There was a fantastic ODI in Dunedin overnight. England scored 335 on a small ground (which was slightly better than par imho), and New Zealand chased it down thanks to Ross Taylor’s sublime 181*. He’s not bad that Taylor. However, it would certainly help if England could find a world class bowler or two. Our lack of a real match-winner is the missing ingredient that could cost us the World Cup we all covet.
England didn’t bowl particularly badly, don’t get me wrong, but somehow the Kiwis were able to take wickets in the last ten overs of our innings and slow our batsmen down when 400 looked on the cards. Sometimes when the pitch is good and the boundaries are short, taking wickets is the only way to curb the run rate. Unfortunately, England couldn’t make the same crucial breakthroughs New Zealand did. I feel a bit sorry for Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root really, who both made centuries but finished on the losing side.
Anyway, enough about the ODI series in Middle Earth. What I really want to talk about is yesterday’s intriguing reports that the ICC wants to take action to save test cricket. Apparently they’re genuinely concerned about T20 cannibalising other forms of the game and want to halt the proliferation of money-spinning, player-nicking, and garish-looking domestic T20 competitions. There’s even a rumour that the ECB support this initiative. Excuse me while I remove my jaw from the floor.
Obviously this news is extremely welcome, and possibly the best cricket related news I’ve heard for some time. I don’t want to repeat all the details when I can simply link to the full report in the Guardian, but the basics are as follows …
1. They want to establish firm windows for T20 cricket competitions, so they can only happen in certain parts of the world at certain times. This will leave 6 months clear for international cricket … including tests of course. These restrictions should stop players specialising purely as T20 players as they’ll only be able to earn money for half the year.
2. The number of overseas players in each domestic T20 team could be capped, thus preventing the wholesale migration of foreign players into each league. Basically this will reduce opportunities for average T20 players to quit first-class cricket and start globetrotting in random T20 events.
3. Players under the age of 32 will only be able to play in three domestic T20 leagues per year. And this, of course, includes the competition in their own country. I wonder if the NatWest Blast and Harrison’s Harebrained Have A Hit will count as two separate tournaments? If so Jos Buttler, Alex Hales, and Adil Rashid will be crying into their beer tonight.
4. All domestic franchises will pay 20% of a player’s contract value to that cricketer’s home board. I think that means the ECB will get a fifth of every eye-watering Ben Stokes IPL deal. I knew there had to be a reason why they’re in favour of this (wink, wink). This move is to ensure money is ploughed back into the grass roots … or Giles Clarke’s gin budget.
5. Player welfare and payments will be standardised across every domestic T20 tournament.
It’s interesting to note that it’s the West Indies board which is driving this forward, despite the fact they’ve won two T20 World Cups. I imagine they’re concerned that it’s almost impossible for them to put out their best team these days – a situation which might cost them a place at the next 50-over World Cup.
My eyebrows also moved in an upwards direction when I read that the ICC are worried a Kerry Packer type figure might hijack T20 cricket at some point; therefore they want to take steps to get both players and national bodies signed up to the proposals asap. I have no idea how realistic this threat is, but I’m pleased that the ICC apparently sense the need for urgency.
Obviously I’d love to know what everyone makes of these reports. I know some of you might want stricter restrictions on T20 cricket – and in an ideal world I might agree with you – but the world game is where it is, and I can’t see the shortest form of the game contracting anytime soon. In fact, curbing its influence might be the best we can hope for.
The important thing to take from all this is that the ICC are worried about the rise of T20, can see the problems as well as the benefits it creates, and want to implement measures to ensure all forms of the game can exist in balance and harmony.
‘Balance and harmony’ might sound like a bit like a slogan for a probiotic yoghurt, but cricket currently has a bad case of stomach ache, and personally I’m all for the introduction of some good bacteria to counteract the toxic stuff.