Independent websites are meant to provide a rapid response to news stories, telling the world how things should be based on an unshakeable sense of what is right and what is wrong. However, we long ago concluded that when it came to stories about what might happen to the structure of county cricket, we could save ourself an awful lot of redundant thinking and typing by saying nothing at all.
The latest city-based Twenty20 tournament news probably warrants a mention though, if only because the story’s been rumbling on for so long now that surely – surely – something must come of it…
As is our wont, we haven’t really drawn any conclusions about the fundamental merits of city teams versus a tournament involving the existing counties. We do have a point to make about a minor aspect of the scheduling though and we’re going to make it even though it will probably change.
The latest rumblings are that an eight-team T20 competition involving city teams would take place at the same time as several rounds of the County Championship. This, to us, seems very wrong.
There is a feeling among many people that the shortest format is a rival to the longer ones. We’ve never seen it that way. To us, it’s all cricket and we see no reason why the different formats can’t actively support each other, broadening the appeal of the sport as a whole. Twenty20 is more likely to draw people in and we maintain that the greater scope of Test cricket will always be more capable of retaining interest in the long-term.
The current pencil-scrawled plans are for the new competition to take place at the same time as Test matches and we’re not actually too bothered about that. You could even argue that this arrangement presents an opportunity for cross-pollination or whatever you want to call it, promoting Tests via the Twenty20 coverage. Test cricketers would have to be given permission to play in the sixes-and-fireworks stuff too, so there is an implicit message there that Big Man Cricket is the higher level.
It isn’t the same with the County Championship. Four-day fixtures taking place during the tournament would see teams gutted. What would this achieve? What would be the point of those matches?
Shouldn’t you be gnawing on something else?
We already have a situation where no-one’s quite sure what second division runs and wickets are worth. Compromising both divisions by hauling out all the bigger names for a spell would only make individual performances of even more questionable value.
A corollary of that is that team performances would also be qualified. If what basically amounts to a second XI win in July is worth the same as a first team win in June, what the hell kind of a competition are we talking about? Who would honestly care about winning that?
Playing the County Championship and a new Twenty20 competition at the same time achieves two shitty things:
- It means the domestic game needlessly cannibalises itself when there’s no real reason why the different formats can’t work together
- It reinforces this idea that the long and short formats are fundamentally different and are actively in competition with each other
Those two points overlap really and that part of the Venn diagram is why we’re writing about something that probably won’t happen. The very fact that it’s being mooted betrays the fact that decisions aren’t being made in the interests of the game as a whole.
A gateway to nowhere
Whether it’s just that people have become so involved in trying to develop a more appealing ‘gateway’ cricket competition that they’ve lost sight of the bigger picture; or whether they really don’t care what form the sport takes as long as it makes more money, we don’t know. Despite the temptation to err on the side of cynicism, it’s actually far more likely to be the former. British cricket administrators are a bunch of old bastards and most of them have a long history of being involved in county cricket.
An alternative take is that they know full well that it’s a terrible idea to have the two competitions running concurrently. In this scenario, they’re only floating the idea so that the county chairman can see that giving a new Twenty20 competition its own window while retaining the validity of the County Championship is a much better option than trying to play a devalued four-day competition at the same time.
In other words, the counties might need to experience the bad idea before they accept it is just such a thing. As a friend’s aunt once said of a toddler crawling towards a roaring fire for the nth time one evening: “Oh, let him – he’ll soon learn.”