And so the Cricket World Cup is very nearly upon us. Yes, the blue riband event of global 50-over cricket – a tournament that takes place every four years – gets underway at The Oval tomorrow when hosts England play South Africa and will culminate in a final at Lord’s on Sunday 14 July.
With the world’s most beloved and respected cricketers (as well as Steve Smith and David Warner) in town, it promises to be a six-week festival and/or celebration of a cricket format that has been reinvigorated in recent times by a bolder, more inventive approach that has seen average totals increase exponentially. It may pain some people to hear it, but the advent of Twenty20 has unquestionably had more than a little to do with that.
England, glory be, are favourites to win a tournament in which they’ve thrice been runners-up, although not since 1992. And quite rightly so. Under the outstanding leadership of Eoin Morgan, the hosts have evolved into a formidable unit during the past four years. Favourites don’t always prevail, of course, but England are well placed to add to their solitary global title – the World Twenty20 they won in the Caribbean in 2010.
And guess what? As of last Saturday, when Somerset beat Hampshire in the Royal London One-Day Cup final at Lord’s, English domestic cricket no longer has a 50-over competition in which county first-teams can take part. That’s right. England is about to host the most important 50-over tournament in world cricket and it doesn’t even have a domestic 50-over competition in which its own best players can participate.
The ECB knows best, of course. Because of the Hundred thing that’s seemingly being aimed towards people who don’t even know they like cricket (while simultaneously ignoring the opinions and preferences of legions of current cricket followers), the domestic 50-over cup is being downgraded to a development competition that will take place at the same time as the ECB’s grotesque 100-ball circus.
All of which means there’ll be a) no domestic 50-over competition between development level and international level (just when England are finally getting the hang of 50-over cricket!) and b) no first-team county cricket for supporters to watch for five weeks and more at the height of the English summer.
If Somerset’s army of loyal and knowledgeable fans, who descended on Lord’s in their droves on Saturday, want to see Tom Abell’s victorious team play 50-over county cricket again, they’re fresh out of luck. Abell, incidentally, described Saturday as “the best day of my life”. And if those same fans want to see any (maybe three or four maximum?) of their first-team players in action in the high summer of 2020, they’ll have to travel 80-odd miles to Cardiff to do so. After all, there’ll be no Somerset first-team cricket to watch at Taunton – or anywhere else.
This is what governing bodies can do. They destroy things that don’t need breaking or fixing. They treat lifelong fans with complete and utter disdain.