So what’s been in the news over the last couple of days? Although there hasn’t been too much on-field action to discuss, there have been two huge off-field developments – one very good news and the second, well, let’s just say it’s good news if you’re a huge admirer of Tom Harrison and don’t really give a shit about the counties.
Let’s deal with the former first. And it’s good news from the ICC, where the money grabbing BCCI was outvoted (almost unanimously) in their attempt to block a more equitable financial model and new governance changes. They received no support from other countries whatsoever in their bid to retain a larger share of the pie for themselves (quelle surprise) and only one other country supported their objections to governance reform.
To put the BCCI’s selfish position into perspective, not even Giles ‘gin and tonic’ Clarke voted to keep the lion’s share of the dosh for the big three. Interesting isn’t it?
The bottom line of all this maneuvering is that the model created by the big three stitch up – the coup so vividly exposed by the film Death Of A Gentleman – is all but dead itself. And thank goodness for that. It’s good to know that common sense can still occasionally prevail in a world where T20 cricket is threatening to swallow everything whole.
As for the BCCI. Shame on them. I can understand the argument that those who generate the most wealth should benefit most from this wealth, but what’s the point in India being the best and most powerful team in the world if the competition is bankrupt?
Most observers agree that the big three stitch up was a road to ruin for world cricket in general, and I’m disgusted that the BCCI have done so much to derail the much needed reforms instigated by one of their countrymen, Shashank Manohar.
Now it’s time for the bad news. This week the ECB’s plan for a new city-based T20 competition – one which I’ll stubbornly continue to call Harrison’s Harebrained Have-a-Hit – has been passed by the counties and minor counties. Only Essex, Middlesex and Kent objected (although the latter officially abstained).
Although I’m tempted to talk about turkey’s voting for Christmas at this juncture, the fact that Kent’s chairman was so scathing about the competition, yet only abstained rather than voting against it, says a lot about the atmosphere in which this unnecessary competition has been pushed through. The counties obviously felt there was a gun pressed firmly to their heads.
The comments from Kent chief Jamie Clifford clearly showed the county’s concern about offending the powers that be:
Our stance reflects the anxiety among non-test match grounds … their role as active players in the game’s future is at risk … while Kent Cricket does not wish to be at odds with the ECB, the proposals for the future direction of the game as they stand are such that the club cannot actively endorse them.
Kent therefore concluded that they wished to be a ‘critical friend’ in the new competition’s development. Presumably in the same way that Sansa Stark was a critical friend of the Lannister family when they executed her father.
It’s a real shame that the other counties didn’t do more to try and stop the new competition. Although coercion obviously played some part, or at the very least anxiety about paying the bills, perhaps many of them suspect – as many readers of this blog do – that the new competition will fail.
Why might might we all think that? For starters cricket fans in this country will probably stay loyal to their counties, and save their hard-earned money to watch the existing (and very popular) NatWest Blast. And secondly, they probably realise that it will take a lot more than changing the name of ‘Nottinghamshire’ to ‘Nottingham’ to persuade people who currently have no interest in cricket that it’s suddenly worth watching.
The sad truth is that the new T20 competition will need a massive marketing effort, and several games on free-to-air television, to stand any chance of capturing a new audience. And there’s no doubt that these things could have been done with a premier division of existing county teams. The creation of new artificial franchises is completely unnecessary.
The final thing I wanted to talk about today is somewhat related (albeit indirectly). I found James Whitaker’s comments expressing frustration that Mason Crane has been left out of Hampshire’s first three championship games incredibly ironic.
Whitaker, of course, is not the only person annoyed that Crane isn’t getting the first class cricket he needs. After all he’s a highly promising spinner: he became the first overseas bowler to represent New South Wales since Imran Khan three decades ago, plus he was outstanding in the North versus South matches a few weeks ago. All English cricket fans will be frustrated that such a great prospect, one who might have had an outside chance of an Ashes berth this winter, is currently carrying the drinks.
However, if Whitaker is annoyed at Hampshire then I’m afraid he’s targeting the wrong people. If Crane doesn’t get the first class cricket he needs over the next few seasons it won’t be his county’s fault; the blame will lie firmly at the ECB’s door for scheduling championship games at times when spinners are somewhat redundant.
The last time I looked, there will be no championship cricket played at all in August (one of the driest months when pitches are worn and spinners come into their own) once Harrison’s Harebrained Have A Hit commences. This will make it almost impossible for England to produce quality slow bowlers.
As always the ECB’s desire to generate money supersedes absolutely everything else. And it’s not just spinners they don’t seem to care about: the whole county structure is under threat because of a new T20 competition that few hardcore English cricket fans seem to want.