Rhodes tells ECB to reject 14-game County Championship

Worcestershire’s director of cricket Steve Rhodes has made an impassioned plea for the England and Wales Cricket Board to reject the recommendations in the Morgan Report to reduce the County Championship to a 14 match per-side programme.

The ECB board is due to meet again next month to discuss the recommendations of David Morgan, a former ECB chairman and a past president of the International Cricket Council, for the biggest shake-up of county cricket in more than a decade.

Worcestershire chief executive David Leatherdale spoke out against the reduction in the County Championship programme when the counties met at Lord’s last week to debate the Morgan Report and Rhodes believes that if cuts to the county programme need to be made then the Friends Life t20 is the competition that should be trimmed back.

“If David Morgan, Team England or the ECB believe that there is a need to reduce the amount of county cricket that we play then I believe that we should not be looking to reduce the amount of four-day cricket we play,” Rhodes said.

“I believe that players nowadays are far better equipped to cope with the rigours of the amount of cricket that we play than they used to be.

“Counties manage the workload of their bowlers much better, and the days when we flogged bowlers to death have gone.

“Just look at Alan Richardson. We don’t play him in one-day cricket because we want him to be fit to play in 16 four-day matches. If we can afford to do that on our budget then other counties can do the same with their bowlers.

“Players are fitter and stronger than they used to be. Each county has strength and conditioning coaches, most players now train through the winter which means they can maintain a fitness programme all year round and stay in tip-top shape.

“They are also tested regularly so if there are any issues they get picked up by the medical team.

“Players prepare for matches better than they used to with individual prehab programmes and there is also a strong emphasis on rehabbing and proper replenishment with food and drink.

“Modern day players are more resilient because they eat better, drink better and sleep better than they did when I was playing. The lifestyle is that of a professional athlete.

“England have had a blip in the current series against Pakistan but we are the number one Test nation in the world and we have got there, in part, because the County Championship system we have is closer to Test cricket than it has ever been.

“Players appreciate the importance of each session and they know that one bad hour can cost you a match.

“While most other countries have let their players play too much Twenty20 cricket, we have kept the focus on four-day cricket. I can’t see what we are hoping to achieve by reducing the number of County Championship matches.

“It’s an old saying, but it’s very true: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Morgan has admitted that he interviewed only four county coaches or directors of cricket in drawing up his report. Rhodes was not one of them but his concerns about the reduction in County Championship cricket will be raised at an ECB cricket committee at Lord’s next week.

“I haven’t spoken to David Morgan but I have spoken to Brian Rose, who represents the county directors of cricket, and he is going to raise my concerns about the County Championship next week,” Rhodes said.

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