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No More Test Cricket Until August 1st

What’s on the agenda today? The headline says it all. We’re about to enter the height of summer, a time synonymous with long sunny days and Richie Benaud saying “morning everyone”, yet England won’t be playing a test match this month or next. Instead our ECB overlords have created what amounts to a ‘no-test’ zone.

England’s test series against India commences as late the 1st August this year, by which time we’ll know who won Wimbledon, who won the football World Cup, whether England’s rugby team returned to winning ways in South Africa, and who won The Open golf.

And what do us proper cricket fans have to look forward to? A sequence of white ball games that are little more than glorified exhibition matches. After all, nobody will remember or care who won the week after they finish.

Between today and England’s next test match, the ECB have scheduled eight ODIs (five against Australia and three against India) plus three T20s (all against India). That means there will be eleven – yes eleven! – white ball fixtures before Root, Stokes and Buttler wear whites again.

I do feel a bit sorry for Jos. He’s finally found some form in proper cricket but he’s not going to see another red Duke for the foreseeable future.

I’ve heard people argue that England need these games ahead of the World Cup. Do me a favour. Do we really need a whopping eight ODIs and three T20s? Our white ball team is pretty settled. Sure they could use a few fixtures to keep their eye in but wouldn’t it be better to divide these up (and play one series now and one later) so they’re not too rusty when they’re touring this winter?

I’ve also heard it argued, regrettably, that it’s right and proper for England to focus on white ball cricket in the next two months. Why? Because our white ball team are superb and that’s what the public want to see. Our test team, on the other hand, is a waste of space and therefore too much of a hard sell.

I find this latter argument as depressing as double maths at school. Who on earth would want to give up on our test team simply because they’re having a bad trot? What’s more, this argument is totally misconceived. The ECB used to schedule plenty of ODIs when we were the No.1 test side in the world and our white ball team was utter dross.

The truth is that first class cricket has become increasingly marginalised over recent years. The ECB apparently haven’t cared about the championship for years, and this summer test cricket has been somewhat pushed to the periphery of the season too. Call me naive, but I had hoped that test cricket would be immune. It seems I was wrong.

No doubt some will argue that the ECB have scheduled these upcoming white ball games as a ‘dry run’ before the World Cup; so they can make sure everything is in place logistically before the big tournament arrives. Again this doesn’t add up. Similar preparation wasn’t required for the two Champions Trophy competitions, the T20 World Cup, and the two 50-over World Cups that have been held on our shores before.

I’ve also heard it mentioned that it was the BCCI and not the ECB who insisted on playing the ODIs before the test series began. In which case (a) why didn’t the ECB stand their ground and say ‘no’, and (b) why on earth did the ECB insist on playing FIVE one-day internationals against the Aussies immediately beforehand? Most of us are sick of the sight of Australia right now. They’re not even able to send a full strength side!

The conclusion most cricket supporters will draw, of course, is that the ECB have done this for financial reasons and for financial reasons only. They’re no longer custodians of the great game of cricket in this country. They’re merely people who try to make as much money as possible from cricket.

When Gideon Haigh the excellent Australian cricket writer was interviewed in Death Of A Gentleman, he famously posed the existential question: does cricket make money to exist or does cricket exist to make money? In the ECB’s case I think we can safely says it’s the latter.

Why else would we be playing just two tests against Pakistan, with 5 ODIs against Australia instead of a decider, and then belatedly shoehorning five test matches into six weeks when the red ball action finally returns in August and September?

The whole situation makes me feel sick to my stomach. What on earth is happening to our wonderful game?

James Morgan

2018-06-06T14:29:35+00:00 June 6th, 2018|Talking Points|37 Comments

37 Comments

  1. Colin June 6, 2018 at 2:41 pm - Reply

    Good article James. Agree with all your points. Who is going to stand up and shout stop?

  2. Norman Dugdale June 6, 2018 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    And there is not one sound of discontent from the MCC committee!
    It’s disgraceful!
    Are they ‘all in it together’?

    • Chris June 6, 2018 at 2:50 pm - Reply

      Yes Duggers they surely are.

  3. Lolly June 6, 2018 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    It’s a shame and I’m sure a portent of things to come. Cricket boards these days are such commercial beasts.

    I’m fed up with the Aussies, they always send weird teams for away ODI tours now but then their board cares even more ONLY about money. They cancelled Bangladesh touring in winter blatantly saying that there was no money in it. Even the ECB aren’t that up front, though you do get the feeling that the ECB would happily dump first class cricket in a minute if they felt they could get away with it.

  4. Jackie Litherland June 6, 2018 at 3:14 pm - Reply

    I think it is commonly recognised that the ECB are interested in the money they can make out of cricket rather than running the game as a sport. But surely that is the viewpoint of businessmen now employed on the board? If you buy a cricket club through bailing them out you expect returns on your investment. Worse, the ECB members are in tune with the ethos of the age. Money and money again are the only values dictating how our society functions. But they’ve got the game wrong.The most popular version of the game in England is still Test cricket. Fans get it.
    I’m not sure that we need to write off other forms of the game though, they can produce brilliant moments and exciting matches and batsmen and bowlers learn skills they can bring to Test cricket. The problem is the imbalance now being created. We can’t choose to watch county cricket either. There is a perversity in channelling all cricket interest in one direction. Graves and his ilk don’t seem to have the capacity to enjoy Test cricket. But quality is not his thing. The IPL surely has jaded a few appetites as well. Too long! It was like those endless repeat programmes on TV. And why are cricketers such yes men?

    • James June 7, 2018 at 1:24 pm - Reply

      One of the real oddities here is that the ECB may be following the lead of the BCCI. During the reign of N Srinivasan, the BCCI appeared to prioritise T20, and particularly ignore away test form. However, I think a number of the top Indian players are coming to England to play for counties ahead of the test series (Pujara has been here for several weeks), so I think India are taking the test series seriously. So it appears the BCCI has had a change of heart.

  5. oreston June 6, 2018 at 3:21 pm - Reply

    It’s cricket, Jim, but not as we know it…

  6. Graham Anderson June 6, 2018 at 3:25 pm - Reply

    Great article – I am afraid the battle is lost – the white ball is now king – I fear we will soon be seeing scenes similar to recent race meetings where boozed up mobs of hooligans rule the roost – the cricket will just be seen as somewhere to go after work for a couple of hours to get as much drink down as possible and create the biggest “beer snake” – grounds will become multi functional like Old Trafford where concerts and corporates reign supreme – the money men have realised this is the way forward and there’s is no turning back – the professional cricketer will have two aims 1.get a central contract and 2.keep your central contract .the 4 day game will become semi professional mainly played on outgrounds in front a handfuls of spectators – the pace of change is actually accelerating alarmingly i predict this will come to pass in 5 years or less – it’s depressing but I fear unstoppable

    • John June 6, 2018 at 7:48 pm - Reply

      Makes the MCC announcement about stand development look pretty risky. Lord’s is ill equipped for much outside of predominantly day time cricket.

  7. Vashtar June 6, 2018 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    Its a bloody disgrace. The ECBs stupidity is being adopted by the Surrey Championship all League games now start at 12 noon. Ist xi games even earlier at 11. 00.

    I know people that have to leave home at 9am on a Saturday morning in order to make these ridiculously early starting times. No wonder peope arent interested in playing anymore.

  8. SaxophoneAlex June 6, 2018 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    Totally agree. There should be plenty of county and test cricket in June and July. Who needs a meaningless 5 match ODI series against the Aussies ? We should have had a third test against Pakistan, with a shorter 3 match ODI series against India later. I am listening to some one day cricket on the radio at the moment, and really it just comes across as one great slogfest, in which even good balls are slogged away for fours and sixes and everything is biased towards batting. I prefered one day cricket in the days when it was more of an even contest between bat and ball. The ECB don’t care, they just want to make more and more money. Numpties the lot of them.

  9. Comte June 6, 2018 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    I also have the sick feeling in my stomach, compounded everytime TPV (That Pillock Vaughan) opens his mouth.
    Short of marching en masse on the ECB and beating the main offenders with our Gray Nicholls I don’t know what we can do.

  10. Mojo Wellington June 6, 2018 at 4:34 pm - Reply

    I share your despair. Too many games of little or no value, coupled with extortionate ticket prices has led to a serious drop in my interest in the game, particularly at international level.

    Michael Vaughan said it was clever to replicate conditions for next year’s World Cup, which would have some merit if there weren’t quite so many matches – three one-dayers in a series should be enough. Besides, it is on the slow wickets where England’s one day team have struggled, so I’d rather see some matches played on some puddings.

    Incidentally, Michael Vaughan blocked me on Twitter after responding to his request for feedback on the Hundred and having the temerity to suggest that the idea seemed to be supported by those who might reasonably expect a commentating gig out of it, than fans and less-media centred ex-cricketers.

    I mention this because it saddens me that the views of fans are either not being sought or not being listened to – regardless of their merits.

    • Elaine Simpson-Long June 7, 2018 at 5:51 am - Reply

      These days being blocked by the likes of Selvey and Pringle, which I am, and now Vaughan, classifies as a badge of honour. Be proud!

      • Mojo Wellington June 8, 2018 at 6:40 pm - Reply

        Thanks Elaine. Was surprised to be blocked for making an observation.

  11. Mick James June 6, 2018 at 4:36 pm - Reply

    Isn’t the idea of having two Test teams visit that the early tour acts as a warm-up for the longer series? What kind of warm-up ends two months before the main event? What are our non-white ball test players supposed to do in the meantime when they can’t even play for their counties?

    Does any other sport organise itself so that top international players not only never play for their clubs but are idle through the height of the season?

    And what about tour matches? India are playing Essex. And that’s it.

  12. Kropotkin June 6, 2018 at 4:40 pm - Reply

    It’s all f***ed lads.

  13. Simon H June 6, 2018 at 5:53 pm - Reply

    Some of the players who’ll be missing – Stokes, Wookes, Smith, Warner, Starc, Hazlewood…. It’s almost like they know it’s meaningless garbage.

    By the way, Mason Crane has picked up some excellent 50-over figures recently. Can they get him in the team to replace Mr Mental Fragility to bed him in before the World Cup?

  14. d'Arthez June 6, 2018 at 6:40 pm - Reply

    And always Australia.

    Since the start of 2005, there have been 34 ODIs played between Australia and England, in England. A few of those have been in non-bilateral series. So all, in all, just 28 ODIs between those two teams in bilateral series in the past 12 years.

    Undoubtedly there are a few Australian cricketers who been on the field for more limited overs games in England, than people in England have managed to see Dale Steyn donning the whites (24 days).

    Those 28 ODIs in bilateral series since 2005 compare to 20 against Sri Lanka, 16 against India, 15 against Pakistan, 13 against New Zealand, 13 against South Africa, 12 against the West Indies and 3 against Bangladesh.

    What that tells us, is that at least CA are honest about why they can’t be arsed to play Bangladesh. The ECB simply prefers to let its silence speak on the matter.

  15. Kenaz June 6, 2018 at 7:42 pm - Reply

    With no tests, it is a good thing we have the county championship to enjoy, July-August, isn’t it? Wait a minute!

  16. Mark June 6, 2018 at 7:55 pm - Reply

    The only way to stop this trend is for people to not want what they are giving us. Hopefully people will get bored of meaningless games and will stop paying for tickets. Maybe the ECB knows this already and is trying to create some identity with crap gimmicks that they think people will buy into. Maybe when the stadiums are no longer full and that people crave once more for the few tests that remain this trend will reverse once more and we purists get more of what we love. Even those who will pick up cricket as a new fan will be interested in the history and stories around test legends. A test series can create drama.and build characters be compared a good Netflix series with proper writing and substance. Meaningless T20 or 100 games can be compared to much of the crap that Hollywood throws out these days and that people forget about the next day. I live in hope that cricket fans old and new will get over the craze of this have a hit rubbish and eventually vote with their feet towards the real game of cricket where real skills are on show. There will be good that comes.of all this because tests will now be full of attacking batsmen who skilled bowlers will eat up. Less tests will end in bore draws (I believe this is already a trend) and the game will be healthier than ever.
    You heard it here first!

  17. Marc Evans June 6, 2018 at 9:47 pm - Reply

    With no World Cup to shoe in as an excuse next season it will be interesting to see that schedule when it comes out. I fear the ECB has already decided white ball is the way forward, spurred on by their commercial sponsorship buddies. All the players I have seen questioned continue to say test cricket is the ultimate test for any player and county cricket is the only breeding ground for this, yet the administrators, none of who currently play, pay lip service to this by playing the long game at the beginnng and end of the season when the weather is less favourable, light is shorter and good pitches are more difficult to produce. I have seen some pretty ordinary crowds at 50 over games this season, notably the ‘Roses’ encounter this week.
    What is the point sacrificing quality for quantity in any aspect of life. Surely that is the refuge of the philistine and is destined to dumb down everything to the lowest common denominator of so called entertainment.
    What are we left with when this homogenised overkill stops laying the golden egg?

    • James June 7, 2018 at 9:14 am - Reply

      There is the small matter of the (Cricket) World Cup next summer.

      • Match Evans June 7, 2018 at 10:20 am - Reply

        Ok let’s say 2020 then. See, I had a brainstorm about that one as it rates so highly on my ‘not to be missed’ scale.
        Someone gave me a DVD of an old World Cup (cricket) compilation from I can’t remember when, not so long ago and I sat down on a spare evening with a couple of mates to drink in cricket on a winter’s evening. We didn’t even make it to the semi’s before we tired of the mediocrity and switched off to quiz ourselves with some old 1980’s top of the pops highlights. Now there’s entertainment!!
        Of course in 2020 we’ve got the European Championship, assuming we qualify. Do you suppose FIFA have got together with the ECB to plot the downfall of competition from their rivals?

        • James June 11, 2018 at 9:12 am - Reply

          The only world cup I can really remember watching was the first (Fredericks treading on his wicket while hooking Lillee for 6, Clive Lloyd’s century (his only ODI century)). If I’m going on YouTube I prefer old (generally 1970’s or 1980’s) test matches (particularly those involving West Indies beating Australia, for some reason!). Rob Moody’s Robelinda2 channel is an absolute treasure trove.
          Sorry, but 1980’s pop really doesn’t do it for me. Too old I think.

  18. Doug M June 6, 2018 at 9:53 pm - Reply

    Well as James says it’s white ball all the way till August. If you add in the T20 Blast which goes on till Sept 14th (almost as long as the IPL) it’s an even worse scenario. I’ve just watched Surrey vs Glamorgan at the Oval ODC, and will not be back their for red ball now until late August, apart from a 3 day game against West Indies A in mid July. That’s about 11 weeks in the best months of the summer! I follow Surrey away so will get 3 red ball in June and 1 in July, but for those unable to spare the time it’s a dreadful picture. The last test at the Oval isn’t till September, and as England are so poor I won’t be going to that for £70 a day. A depressing picture, but I’ll enjoy a good Surrey team playing the CC!

    Even the ODC I’ve found a bit flat this year, there is just too many pointless one day games, promoted by the money men, which is where James came in.

  19. Kenaz June 7, 2018 at 12:19 am - Reply

    A little tip. With the desecration of first-class/test cricket I am finding myself watching more and more minor county/club stuff to compensate. The minor county championship (three-dayers) for instance is very handy when the first-class counties are all playing The Blast in July and August. There is also always 55 over Premier League cricket every Saturdays – and the second and third teams are playing most other days.

  20. MickR June 7, 2018 at 2:13 am - Reply

    Cyndi Lauper was right onto it, its money that matters (she also thought girls just wanna have fun) and speaking as one of those Aussies people are sick of the sight of, while generally I share your lamentations about Test cricket maybe withering on the vine, I see the financial reality. Its hard here to sustain the Sheffield Shield cos of logistics and geography and the potential size of the market – there’s only 25 mill of us v your 80 odd. And while I see myself paying to watch bash and crash only to ensure my grandkids get some exposure to the great game of cricket, its inevitable that the norms of society now dictate market forces. But I don’t share the doom of the Brendan McCallums and Chris Gayles and I see the short forms actually breathing some life into test match cricket. I’ve been at it now over six decades and nothing compares, in fact just jagged a unique experience by being at Newlands as “that event” unfolded. And my team in Sydney, Randwick/Petersham, who I watch play regularly across the road from beautiful Coogee Beach, will have opening up in the first round in September a bloke called Warner. Now that will attract some attention, and it all helps.

  21. Nigel June 7, 2018 at 5:13 am - Reply

    Off topic, but this was interesting:
    The former head coach Darren Lehmann, the man who said he was “ultimately responsible for the culture of the team” caught tampering, has now taken on a new role developing young players at the national academy…

    Why does resignation under a cloud seem to have become the new qualification for taking on responsibility for developing younger players… ?

    • Mojo Wellington June 7, 2018 at 9:31 am - Reply

      It’s the same with politicians…

  22. Andrew Cheese June 7, 2018 at 6:13 am - Reply

    It’s all about the money !. The ECB want to milk as much as they can out of this summer. They don’t really care about cricket. Did anybody think they ever did ?.

  23. James June 7, 2018 at 9:18 am - Reply

    Maybe, the ECB is doing this to ensure the primacy of test cricket. Come August, there won’t be “competition” like the football world cup, and we can devote our time to test cricket.

    Hold on, is that a squadron of flying pigs I see?

  24. Dan Scott June 7, 2018 at 10:38 am - Reply

    I was about to give full throated support to James’ article when a thought occurred to me and forced me to change my position slightly to one of devil’s advocate.

    In principle I’m wedded to the principle of Tests starting later and running through June and July, but in 2005 – a summer which might be vaguely recollected by a few Full Toss readers – we played Bangladesh in 2 early Tests that were finished by June 5, and then only got to tackle Australia in THAT Ashes series from July 21: a gap of 7 weeks in high summer. In that instance the white ball games helped to fuel the drama to come.

  25. Simon H June 7, 2018 at 12:06 pm - Reply

    Fun moment during the first day of the Test in West Indies:

    ICC cameraman pans around desperately trying to find anyone in the stands. They find one guy who starts unfurling a placard with a protest against the West Indies’ board. Boy, that cameraman couldn’t get away from him quick enough and we never saw him again….

    • James June 7, 2018 at 1:17 pm - Reply

      Ah yes. The WICB. One of the few organisations that can make the ECB look competent and committed to the best interests of the game they are supposed to serve.

  26. Simon H June 9, 2018 at 9:43 am - Reply

    Is this the most peak ECB yet? Player development cut to pay for Harrison’s Harebrained Hundred:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/cricket/article-5822865/ECB-budget-cuts-scupper-England-young-guns.html

    Mind you, as the main achievement of the ECB development programme seems to be to injure young fast bowlers, perhaps it’s a far-sighted, visionary move?….

  27. James June 11, 2018 at 9:14 am - Reply

    Nice to see the ECB’s focus on white ball cricket paying off. England are the no 1 ODI side in the world. So they should have no problem beating associates, should they?

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