Month: April 2008 (page 1 of 5)

EPL: counties or regions?

What is the EPL?

There’s going to be an English version of the IPL. We’re calling it the EPL, because we’re pretty sure that’s what it’ll be.

England already has a Twenty20 tournament of course. There are three leagues and the best teams go through to quarter finals. For some reason, if this was changed into just a league with no knock-out phase, it becomes massively appealing to sponsors. This is because you get to use the word ‘premier’ and any kind of ‘premier league’ is like an overfruiting money tree. That and the fact that a Texan billionaire’s behind the idea. That helps with the money too.

Counties, regions or franchises?

One question that remains unresolved is who will compete in an EPL. Will it be the current counties or a smaller number of franchises or city teams?

Sean Morris, chief executive of the Professional Cricketers’ Association points to the apparent success of the IPL’s franchises and says this is the way forward.

ECB chairman, Giles Clarke, points to those very same teams, only he sees them as state teams and therefore believes this backs up the county format.

No-one seems to question whether a fortnight is a sufficiently long period in which to gauge IPL success nor whether what’s successful in India might translate to the UK or not.

Too many counties for one league

Whether they go down the county or the region route, we’re sure of one thing. 18 first-class counties is too darn many to have in one league. We spend more time than most reading about cricket and we’re having trouble getting to grips with the teams in the IPL – and there are only eight of them.

If you want to get huge TV coverage and the accompanying sponsorship money, you have to appeal to more people. This means appealing to new people and you aren’t going to achieve this by giving them 18 teams to remember. People need an easy way in.

This would seem to favour the regional idea. Counties could merge and share the profits. Alternatively, the counties could be split into three leagues of six, but we have reservations about that.

Hampshire finished bottom of their Twenty20 group last year. If Hampshire were in the third of three Twenty20 leagues, then Kevin Pietersen would be in the bottom of three Twenty20 leagues and TV and advertisers wouldn’t be happy about that.

But would he be in division three? Would market forces come into play? Perhaps the more successful Twenty20 sides with their extra income could afford to sign the best players from the weaker counties. There are huge ramifications here. If Twenty20 becomes the driving force for counties, it means the richest counties are geared towards that form of the game and players will be produced accordingly. Is this good for Test cricket? Almost certainly not.

The regional concept guards against this. All counties are effectively involved in the top flight and money can be equally distributed. It should also mean a higher standard of cricket. A regional team would use only the very best players from its three contributing counties and foreign signings – who are central to this whole idea – would be spread less thinly as well.

Self-sufficient counties

Whichever way they choose to go, the important thing is that the counties start to pay for themselves. England’s counties are not financially self-sufficient, taking millions of pounds that come in from England games. If an EPL in any format overcomes this, the resultant savings could go on a number of things.

Least appealingly for the fans, the money could go on salaries for England players. Cricketers’ priorities seem to be following the cash, so ensuring Test players earn more than domestic Twenty20 cricketers might solidify Test cricket’s position as the number one format.

Or the money could be used to reduce ticket prices at England games or to ensure free-to-air TV coverage of the national team. William Buckland, writing in The Wisden Cricketer, said that the current situation for cricket supporters in England is leading to a game that’s becoming an expensive indulgence for the upper middle classes in London and the shires, like the opera. It would be nice if this trend could be reversed, but would the ECB willingly refuse Sky money for a greater audience?

Or the money could go to grass roots cricket. That’s never a bad idea.

Oxford UCCE v Nottinghamshire match report

Mel writes:

I arrived at the home of the Oxford University Cricket Club with a sore shoulder and a light wallet. The former was due to packing a heavy bag to cover all weather eventualities (although in hindsight the mosquito repellent was a tad unnecessary). The latter was due to forking out £12 to park in Oxford city centre for five hours.

A large number of spectators failed to materialise (as did the players – the weather was not good), and I found that upon arrival I comprised precisely 50% of the crowd. My fellow specator was a dead ringer for Germaine Greer, which was unfortunate as he was a man.

I struck up a conversation, only to discover that Germaine had once been the Dutch national team’s wicket-keeper, and so I was kept amused for a considerable time whilst he tried to teach me the correct pronunciation of Ryan Ten Doeschate.

We companionably ate our sandwiches (mine from M&S, his provided by Rugby Travelodge where he had spent the previous night). Coincidentally, we had both also brought along a piece of fruit (he a pear, me an apple). Conversation had moved on to Ruud Gullitt, Johan Cruyff and the Dutch Resistance movement during World War II as the clouds cleared, and I prayed that play would begin before I ran out of Dutch-related conversation.

He must have sensed that I was on the verge of bursting into “Tulips from Amsterdam” and announced that he was bursting in an entirely different manner and went in search of the toilet. I was quite relieved myself, as I only had Denise van Outen left up my sleeve.

Rob Key punishes New Zealand

Rob Key punishesPunish them!

Rob Key today doled out a punishing barrage of punishment. New Zealand were the unfortunate punishees, punished for being an international team with the temerity to take on The Big Key.

“Punish them!” cried the crowd and The Big Key obliged with 178 not out.

This would happen to each and every Test nation if England were to actually pick The Big Key. Every right-thinking soul thinks they should. It’s surely just a matter of time.

The case for Test match punishment off the meat of The Big Key’s bat is now overwhelming. There’s an unstoppable momentum that can only culminate in one thing: Rob Key batting in a Test match again.

We’re off to the doctors first thing tomorrow. Hopefully a diplodocus-sized treatment of lithium will take the edge of our excitement sufficiently that we don’t burst and die.

The Chris Read new hat appeal

Chris writes:

“This bugged me last season and it seems it’s going to continue to bug me this season too.

Exclusive photography

“Can I suggest a whip round to buy him a new hat? That’s what, a tenner? So £2 per King Cricket reader.”

Steven Finn proves himself completely

Steven FinnSteven Finn bowled Rob Key for one yesterday. We said that Steven Finn was one to watch this season. How much more right could we be?

The answer, of course, is none. None more right.

Rob’s been recovering from a virus. This is the only time he is at all vulnerable.

Well if you wanted to make Sreesanth cry, mission accomplished

Sreesanth cryingHarbhajan Singh slapped Sreesanth. Sreesanth had a bit of a cry.

This happened because Harbhajan Singh’s a little bit of a dick and because Sreesanth’s also a little bit of a dick. Harbhajan Singh would slap anyone and anyone would slap Sreesanth. It’s a huge surprise that it hasn’t happened before.

That’s how we’re reporting it.

Andrew Symonds hits Twenty20 hundred

Andrew Symonds - probably 'knows' that he's goodAnd this annoys us.

When people are throwing huge money around, there’s nothing quite like watching them make a right balls of it. Andrew Symonds sold for $1.35 million and we’d have quite liked him to be a colossal failure. Unfortunately, he’s been okay and even if Deccan Chargers lost the match, 117 off 53 balls is more than tidy.

The other downside is that this will reinforce Symonds’ self confidence and if there’s one thing we hate more than people who are self-confident, it’s people who are justifiably self-confident. What’s so wrong with constantly questioning your own worth and then giving yourself massively unflattering answers, eh?

Faith in your own abilities? Pah. Let’s see you do it the hard way, when you know you’re a huge imposter who’s merely been tricking people into thinking you’re in any way competent at anything. That’s a true test.

At least he’s gone for 101 runs from the 6.5 overs he’s bowled.

Matthew Hoggard does the unthinkable

We're sticking with the beer picture for our MatthewMatthew Hoggard smashed someone’s box!

That really doesn’t bear thinking about. What are the chances that the delivery was precisely quick enough to smash a box but not quick enough to do any further harm? The chances of that are nil.

Thankfully, we haven’t actually seen this. The BBC say that he ‘shattered’ Michael Carberry’s box. Surely these things shouldn’t shatter under any amount of impact. They should be made out of the same stuff they make tanks out of.

That word again: ‘shattered’. Conjures images of hundreds of spiky shards, doesn’t it? No wonder Hampshire’s first six wickets fell to The Yeoman. Everyone was bricking it.

Deccan Chargers?

Which ones are Deccan Chargers? This is the problem we’re having with the IPL. The teams have no real identities. It’s impossible to remember who’s who.

Here’s what we can easily remember:

That’s pretty much it. We do know more, but we have to think and you all know how we feel about that kind of exertion.

Turns out Adam Gilchrist, Shahid Afridi and Andrew Symonds play for Deccan Chargers. You’d think we’d be able to hold that information in our head – and we sort of did.

We just allied those names to an entirely different team.

Surrey v Lancashire County Championship match report

Sorry about this morning’s aberration where we actually contributed something to the website. David “Pappus’ Plane” Barry’s here to redress the balance with a match report:

This was my first experience of cricket in England: the opening day of the 2008 County Championship. One notable difference from Australia was clear at entry to the Oval – the price of the ticket was £12. Twelve pounds! There are days when the exchange rate makes that more expensive than a day of Test cricket in Australia. Queensland Shield games cost $8 at most.

Nevertheless, I paid for my ticket and sat down in the Bedser stand, about half an hour before play was scheduled to start. Much of the centre wicket area was under a plastic cover. The problem, as far as I could tell, was that the sun was out. After inspections at 11 o’clock and 11.30am, the umpires were confident that there might be dark and overcast conditions by 1.10pm and that was indeed when play began.

Three Wigan lads behind me were creative. They had brought a packet of Lancashire Tea, and were hoping for the Lancashire stars to sign it.

I was lucky to be there on day one, when the temperature soared to twelve degrees or so. There was once a day in Brisbane, in 1965 and in the middle of winter, when it was colder. And yet, day one was the warmest day of the match. It was eight degrees on day two. That’s cold football weather. Only in England would some people play cricket in such conditions, and thousands of others actually pay twelve pounds to freeze while watching it.

There were various people with their own little scorebooks, studiously keeping score. The reason for this, I realised, is that the scoreboards at the Oval don’t actually tell you anything. Want to know who’s bowling? No good looking at the scoreboard. Want to know which batsmen are out, how many runs they made, who took the wickets, and who’s left to bat? The scoreboard won’t tell you. And I don’t mean that it doesn’t tell you all of those things. No. It doesn’t tell you any of them.

All up, it was a successful day. The Wigan lads missed out on Freddie’s signature, but they got Mal Loye, Stuart Law, and Brad Hodge to join Sajid Mahmood in the most Lancashire-signed box of Lancashire Tea. I had seen Stuart Law and Brad Hodge for once on the same side, wearing the same team’s shirts, and jumpers, and whatever goes over jumpers.

I was really cold by the end. I needed a second jumper.

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