer to the question of weather.

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Excellent. Obvious to anyone who cares that there is a connection between the fixture list and test match performances. The only piece I would disagree with is the idea of bringing back an 18 team championship. A quarter of the way into the season and most teams have nothing to play for. The 2 divisions of 9 with each team playing each other home and away worked almost perfectly.
I would suggest start the season with a knock-out 50 over competition. Then play the championship throughout the season interspersed with the 20 over slog. Scrap the appalling Hundred.
As well as improving the test team there is a need to give the membership/supporters value for their money

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Andy Nash former Somerset chairman on probably my favourite cricket podcast this week. Well worth a listen. He suggests perhaps the worm might be turning given David Lloyd's, Mark Butcher, our own Farbrace and Peter Moores coming out over the last week or so defending the county game in the case of at least one of them performing a volte face now no longer employed by Sky/ECB/BBC and having to toe the party line in contrast to Aggers over the last couple of months hitching himself to the wrecking ball for obvious reasons.

https://chiswickcalendar.co.uk/episode-85-suing-the-ecb-former-board-member-and-somerset-chairman-andy-nash-suggests-how-to-resist-its-destruction-of-english-cricket/

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Today yet more noises from press twits about 3 divisions of 6 including barmy proposals to merge the points from CC, T20 and whatever other formats they decide to allow us to watch

Have to confess I am getting pretty fed up with people who profess to report on cricket in the media who never have to pay to get in telling those who do that we paying members are wrong and they are right for insisting on fewer games (presumably chiefly because they hate driving up and down the country having to watch 16 (now 14, soon to be they hope 10 or even fewer) rounds of championship cricket FOR FREE by the way.

If the ECB do get their way I do trust they are prepared to compensate the counties for the reduced membership and ticket sales income they will face or alternatively the ECB will subsidise the travel expenses to away matches for all members for - minimum 2 rounds of CC matches - to make up for the reduction in home matches available on the membership.

8 days first class cricket fewer on the membership. We face the prospect of a shrunken game brought about by people with shrunken heads

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Totally agree, there are all sorts of things that need to be changed and if I wasn't on my way to work I would have a bigger say but we all care about the game and fewer days of first-class cricket (with the U.K weather) is not the answer at all.

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Former Bears supremo Neil Snowball flat bats some excellent probing questioning from Kevin Howell's broadcast during one of the lunchtimes during last week's Championship games & now available as a TMS podcast. He's certainly better at this than Harrison but hasn't totally allayed my fears over what Strauss & Brailsford etc.. have in store. Members at Warwicks and elsewhere must be consulted properly before the county is permitted to agree with the ECB in flushing much of the season down the toilet

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0c8r4v0

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Rob Key apparently wants to flush much of our season down the toilet. And all for what?

Exclusive: Rob Key reveals plan to fix English cricket
Speaking on The Vaughany and Tuffers Cricket Club podcast, Key outlines his vision to see fewer red-ball games and two national selectors

By
Tim Wigmore
31 May 2022 • 5:00pm
Exclusive: Rob Key reveals plan to fix English cricket
Rob Key was speaking on Telegraph Sport's new The Vaughany and Tuffers Cricket Club podcast CREDIT: EDDIE MULHOLLAND/TELEGRAPH

Rob Key has outlined his radical vision to fix the England Test team by revealing he backs fewer County Championship matches as part of a new 12-team structure.

In wide-ranging interview for the launch of a new Telegraph podcast, The Vaughany and Tuffers Cricket Club, England's new managing director laid out his blueprint to revitalise English cricket and revealed:

He thinks the Championship will reduce from the current 14 games per season, mooting 10 matches per county as a possibility,
He is keen to recruit two full-time selectors but is struggling to fill the posts,
He believes Jos Buttler could return to the Test team and backed new coach Brendon McCullum to get the best out of him.
England are currently conducting a high-performance review, which includes figures from outside the sport - including Sir David Brailsford, the former performance director at British Cycling, and Dan Ashworth, the former Football Association director of elite development who has taken up a new sporting director role with Newcastle United.

Placeholder image for youtube video: p1MaIf_8ImU
Key revealed that he expects the process to lead to radical changes in the English domestic game, with the volume of Championship cricket likely to be reduced.

“At this point in time I have no idea of what it's going to be and how it's going to go because it might be less four-day cricket, which I think might be the bet that you could go on,” Key said.

“I would have 10 games of Championship cricket. I think you've basically added in a month of the season with a competition so you've added in a month's worth of cricket, so you've got to lose a month's worth of cricket. So you have 14 games, you go down to 10 games and you end up with 10 high-quality games.”

Key also suggested increasing the number of teams in the top division to 12. “I have my thing where you have your 12 best teams and one [division] below it and all that type of stuff, but whether that's how it's gonna go, I couldn't tell you. I don't think that would be a bad plan.”

Rob Key speaks to broadcasters after being appointed England Men's Cricket Managing Director
Key was outlining his plans for reform of county cricket to help produce more Test-standard batters CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES
But Key stressed that pitches in county cricket needed to be improved to help prepare players for Test matches. The average scores in the County Championship have improved notably in 2022.

“The whole system at the moment - that's not producing the players,” Key said. “We've got the talent - we've got to somehow make sure they can deliver at that level, which we haven't done as the batting suggests. And then we end up in a huge debate if you want to go down this road about county cricket pitches.

“My biggest bug - you can change the schedule, you can change the structure of county cricket, all those things, if you keep playing on those pitches that they did for the last however many years where the medium pacers - they were the bane of my life these guys who would just turn up at 70mph, dob it around and hit me in the shin.”

Key also said that Buttler, who was dropped from the Test side after a poor Ashes campaign but was the leading run-scorer in this year’s Indian Premier League, could return to the red-ball side. “I always thought that he could be an outstanding Test match batsman-wicketkeeper. I still think that.”

Key also revealed that he could appoint two new people to the vacant job of national selector, implying that there could be separate red- and white-ball selectors, but admitted his difficulties identifying suitable candidates.

“You probably, at some point, need two,” Key said. “The head selectors’ job is arguably one of the most important ones because you can have all this vision, all this philosophy, all the coaches, but if you have a selector who picks a bunch of numpties then you've got no chance have you really? But that's a tough job.

“It's a challenging job, but it's such an important job that I don't want to rush to do it. We're working fine up to a point where I can effectively chair that meeting. I can deliver the message to the media. You basically don't want bad decisions to be made. But it's a full-time role. So we need to get someone in.”

First of all - none of that is in his remit. His remit is to improve the shambles the ECB led England side has become. That's not the fault of the counties, the pandemic wasn't the fault of the counties. England will NEVER be number 1 test side for any sustained period of time it's a pipe dream.

Secondly he's clearly still in the pocket of his former paymasters at Sky who in cahoots with those numpties at the ECB would love nothing more than a shrinked down 'Barry Hearn style' game to put on the telly like made for TV sports darts or the snooker and have just 5 weeks set aside for the CC while all summer is block booked for assorted T20, T10, 16.4, 8.2 and whatever they invent when folks get bored of that trash

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That's a frighteningly dreadful interview containing barely one word with which I could agree. I'd be embarrassed if I were that incoherent after ten pints.
In particular, how does anyone come up with the idea that 12 teams playing 10 games constitutes a sane competition?

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Also, how does anyone think that reducing the amount of time that the players play (i.e. reducing the amount of practice they get) will make them better?

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It makes you wonder how the people who make decisions, actually think about the players of the first CC games up to the early 1960's, managed. Before one-day games came along, there were often 30 first class games and that meant 90 days cricket and most players played most games as this was the only format. I bet there were more Test quality players about then and I doubt they thought they would improve with less cricket. Also what is forgotten by the decision makers at the ECB is that less playing time gives you less chance to put things right if you are in bad form. 10 games will never be the answer as weather could reduce the amount you play so it will never be that you get 40 days CC cricket without any interruptions at all. What is needed at the ECB is someone who is a fan and look at the game from their point of view. I wonder how many of them love the game enough to turn up on a cold day in April with 4-5 layers on just to hopefully watch a days play. We need someone like George Dobell to fight the fans corner.

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In 1959, M. J. K. (Mike) Smith played 36 matches and scored 3245 runs. Fred Trueman played 30 matches, bowled 6466 deliveries and took 140 wickets.

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And they did not appear to suffer that much in the way they performed and the standards that they set themselves. Even if the ECB suddenly decided to play loads more first-class games, it would mean that if anybody felt they were fatigued, someone else would get a chance. Any batsman with 10 CC games to play would almost certainly get a maximum of 20 innings but that is nowhere near enough. Take into account a big innings of 500+, that would leave almost no chance of getting a 2nd knock and a few weather interruptions also could lead to an opener getting just 15 innings. If that particular opener only played CC games, that would seem like a very short season with little to show for it. Perhaps the answer might be fewer CC games but getting back to playing tourist games which are virtually non-existent now. Either way, less first-class cricket would be a backward step and don't get me started on KP's idea of first-class franchise cricket.

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It still amazes me that the heirarchy want a successful test side and yet over the years not only continue to reduce the number of red ball games but at the same time introduce more and more slog cricket with no time for a batsman to build an innings.
When one day cricket was introduced we had 60 over and 50 over games. The opportunity was there for the top 4 to spend some time at the crease. Then not satisfied with bringing in 20 over games this lot decide to reduce it to 100 balls!!
It's like Jaguar saying they want to build the best quality executive car and deciding the way to do that is to develop something akin to the Reliant Robin!!!

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Excellent thought provoking piece by Barney Ronay this morning. Stop trying to counter the IPL dominance with pointless new formats, work with what cricket has - it's traditions and the groundswell of good will amongst the public that remains in spite of the games shockingly poor governance in recent years if not longer - and an end to central contracts. Bairstow showed it can be done so can well see Ben Stokes having 2 months at the IPL and then returning to go straight into the Ashes next year. Whatever replaces the ECB should have as it's priority the aim of growing the game not swelling the ECB's coffers.

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2022/jun/19/cricket-end-ecb-spin-governance-comment

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Time to start writing to the club after this mornings ominous news re: reckless extension of the sky deal. They probably think they can ram through massive cuts to the County season as it's an Ashes year next season but they need telling in no uncertain terms. The way Bears have played this season I probably won't renew anyway but if we lose 8 days CC cricket they can do one frankly