An open letter to the England and Wales Cricket Board
I am utterly sick and tired of the manner in which you are gradually destroying first-class cricket in this country.
It’s bad enough that you’re introducing this ridiculous “Hundred” circus, which seems to be – if I’ve got it right – a competition that’s aimed towards a market (mums and kids especially, I’m told) that doesn’t actually like cricket! I know – go figure.
I’m what is called a cricket “traditionalist” who fell in love with County Championship and Test-match cricket as a youngster, although I do appreciate the fact your market research suggests such a scenario would be impossible nowadays because every young person possesses the attention span of a goldfish. Indeed, Colin Graves, your chairman, says that “the younger generation, whether you like it or not, are just not attracted to cricket.”
With the utmost respect, ECB, that is complete tosh. Do a little more research and you’ll see there are plenty of youngsters playing and watching cricket (even if they haven’t been able to watch it on terrestrial television since 2005, thanks to you lot). And All Stars Cricket, which is aimed at children aged five to eight, recently announced that more than 50,000 All Stars have been signed up for this summer.
I understand why shorter formats of the game exist. I further understand why you crave a short-format franchise competition in high summer, although you’ve clearly made an unholy mess of announcing it. If it proves to be a city-based T20, so be it. (For what it’s worth, I’d forget that ludicrous Hundred idea.) T20’s here to stay and we traditionalists must accept that, however grudgingly.
What we can’t accept, however, is the erosion of the Championship. Mr Graves says “we are not going to undervalue Test cricket at all. It is the pinnacle of what we play.”
The pinnacle, eh? If that’s the case, why don’t you schedule more Championship cricket in June and July (you can have August for your Hundred/T20 jamboree, if you must), so that would-be England players can actually learn how to build an innings while also being exposed to a spinning ball. And seamers know what it takes to earn wickets. And, glory be, spinners can ply their trade on dry, turning pitches.
Test cricket is still well supported in this country, but it sure as heck won’t be if our domestic season becomes even more dominated by white-ball cricket. If you truly regard Test cricket as the pinnacle, you must help to save it.
And that means not banishing the majority of Championship matches to the extremities of the season – when batsmen swing from the hip because they know the next delivery could well be their last and seam bowlers let lavish conditions do their work for them. What sort of preparation is that for Test cricket?
Don’t just tell us that Test cricket is the pinnacle. Please prove it by rescheduling the County Championship.