Let’s Talk Turkey

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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.

James Morgan

About the author

James Morgan

James is a freelance copywriter, writer and author. He's a founder and co-editor of The Full Toss.

13 comments

  • Problem the counties have is that all of them (or at least most of them) told the ECB to shove it, then they’d have a very strong bargaining position, as they could just refuse to release their players, refuse to release their their grounds, refuse to sign away their media rights, sort out their own competition schedules, and the ECB would have no option but to wind their neck in.

    But one or two counties have no bargaining power whatsoever. What are they going to do, form a breakaway league? ECB deliberately and ruthlessly punished Durham as a warning shot to other counties – stand up against us and we WILL destroy you and cricket in your region. I imagine there were a few quiet words in the ears of the Surrey executive board, along the lines of “how’s your fire insurance at the Oval”

    • The counties are so utterly dependent on ECB controlled revenue (from tv, England games etc) that they probably feel they can’t refuse. Had there been an open consultantion with the counties, with a democrat vote in which they felt able to express their point of view without fear, I have no doubt this plan wouldn’t have got off the ground.

      • It must be apparent to the whole of English cricket that the ECB under Graves and Harrison is a bullying organisation that is following the example of the Premier League and looking for mega worldwide TV deals with Fox /SKY.

        Next step the terrestrial coverge will be watered down to a minimum as quickly as the ECB judge they can and the Government/Parliament will mutter but take no action.

        Further point-the England Test team will become as irrelevant as the English soccer team is today.

        James-keep up the efforts to show what a shambles this all is.

  • James, I hope you’re right about the ICC deal – but I fear the opposite. Obviously I favour a more equitable distribution of revenue but the way this has been gone about (ambushing the BCCI when they are at their weakest, almost going out of the way to humiliate them in the voting) is very dangerous. We’ll know next week if the CT boycott threat is real, extending the IPL even deeper into overlapping with the English season I fear is very real indeed.

    A schism that could kill international cricket is a serious possibility. I’d like to believe that isn’t what some sitting around the ICC table actually want.

  • “The whole county structure is under threat because of a new T20 competition that few hardcore English cricket fans seem to want.”

    Whilst I agree with pretty much with everything James thinks about the game, in this instance I think the chap doth protest a tad too much. The death of cricket as we know it has been foretold by the doom and gloom mongers for years. This city-based tournament is just another evolution of the game. Granted, it’s another moneyspinner, but it really isn’t the death knell of county cricket. Whether it can happily co-exist with the NatWest Blast, however is a good question.

    The criticism that it’s a competition “…that few hardcore English cricket fans seem to want” is rather the point of it, isn’t it? It’s meant to attract the casual fan, and hopefully cultivate a passion for the longer game. With that aim in mind, and if at least some games are on free-to-air TV, it could be a step in the right direction to bolstering our beloved county game. Hell, let’s embrace it until proved otherwise. Cricket needs more bums on seats, folks.

    • I understand this argument completely about attracting the casual fan, but the thing is, the existing t20 comp is already doing that. Having a game every weekend is so much better than it all in one go.

      And apart from hardcore english cricket fans, these incoming multi millionaire cricketers would be able to walk down a typical highstreet and only the hardcores would ask for a picture – big names only work if people recognise them and the target audience isn’t people who recognise them

  • James why would anyone trust the ECB anymore? They sold their soul to PPV TV, and got into bed with Allen Stanford, enough said?
    Graves, Harrison & Strauss, are just a continuation of the Giles Clarke shambles.

  • I’d say the responsibility falls upon supporters to boycott the new t20 comp, but it’ll probably rain for the duration anyway

  • Morgs (hi!), I do agree that the context / environment in which the big bash, that the new t20 comp is aping, is different to that in England i.e. that Australia has a city based population and largely irrelevant Sheffield Shield. As you know my default position is for the longer version of the games but don’t underestimate the good t20 and a well marketed and supportedt20 can do for the overall good of the game and attraction new fans. As a Brisbane based Pom (see you in November :)) I see the large queues for the Brisbane Heat games and the interest their games generate in the city. Even my 8 year old who showed no interest in cricket asked if we could go along Quite a few people have said, “I don’t folllow cricket but took my kids along for the evening out and they loved it.”

    I also think we’re increasingly a city based society and people associate far more with a city based franchise than a county that I suspect many could not show you on a map. I do believe it is a good way of attracting new fans to the game, even if it leaves us traditionalists a little non-plussed.

    • Hi mate. I hope you’re well. Hope life down under is good.

      I’m not trying to talk down T20 in general. It definitely has its place and plays an important role. I just don’t see the need for new teams. I think a more aggressively marketed premier division of counties could do the job just as well. Warwickshire changed their name to Birmingham Bears in last year’s Blast and it made little difference from what I’ve read. It just alienated many members and traditionalists with little benefit in return.

      Ps If you fancy coming out of retirement, England could use a decent left-arm spinner this winter 🙂

  • I have no doubt that the IPL and the BBL have been successes in their home countries. But I do have a doubt – a huge doubt – that the format can be transferred so easily to the UK. Just one point – the UK isn’t “increasingly a city based society” – many families try, for a number of reasons (house prices, pollution, schools etc.) move from the city to the countryside or suburbs. Travelling back to the city is expensive, and sometimes difficult (for example making sure you don’t miss the last rain home).

  • If you care about List A cricket in any degree you cannot seriously be a proponent of this ECB Twenty20 seeing as the former competition will be automatically reduced to a Second Eleven. The Blast will also be devalued.

By James Morgan

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