Thursday, 17 May 2012

Are the ECB too set in their ways?

Since International Test matches became a five day event, a lot less games have resulted in draws. Much of the time play is lost due to adverse weather conditions - so the fifth day becomes essential in producing a result from the match and determining which of the two teams going head to head is stronger.
So does the ECB need to follow suit and lengthen LV County Championship matches from four to five days?
Last season, Hampshire and Yorkshire were relegated from LVCC1, having both drawn an incredible seven of the sixteen games they played. This perhaps means that both sides fell victim to the English weather on too many occasions. It’s possible that rain relegated Hampshire and Yorkshire, rather than bad performances. With an extra day in each team’s seven drawn matches, surely they would have had more chance of forcing a result. Okay, it can be argued that it is a level playing field for all teams, but it simply isn’t – is the rain shared out fairly over the course of the season? Of course not. Just look at Worcestershire, who lost an astounding eleven matches, nearly double both Yorkshire and Hampshire, but avoided the drop! All because conditions were kinder to them and they were afforded the chance to win one more match than the two relegated teams.
Another catalyst to support change happened last week, also in LVCC1, when Sussex took on Lancashire at the PROBIZ County Ground in Hove. Rain again affected proceedings and no play took place until the fourth and final day of the contest. As a result, both captains seemed reluctant to show their hands and risk a loss; instead a toiling day of scrapping for one or two bonus points occurred. And to make matters worse, the match was being broadcast live on Sky Sports – not the best advert for cricket I’m sure you’d agree. Who’s to say with a fifth day’s play, a result couldn’t have been forced?
On the other hand though, there are reasons why the ECB haven’t made the change.
Firstly, is the introduction of the bonus points system. This at least gives teams some motivation to perform at their best at all stages of a match, awarding them with points for their batting and bowling performances, no matter which side is on top in the contest. However, we are only talking up to three points per batting or bowling performance, which doesn’t hold huge significance in the broader scheme of things, especially when a team can be awarded over twenty points for a win.
Secondly is the county schedule. Simply put, would teams be able to play sixteen, five days LVCC matches each season? At the moment, no. This is largely down to the World’s obsession with the money spinning, blockbuster form of cricket – Twenty20. This tournament takes place from June to August every year – three solid months of T20 cricket. This could quite easily be shortened, paving the way for more of the purest and most
traditional form of the game – County Championship cricket. It could be argued that T20 is vital to the English game, as it ‘brings home the bacon’ so to speak, but the ECB need to be careful that such a meaty county schedule doesn’t see the demise of the longer format of the game.
The other domestic competition is the Clydesdale Bank Pro40 – a forty overs per side format. This runs throughout the county season, from May to September. Whilst the ECB have a prominent argument to keep hold of T20 cricket, the Pro40 competition is probably the least popular domestic cricket competition in England and disposing of it to make way for longer LVCC matches seems a no brainer.
Something has clearly got to be done to improve the quality of our most cherished form of cricket; the ECB must take their eyes off the money ball of one-day cricket and concentrate on something much closer to home – the LV County Championship.

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