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The Future of County Cricket
I think it may be necessary to copy what US journalists do when Donald Trump makes a speech - carry out a fact check.
Tom Harrison says:
"There has been overwhelming support" for The Hundred.
Well, maybe partly true - the support of the counties has been given (or bought) but certainly not the support of the public or of cricket supporters in general. 
He says:
"It's already a successful event in terms of not just finances but the excitement generated."
That's stretching the truth to Trumpian proportions - the costs have gone up to £40 million and I haven't detected any excitement whatsoever.
He says:
"We've done a lot of work to understand concerns from fans and we're listening to those concerns."
Well, maybe.  As I said in my post above, if he can pick out any change that has been made based on any concerns expressed by fans, then I might believe him.
He also accepts that none of the top players will get to play in the domestic 50 over competition because it will be played at the same time as The Hundred.  But he says:
"I'm confident it won't impact our success at 50-over cricket at international level."
Really?  I struggle to think that even he actually believes this.

Overall, a bit worrying that there is that much delusion at the top of the ECB.
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parkfield bear
Probably the best post you have put on here Terry. Hard to disagree with anything you have said. Graves, Harrison, and Strauss have desrespected county cricket. I bet County CEO's, and Chairmen up and down the Country apart from Surrey are saying well said Tom, publicly anyway.
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(bit of self-promo)

I have wrote an article on the aspects of Warwickshire that Paul Farbrace might need to pay particular attention to in his new role if anyone fancied taking a look!
https://deepextracover.com/2019/02/what-...hire-role/

April cant come soon enough...
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The subject of hardly any players coming through the system is not new. But of course they need to be good enough, so maybe that's been the problem in recent years. You mention the problem of losing Trott, and in the next two or three years Bell will be gone. That is up to the likes of Hain to score more runs his talent should be producing, and of course it's up to Hose/Lamb or indeed both to produce the goods.
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He may be a Pear but he makes some good points:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/47379205
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I worry that the hundred is going to irreversibly damage the county game; every action the ECB has taken for at least the last 10 years suggests that:

1. The ECB believe that there are too many First Class counties
2. The ECB would happily "rationalise" a few of the smaller counties by letting them go to the wall.

I worry where all of this is going...
Bears fan, Wolves fan, blood red Socialist, a not so vital statistician...
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Sam Morshead speaks up for cricket fans:
https://www.thecricketer.com/Topics/opin...ience.html
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Yet someone else who feels The Hundred is a flawed project. Why, just for once, does the ECB not listen?
LE - aka John
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More here about The Hundred and Mr Bayliss:
https://www.standard.co.uk/sport/cricket...90671.html
Also:
"The teams are the product of months of extensive but unpublished research, and the team identities could include a mix of geographical names, references to grounds (such as the Oval) and non-location-specific names."
Well, what could be clearer than that?
Mud?
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An interesting couple of articles in the Daily Telegraph on Monday, copied out here as the Telegraph's paywall means the link cannot be read without subscription:

Special report on state of the game: Counties fear they may not be playing Championship cricket in 10 years time


The first in a series of special reports on the domestic game reveals concerns for the four-day format... 

Over a third of county chief executives fear not all 18 clubs will still be playing Championship cricket in 10 years’ time.

The revelation came from an exclusive Telegraph Sport survey delivered to every county before the start of the new domestic season, the last before the launch of the controversial Hundred competition.

With the game facing such fundamental change, questionnaires were sent to all 18 county chief executives, with all but one responding in full. Other key findings included:

Almost unanimous agreement that the Championship has been marginalised in favour of white-ball cricket.
Widespread support for the Hundred, despite the squeeze it will place on the red-ball game.
A majority insisting relegation should be retained from Division One and that relations with the England & Wales Cricket Board were good or above average
A bullish county game determined to make sure the Blast survives.
Chief executives were offered anonymity if it helped them to speak more freely and only one, Nottinghamshire, declined to take part.

Overall, there is widespread optimism about the future, with Test-match grounds hopeful of making the Hundred work, while smaller counties aim to prove their relevance by positioning themselves as homes for women’s international cricket and producers of England stars of the future.

For traditional supporters feeling marginalised by the rapid pace of change, however, it is fears over the future of the Championship that will strike a chord.

Of the 17 chief executives that responded, seven believe it unlikely the County Championship will continue to feature 18 teams as the game evolves over the next decade. There has never been a reduction in the number of counties featuring in the Championship since it was formally established in 1890.

But the growth of white-ball cricket, and the hand-to-mouth financial existence of some of the smaller counties, has clear dangers.

“I don’t think they will (be playing Championship cricket) to be honest," said one chief executive. "Not because decisions will be made at the top, but it is just the economic reality that some of the clubs are really struggling. All of us have challenges financially but some are not viable businesses financially and will really struggle.”

One county suggested some could move to a semi-professional basis, while another blamed the sheer amount of Championship cricket for putting its future in doubt. “I do fear the way things are going with the financial realities of cricket. We have to play what brings the biggest commercial return. We are trying to protect Championship cricket but the volume of it might conspire against it.”

Leicestershire are in talks with the ECB over help with a £1.3 million debt to be paid this year while a study published in the International Journal of Financial Studies in February concluded “clubs competing in the County Championship are failing to generate profits, expand the supporter base or grow commercial revenues with a better national and international profile.”

Durham’s Tim Bostock, who is leading the county out of a financial black hole, struck a more hopeful tone. “Yes. I would like to think they will (recover) but I’m not as confident as I would have been 10 years ago. Financials with some counties will inevitably cause a problem. There is no silver bullet. And if counties can’t add extra revenue like hotels there will be an inevitable squeeze.”

Others feel the £1.3m extra payout from the Hundred, guaranteed from 2020 to 2024, can secure their future across all formats. “There is enough money from the Hundred to make the game stronger and let counties build. There is a great desire from the counties and ECB to keep 18 counties alive and thriving,” said Middlesex’s Richard Goatley.

That £1.3m will be squeezed by a minimum wage of £27,500 to be introduced for all players aged over 21. A minimum salary budget of £750,000 will also be imposed and the ECB is demanding clubs upgrade medical care and academy facilities. “Some people think it is £1.3m profit, it is not,” said one county. Gloucestershire’s Will Brown said: “Over the last five years the ECB has been incredibly generous at giving counties money for certain things but that stops now, this new money is now our banker.”

Rob Andrew at Sussex believes the consultation over the Hundred was widespread and meaningful with the counties’ fears taken on board. “I’ve had experience of other sports and there are always going to be issues, and ups and downs. That is the nature of being a governing body and club. I think it’s a good relationship right now.”

But the relationship between board and counties remains volatile. “The ECB chairman (Colin Graves) shoots from the hip and runs the game in a very autocratic manner,” said one county. “His board and exec have failed to control him and a new face will be very welcome when his term comes to an end in 2020.”

Another county said: “Colin is an honest guy but not good at the politics. Frankly, most chairmen are looking at their own county rather than what is best for the game as a whole. It makes governing the sport very hard.”

The difficulty is applying business logic to 18 very different clubs. At the Oval, Richard Gould runs a county that has vastly different resources, for example, to Ryan Duckett, the new chief executive of Derbyshire.

Gould has a non-playing staff of 120 employees and a turnover of £35m; twice that of his closest rivals. “If you deduct television revenue then our turnover puts us on a par with a top 10 Premier League club in terms of tickets sold and non-match-day business,” he said.

Surrey have made little secret of their opposition to the Hundred and it culminated last month in Graves threatening to strip them of being a host venue after they voted against the formal endorsement of the competition.

“Our job will be to deliver sell-out crowds,” said Gould. “We do it for Surrey T20 and international cricket and it will be our responsibility to do that for the new tournament. We already are very good at delivering a new audience. On average, 65 per cent who come to our T20 games have never been to cricket before so hopefully the new competition will allow us to continue that but we have to make sure the existing supporters feel welcomed and so we are working hard with the ECB to make sure that happens.”

At Durham, Bostock is making changes. He hopes to build a hotel at the Riverside and feels there is renewed optimism in the north east after the ignominy of relegation and an ECB bailout three years ago.

Bostock has moved back to the UK after working in banking in Australia and is surprised by the amount of potential in English cricket. “Numbers alone say cricket is a small business. But the profile of a county cricket club in the community and in the media makes it a high-profile business. I have worked at businesses with turnover in the billions but actually they not high profile, nobody really cares outside your own world. But people care about cricket so you have to think like big business while running a small business.”

We asked all counties where they see themselves five years from now. “I use the number 2024,” said Bostock. “It means: two trophies, zero debt, £2m in the bank and four new England players produced. It ticks all the boxes.”

And we also asked what threatens their survival. One simply answered: “The Hundred.” Others fear falling participation. “The lack of high-quality games at the height of summer and a failure to bring high-profile matches to the south west on a regular basis,” said Somerset’s Andrew Cornish.

“More people are starting to look at what is going to happen in 2020 when the new tournament starts,” adds Gould. “We need to continue to make sure there are no unintended consequences that could cause damage to either the county or international game. We need to make sure that all formats and teams have the ability to thrive and survive.”
Bears fan, Wolves fan, blood red Socialist, a not so vital statistician...
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parkfield bear
...and also:
Special report: Why are scores in the County Championship plummeting?

The second part in a series of special reports on the domestic game investigates why scores in the County Championship are getting worse year on year... 

It is a warm, sunny, late-March morning and Derbyshire are preparing for the new season. Mal Loye, the county’s assistant coach, is crouching down trying to reach a ball that has been hit under a temporary stand.

A lot of balls have disappeared into the seating areas in pre-season matches over the past week as games against students and friendlies between counties have been dominated by big scores.

But they cannot hide the fact batting in the Championship, which starts on Friday, has become a desperately difficult job in recent years, making it harder than ever for England to unearth Test batsmen.

Not since Joe Root established himself in the side has a specialist batsman broken through for England. But is it any wonder when you look at the scores in county cricket where, in 2018, only five players made more than 1000 runs, 22 fewer than five years previously, and the average innings total was just 291.

Wayne Madsen has batted in county cricket for 10 seasons for Derbyshire and needs little prompting to reveal how difficult the job has become. “There were a lot of games last year when we thought if you scored 200 in the first innings you were in the game, 250 and you would probably win. In the past you would look at 350 or 400 but that has come down drastically because there is always a ball you feel will get you out.”


Kent veteran Darren Stevens first played Championship cricket in 1997, the year before Sam Curran was born, and has never found it a tougher time to bat, and not just because he is 42 and preparing for a season in Division One. “I played on one flat pitch all season last year at Warwickshire and even Lord’s was a minefield. I reckon I felt ‘in’ probably only twice.

“I saw Tom Westley (Essex) recently and asked him the difference between the First and Second Division. He said the First Division is an off-side game where bowlers bowl in the channel outside off stump and you have to be patient. In the Second Division it is a straight game, you play on the leg side because bowlers are looking to use the movement off the pitch to hit you on the pads or bowl you through the gate. The Second Division is a farce. Bowlers might love it but batters are not going to stay around on those pitches. Teams make pitches green and back their own bowlers.”

Bowlers like Stevens, who has no pace to speak of but took 42 wickets last season at 19 each, cannily using the pitches to his advantage. The county ‘trundler’ is still a respected weapon, despite the attempt to sideline them by abandoning the toss to encourage better pitches. Daryl Mitchell, of Worcestershire, believes all it has done is force counties to prepare pitches that stay green for the whole game instead.


Telegraph Sport revealed the results of an exclusive survey of county chief executives which revealed almost unanimous agreement that the Championship has been marginalised by the schedule. Matches played in April in swinging conditions, or in September on tired pitches, have made batting a lottery at times.

“It has got to be mental,” said Stevens.”When was the last time players churned out a hundred from 270 balls? I bet they mostly go along at a strike-rate of 80 now. Players see a few whizz past the outside edge and think, ‘I’m not doing this’. So they go hard at it.”

It has prompted the ECB to make changes this year to help redress the balance. More games will be played in the height of summer, with three rounds in July, but the use of more out-grounds, where pitches can be lively, could negate that tinkering with the fixture list. The heavy roller has been brought back. Teams are now allowed to use it once in the match which will help iron out indentations on damp pitches that cause uneven bounce. The seam on the Duke ball is slightly smaller, too, and match referees can now punish pitches for ‘excessive seam’ movement.

“Last year even when I got to a hundred I was playing and missing. Normally if you get in you are pretty well set. It is you who makes the mistake rather than being got out. But last year you could nick any ball or it could dart in and hit you on the pads,” said Mitchell.

“Over the last two years I have set my game around making the most of getting in. For example, two summers ago I got 1,200 runs and averaged the best part of 60 but only reached 20 12 times and made less than 20 13 times so I failed more than I succeeded even in a really good year but fortunately I managed to go on and make hay when I got in. “

Madsen and Mitchell are county pros that have seen it all, particularly the technique and mentality changes in younger players who see Twenty20 as the road to riches even though Mitchell, as the Professional Cricketers’ Association chairman, has helped negotiate a new salary collar next year of £1.3 million that will see his members get a pay rise.

Madsen has just returned from the Pakistan Super League where his team, Peshwari Zalmi, reached the final in Karachi. He can understand why younger players base their games around earning contracts in those leagues, neglecting the harder job of grinding out runs on county green tops.


“It is hard for the younger batters,” he says. “It is something we talked about over the winter, trying to take games four days. Last year our average game lasted 2.7 days. This year we want to take games longer than that. The batting discipline is what we have to keep improving and instilling in our younger cricketers. They have been moved away from the defensive part of the game by T20 so we are trying to get our younger players to understand there are times when your defence is crucial.”

Paul Grayson is the new batting coach at Yorkshire, tasked with helping players adapt between formats. “Young batsmen want to be good at T20 cricket for two reasons. The excitement of the game, the big crowds and clearly the money. The skill and mentality for that is to hit the ball, get on with it and you can’t afford dot balls. It is difficult then to switch back to having to actually bat for two hours against the moving ball. It is about having the patience, desire and will to do that. The biggest threat to our four-day cricket is players thinking, ‘sod that, I want to just be really good at T20 so I can make my fortune’.”


Are batsmen mentally weaker? Or is it more complicated than that and it is about identity? “Young players try to express themselves more and stamp their impression on the bowler,” says David Sales, the Northants batting coach. “It is like, ‘I am here what have you got’. Perhaps people kept their heads down and got on with it in the past. The biggest thing these days is you need to know your strengths and be open to your weaknesses. Nobody likes to admit these things but if a player can admit the areas they are vulnerable in and start to work on them, then they can be successful.”

Cricket is a batsman’s game. Always has been. But what about the bowlers? “As a seamer it is great. But there is added pressure because you have to perform on wickets that aid you,” said Jack Brooks, who moved from Yorkshire to Somerset during the winter. “Is it a good thing? If you go up to Test level the wickets are flatter and a bit quicker and suddenly young seamers have to work out how to get batters out rather than rely on the pitches.

“White ball is a batsman’s game. It has to be for entertainment value. But red-ball cricket in this country is a seamer’s game which helps bowlers like me who have made a career out of it. It is weird how different white and red-ball cricket are. It is like T20 is a different sport altogether now.”
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