County cricket in many ways gets a bad rap nowadays. Many of the younger generation of players seem more interested in playing for some franchise side which no one in Lancashire has ever heard of than representing the county that developed them: the likes of Liam Livingstone virtually never appear for Lancashire, particularly in red ball cricket, due to his wish to play for every franchise going.
Steven Croft, Lancashire’s longest serving player, is in some ways a throwback, as he has spent his whole career with the Red rose county, and has never agitated for a move away, as far as I can tell. That said, he is also a “three dimensional” cricketer- still at 37 years young old of the best fielders in the side, an adaptable batsman who can also bowl particularly in one day cricket (although his off spin is seen less frequently these days). He is in many ways a perfect T20 cricketer and has batted at 3 in the blast this season with considerable success. We can only hope he is not taken away from Old Trafford by the monstrosity that is The Hundred, and that he plays for another season at least.
Players certainly move around more than they once did, and as a larger and wealthier county Lancashire certainly are happy to sign players when it suits them- Luke Wells and Phil Salt more recent additions to the squad who have added quality and depth. Players who are multi-format are more sought after than ever, and the profusion of English players now performing globally in various T20 leagues speaks greatly of where many modern players priorities now lie. If a player calculates that they are unlikely to make the England Test team then red ball cricket inevitably loses relevance, and it seems more and more players will choose to become T20 specialists, touring the globe to maximise their earnings.
Back then to Crofty. It is strange in many ways that he has not played more in the overseas leagues, a few appearances for Auckland almost 10 years ago not withstanding. He remains a formidable batsman with power and range of shot, particularly square of the wicket, and has played every game this season.
In an era that seems to celebrate denigrating the county game and what it stands for, it is good that there is still the odd stalwart out there to remind us that some players still devote the vast majority of their career to their home town club. We should enjoy them when we can.
You can’t blame young players for following the money. That happens in every profession. They don’t have the same sense if county tradition that previous generations had. It’s the administrators to blame for their shortvsightedness in not protecting the game as a whole, encouraging all formats equally.
I wish people didn’t assume that everyone follows the money. There are dedicated people in every walk of life, trade or profession who chose otherwise such as job satisfaction. Happiness in a job is not related to just following cash. Mastering skills is another kind of job satisfaction. I think sport is very close to the arts in that respect, playing at the level of the County Championship is a huge achievement. Perhaps cricket fans who love the game have to start challenging the money ethos as a way of life. Let’s value those skills and appreciate them. The Hundred strips the game of everything that makes it worthwhile watching. There’s a fight back from the Lancs fans to keep the Counties playing each other, against the ECB plan to cut the games from 14 to 10. Maybe Lancs is the County to say no to the ECB and follow the fans.
Because experience tells us that pretty much everyone does follow it. Look at the NHS problem, where there’s thousands upon thousands of vacancies in a profession that’s clearly vocational. That wouldn’t be the case if the money was better. The reason most people pursue higher qualifications is to improve their standard of living, at the core of which is a better wage. It’s not a crime, it’s what trade unions were primarily set up to protect. Otherwise happiness in a job derives mostly from your relationship with work colleagues, something that you’re in no real control of, as most of us don’t choose who we work with. These 2 things are at the core of job satisfaction for most. Mastering and developing sophisticated skill sets aren’t relevant to most jobs, which have limited opportunities in this direction and where the daily routine dominates working life.
The Hundred is essentially the same as T20 with the identical skill sets. The problem is it’s in direct competition with an existing format and the fact that the ECB now seems in direct competition with the counties. You can’t move the game forward with this internecine wrangling.