Quick single: 12 game season
The ECB has, apparently, made the decision to restructure the English domestic season and reduce the County Championship to 12 games per team. The motivation is to make the most of the commercial potential of T20 and also to bolster the 50 over one day game ahead of England hosting that World Cup in 2019.
The County Championship, for much of its existence, was a 32 game tournament, with a potential 96 days of action for each team. A year (or two?) from now, it could comprise at most just half that number of days’ cricket: 48. It’s almost as strong an assault on the traditional county game as the removal of counties from the T20 tournament, in favour of city franchises. And perhaps, the ECB is holding back from that second reform as a means to achieve the former and creating the space for an expanded season of limited overs competitions.
The arguments against this change from those heavily invested in the County Championship will brand it a trivialisation of a grand tradition of the English game, with complaints about the damage that could be done to county clubs that have served communities for generations and the short-changing of many county members by cutting the number of days of first class cricket they could watch. These all seem legitimate concerns.
It will also be contended that it marks a retreat from the primacy of first class cricket, with consequences for England’s Test cricket. That, indeed, would seem to be the case looking at how a new balance is being struck. But I am less convinced by this aspect of the opposition to the reforms. I accept they may be anti-county, but I don’t equate that with them being anti-Test team. I don’t see why twelve games of quality first class cricket isn’t adequate exposure to the longer form of the game. I don’t have any scientific proof, merely the observation that other nations, whose Test teams either outperform England, or share with England a pattern of periodic up and down swings, play even fewer first class matches in their domestic seasons.
I concluded, in a recent piece about the prevalence of first class cricket, that my assumption that the longer form of the game was being played less and less was wrong – with the exception of in England. What we are seeing is a convergence of England with much of the rest of the Test-playing world. I don’t pretend, however, that the strongest devotees of the County Championship will find any solace in that.