I doubt many would disagree that in recent years the ECB’s thinking has been somewhat difficult to understand and the phrase “can’t see the wood from the trees’ has been more than appropriate.
Regards BazBall (I am not a fan of the name by any means but it works as far as people knowing what you mean) the jury is still out for me, but more in the ‘fine tuning’/being a bit more aware of the match situation way of things than the overall approach which does wor. It is exciting, but throws up a few things which may have an interesting impact on the future, initially for the men’s game but that should also lead to a better structure for the women’s game which in short should be based around 18 Counties with exactly the same competition structures – after all this country has the infrastructure and pool of payers to do this.
Statistics: Let me take Crawley as an example, which will be contentious because he would not be in my Test Team, who is picked we are told because the management team think he can win/influence games so his ‘failures’ are of no concern. I have no issue with this approach. It is refreshing, dynamic and to date has clearly worked for the team. The question I have is what does this mean for good old fashioned cricket statistics? Strikes rates are all very good in the short format but a strike rate of 200 with an average of 5 would not really be Test Match standard be it BazBall or BoycsBall. How are we going to measure ‘impact on the game’ in order to decide on the next taxi on the rank, or given the new era should that be Uber on the app?
Player Development: this is by far the most interesting area for me. BazBall works because of England’s White Ball strength. Being World Cup holders in both the ODI and T20 format proves that. Personally I think the main contributor is the T20 with the ODI being ‘just a longer T20’ in many ways. Why are we so good at T20? 1) The T20 Blast which has 18 Counties playing in peak conditions (or did) and 2) our better players fine tuning their skills in the best T20 franchise competition, the IPL. Yes there are many other T20 franchise competitions (and the dreaded Hundred) but they are nowhere near as established as the IPL and won’t be for some time (if ever) and their impact on England’s success to date can only be minimal.
BazBall works in no small part because England have a vast array of talented White Ball players produced by a homegrown competition which allows MANY players to develop their game, supported by a high quality franchise competition.
Begs the question as to why change it? If it aint broke don’t fix it!
Scheduling: again, much has been made of the mess the Hundred/ECB have made of the schedule for County Cricket which has seen pretty much everything including Tests moved away from August. But BazBall may have inadvertently given us an answer. Just as COVID-19 forced the introduction of double headers in the Hundred which has far and away been the best thing for the Women’s game (but is far from being enough) maybe we can create a structure that accommodates all competitions?
If we start from the premise that County Cricket has a key objective and responsibility to develop players for the national team then why not adjust the County Game back to three days with a much greater reward for winning – get the players playing to win, to take risks, to entertain as a) they will be required to do this if they progress to the national team and b) if the ‘brand’ of play is consistent throughout you might just attract more spectators.
- A three day format played on a Mon – Wed could be played throughout the season.
- Play the Hundred over a three week period in August/September – all double headers on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and allow teams to bring in guest players whenever they want to cover any injuries/fatigue and to keep it fresh.
- Similarly play the T20 Blast competition before the Hundred with more double headers and games played on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
- I like the fact that the one day game is primarily a development tournament now, and that could be played on a Thursday with the younger players and those not involved in the T20/100 playing.
The season would have a rhythm: County Cricket Mon, Tuesday and Wednesday, One Day White Ball on Thursday, T20/100 White Ball on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Cricket could be played when it is meant to be played on pitches which are conducive to good games. Players have a clear pathway and so do spectators: those introduced to the game by the Hundred have other games and options to pursue their interests throughout a full season.