No cuts in the county cricket bubble

It is rather typical of the rarefied world of county cricket that, at a time of swingeing country-wide cuts in Britain, there are none in next year’s county schedule.

Despite the obvious signs that both players and spectators were fed up with the amount of Twenty20 Cup cricket last season – in fact the amount of cricket, full stop – the administrators have ignored the bleeding obvious and agreed the same number again.

It is all about money, of course, and tohell with the product. So we are back to the days of the 1980s when players were flogged round thecountry like shire horses – sometimes playing 30 days out of 31 – and often went through the motions. It was the only way to get through the season.

At least they are paid properly now, but Marcus Trescothick wasn’t alone in feeling a little exploited by the time it came to Somerset’s 19th Friends Provident t20 game of 2010.

And so now we are set for a repeat of the most bewildering county schedule there has ever been, when players and spectators were giddy from the irregularity of it all. Trying to follow all the various tables during the season is like doing logarithms.

It is depressing that counties are so impecunious that they need the maximum number of Twenty20 games to minimise their losses. Player costs are escalating because there is so much cricket, but because there is so much cricket you need more players. It’s a vicious circle.

Can anyone see a way out before it consumes usall? The suggestion of the latest working party to reduce the Clydesdale Bank 40 over competition to smaller groups and introduce quarter-finals is at least sensible. It is hardly novelthough.

In 2012 the competition will roughly resemble the old Benson & Hedges Cup from the 1970s and 1980s, just with less overs. And thesuggestion is, too, that the competition could soon revert from 40 overs to 50 overs per side, just as the B&H Cup was when it finished in 2003. Domestic cricket, like life, goesfull circle.

To my mind, the right number of Twenty20 games is 12. It shouldn’t be so dominant in the season’s schedule. Three groups of seven (including, say, Scotland, Ireland and the Unicorns) meaning six home games over a month in mid summer, with a three-week pause in the international schedule so that the England players can be involved.

That should allow the counties to maximise their revenue, ie fill their grounds. They should follow the lead of the IPL and make these games real events with entertainment (a local band or act) built around the cricket. It would make the product profitable and fun instead of the ordeal it is now.

Will it happen? Not if the administrators keep trying to fix a long term problem – the unsustainability of county cricket – with a short term solution.

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