My radical plan for the County Championship

I may come over as an ageing curmudgeon this time around. Maybe it’s time for the move to Tunbridge Wells. You decide.
The announcement of the Royals franchise at Lord’s (of course – they don’t like to miss out on anything there) left me distinctly under-whelmed and a wee bit depressed. Has the game really come to this?
I read that the Royals’ partner selection was based on “a cultural and commercial fit with the Royal ethos (whatever that is) and the potential for a unique in-stadia experience”. Aaaaargh.

Actually, there is also the potential for a unique out-of-stadia experience at the Rose Bowl whenever there has been a full house there.

It involves sitting in a traffic jam of increasingly infuriated punters, with their engines growling, and all wondering if they are ever going to extricate themselves from what Mr Bransgrove regards as “the home of Twenty20 cricket in the UK”.

Of course, it is important to find new ways of generating income to allow the game to survive, but when making money from the game so blatantly becomes priority number one I start to feel a bit queasy. Which happens all too frequently nowadays.

However, I’m less curmudgeonly than some about Andrew Strauss’s absence from Bangladesh. Several old captains, including recent ones like Mike Atherton, have tut-tutted about the decision to give Strauss a rest. In another era no one would have blinked.

It was once common practise for prominent England cricketers to miss the odd tour – and they usually went AWOL on those to India and Pakistan, which were deemed to be less appealing.

Peter May never played a Test in India or Pakistan, Colin Cowdrey only played six and three of those were a mistake. (In the winter of 1968-69 Cowdrey was to captain the side to South Africa. When that trip was cancelled after the D’Oliveira affair he could hardly pull out of the replacement tour – to Pakistan).

Admittedly, this was before the era of central contracts. But Strauss is a good captain. He is no shirker. We should want to prolong his tenure in the job and giving him a good break now might enable that to happen.

Strauss is confident enough to let someone else have a go without feeling threatened and we will find out more of Alastair Cook’s leadership potential. I can’t see a problem.

It would surprise me if there was any resentment from his teammates, though there may well be a good deal of mickey-taking when he eventually reunites with them before the home series against Bangladesh.

Curmudgeons, meanwhile, tend to oppose change. So I will suggest one now. After attending the ECB’s seminar in deepest Warwickshire a couple of weeks ago it became clear that just about everyone agreed that there were too many days of cricket in the English domestic season.

And because we cannot forfeit a single penny in the 21st century, the consensus was that the County Championship programme, which makes no money, should be reduced.

I agree that we play too much. It is madness to try to play cricket on April 9 in England and it’s wrong to say that we’ve always done so. Thirty years ago the county season started on April 30.

Now there are some very important and influential figures at the ECB but even they do not have the power to change the weather (though it seems that they have to be reminded of this from time to time).

The problem is to maintain the integrity of the Championship while reducing the number of games, and it is also important not to alienate the punters – and maybe the players – by adopting a complicated conference system.

My suggestion is to retain the two-divisional format but on a different basis. The first division would comprise twelve teams, which play each other once a season; the second wou

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