It would be easy to believe from recent newspaper headlines that county cricket faces a major problem with on-field discipline.
Two captains, James Foster and Marcus Trescothick, have appeared before ECB disciplinary panels to answer for the conduct of their players, Sussex batsman Murray Goodwin has been suspended for one match and there have been a number of players punished under the ECB disciplinary code.
But I think the perception that we have a problem is wrong. Statistically, the number of cases reported so far this year is no higher than in previous years. Only 18 cases have been reported out of some 550 matches at first and second team level this year, and some of those are for high full tosses. Therefore, to suggest that there has been a deterioration of behaviour and discipline in the game is misleading.
Generally I think that standards of behaviour in cricket remain high. There’s a commonly held view that cricketers go about playing the game in the right manner and I think that is the case.
It seems even a relatively minor incident in cricket attracts more coverage than something more serious in other sports. Perhaps it is because poor behaviour is relatively unusual in cricket, as compared to other sports, that when there is an occasional incident it makes news.
We can’t afford to be complacent though, which is why the recent meeting between the Professional Cricketers’ Association and officials from the ECB and senior umpires is a welcome step to ensure that standards in the domestic game are maintained.
On a slightly different note, during a recent free weekend from county cricket I did some summarising for Sky Sports on the first of seven Under-19 one-day internationals between England and South Africa at Edgbaston. It was a good, competitive game of cricket and there were some very capable young cricketers from both sides on show.
The England squad, which included Worcestershire all-rounder Aneesh Kapil, prepared for the series with a training camp which meant that the players were unavailable for county cricket in the week before they faced South Africa.
Worcestershire wanted Aneesh to play in an important Friends Life t20 match against Nottinghamshire but were refused permission by England Under-19s, who wanted to keep the squad together for their training camp.
Ironically, we faced Samit Patel in that match after he was released from the senior England one-day side because they wanted him to get some match practice with Nottinghamshire.
It seems a little ironic that the senior side felt there was a benefit to Samit by playing for his county when the Under-19s wanted Aneesh to stay in a training camp.
I don’t have a problem with players playing for their country at Under-19 level. There is a lot to be said for developing your game as a group of players against your counterparts from the other Test-playing nations.
What I do have difficulty understanding is how peripheral matters like team-building exercises take precedence over players appearing for their counties in senior cricket. Surely the experience of playing in matches at first team county level is of greater benefit to player development?
*Worcestershire and former England one-day batsman Vikram Solanki is also chairman of the Professional Cricketers’ Association