11 July 2007

Is County Cricket solely a breeding ground for our Test Team ?

Does profound analysis miss the point of County Cricket?

Cricket has always attracted statisticians and mathematical research, some of the best of which is available on the Cricket Society’s Website (www.cricketsociety.com), but now Leicester County Cricket Club’s site has one of the most detailed of all time. (www.leicestershireccc.com)

Neil Davidson (the county’s chairman) has published ‘an evidence-based approach to the identification and development of England Test cricketers in The County Championship’ and it’s a work to be applauded for its depth of research and its proposals.

Briefly it says that those who build successful test careers (50+ matches) have virtually all played County cricket by the time they are 19 and Test cricket by 25 and that there is a danger of the championship being clogged up by Overseas, Kolpak and older England-qualified players. This is largely for financial reasons and he proposes changes to get around this, and good proposals most of them are too. Age limited County Cricket through the school holidays to extend the net for youngsters and an extension of the now faltering Second XI Championship to catch those older players who have missed the net. He also proposes salary caps to prevent the wealthier counties garnering all the talent but one wonders whether this would be legally enforceable (and County fans would feel that the ‘old hands’ say Ramprakash, Cork, Gough etc. are worth extra cash for what they bring to their counties and the fact that if they have missed the Test boat now they are more frequently available to them). Another proposal is that each county be obliged to field 4 England- qualified players under the age of 25 in each game.

Kolpak players are not singled out for particular criticism and again one wonders how legally enforceable any agreement to limit or ban them would be.

So all good, deeply researched and interesting with some good proposals but two questions come to mind.

Firstly this is the second profound report into the set-up caused by the debacle in Australia but in fact the Test side is in good shape – we just ran up (admittedly under prepared, but that’s not County cricket’s fault) against a mighty team which was also favoured by conditions and good fortune in a way that they weren’t in 2005. So is our test team in real need of detailed hand-wringing at the expense say of a look at our one day side ( rated 8th in the world and finishes 5th in The World Cup, but that’s another story) ?

Secondly do we really want The County Championship to be merely a breeding ground for Test players (albeit they are the financial life-blood) and not an important set of competitions in its own right?

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