This season’s Friends Provident t20 competition is over for all but four counties, but the England and Wales Cricket Board is already canvassing opinion on whether the new format was a success.
As part of the review process, at the request of the ECB, the Professional Cricketers’ Association conducted a survey of all players who played in this season’s t20 and the general consensus seems to be that the emphasis should be on quality rather than quantity.
The view of the players, speaking purely from a cricketing perspective, was that it has been a tough season.
County cricket has always placed demands on players but this year the schedule has been particularly arduous. The increase in the number of t20 matches has not allowed players to prepare as well as they might, or to get the necessary rest and recovery to be in prime condition for games.
From a commercial perspective counties have also apparently experienced mixed fortunes as a result of the increased number of matches. All of which perhaps suggests that the product may not be as vibrant and as appealing to the public as it could be.
That said, it must also be noted that some counties have bucked the trend and made significant gains by staging a greater number of home matches.
There are obvious arguments for the schedule to be arranged in a way which allows players adequate time to prepare according to the format of the next match.
Preparation time has been difficult for most teams with a number of County Championship matches played during the period allocated for the t20.
As a result, teams were in a situation where they played a t20 match one day, travelled to the next location (sometimes arriving late), and commenced a Championship match the following morning.
It is difficult adapting between different formats, with such a quick turnaround between matches, and no time to prepare appropriately. To some extent that is the nature of county cricket, but this season has been a particularly difficult one.
The previously planned involvement of English teams in the Champions League, which shortened the season and created a situation compounded by the increased number of matches, has led to the inevitable consequence of a tougher schedule.
It’s not part of the PCA’s remit to propose a structure for future seasons. However, we have a responsibility to ensure players’ views are represented and fed into any mechanism making decisions on such matters and therefore have carried out extensive research of players’ opinions.
There’s no doubt there is general consensus amongst players that there is too much t20 being played and that the schedule needs to be smarter.
Going forward, meanwhile, it seems as though there won’t be the issue of the English season having to be reduced to accommodate the Champions League, which should give the fixture planners more flexibility.
Fewer games and a longer season ought to provide for a more balanced schedule. Like many cricket discussions of recent times, the topic of our domestic structure is a complex one. It is one where sometimes cricketing imperatives are viewed as being in conflict with commercial viability and vice versa.
Resolution of the debate lies in establishing that these are not mutually exclusive concepts but vital ingredients to ensure the longevity and future success of our game.