Two reasons why squad rotation in county cricket is a very bad thing

Ravi Patel (via County Championship Twitter)

County cricket doesn’t get enough media coverage that it can get away with resting players. That’s the two-second version of the point I’m making over at Wisden.

Whether they say as much or not, counties rotate their squads. There are two problems with this.

1. It makes teams shitter

There are currently too many matches for a county to have its best XI playing at its best every game. Players need time off and when the best players are given time off, the matches they miss become of a lower standard. Cricket also has few big names and pitting eleven blokes no-one’s heard of against eleven other blokes no-one’s heard of doesn’t help win people over.

2. Players end up specialising

The triple format nature of cricket means that in practice player rotation tends to equate to specialisation, whether the player wants to do so or not. There is already far too much of this shit. Enough.


There should be way fewer county matches such that it becomes physically possible to play and perform in every match in every format.

You can read a longer, better-argued version of this here.


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26 Appeals

  1. They have a chance to sort this out (Spoiler: they won’t)

    CC – 3 Divisions of 6
    T20 – New franchise thing, no county tournament
    One Day – As is

    I really think that could work

    April/May – 4 x CC games
    mid May – mid June – One day tournament
    mid June – mid July – 3 x CC games
    mid July – mid August – T20tastic
    late August – Sept – 3 x CC games

    Yes the CC is a bit stop start, but at least you are getting a variety of conditions. The only other thing you lose is the end of season one day final, but can’t we live with that on a Sunday in mid June? Who knows, with that oyu could even schedule the CC games to run Friday-Monday to see if people will watch it.

    • Like the 3 division concept. The alternative is if there are too many games either cut formats or the number of counties. Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas though.

  2. I’d rather have three divisions than way few counties.

    Leics will be at the bottom losing to Derby whether it’s called Div 2 or 3 anyway.

  3. In one way I find it difficult to understand the ‘too much cricket’ argument, given the amount of cricket Kohli, Dhawan, Bhuvi, Bumrah etc play, almost always at 30 degrees plus. If the likes of Rashid and Hales feel that they only have have so much skill and fitness to spend over one summer, it is their loss not red ball cricket’s.

    • Yebutt, India’s domestic first class competition has 6 first class games a season(last I heard). Also, I’m not sure about the temperature relevance?

  4. I cannot imagine the cricketing involvement Dhoni had from say 2008 – 2015. Keeping and captaining every possible game – big, small and IPL. Tendulkar. Ashwin was bowling leg spin recently in India’s domestic F50 competition, simply to expand his toolset. If the big names aren’t playing every possible game over an English summer in 15 degrees Celsius against trundler bowling, that’s a cop-out.

    • Christ, you’re having a pop at our weather again.

      Point is they’re pro cricketers and they want to play professional cricket and make money at it. They can do it playing international stuff for England and some of the BBL/IPL stuff overseas. What they can’t do is piss about in county cricket for the last few years of their career waiting for England to pick them for a one off test.

      • Playing at 30+ and 15+ are two different things. In the IPL, they play at 40+. And exactly my point – that if they really cared about red ball cricket, they would make it work and not see the county season as ‘pissing about’. And if they don’t care about it enough, that shouldn’t be our problem, but only theirs.

    • Ignoring the irrelevant weather chat, lets compare Ian Bell and MS Dhoni who both started their careers in the same year.

      292 First Class games
      310 List A games
      89 T20s

      131 First class games
      391 List A games
      277 T20s

      Basically, Ian Bell has played as many days in FC cricket only as Dhoni has played days cricket in his whole career. He on average plays 22 days cricket more per year than Dhoni, and you can expand that by saying Dhoni a way bigger share as T20. I’m not saying that T20 is a couple of hours jolly up by any means, but keeping 20 overs and then batting for 6 or 7 has to be easier than fielding for 7 hours or batting for 3 hours.

      As for “if they really cared about red ball cricket”, that’s fair as long as that were all they were expected to play. But they care about white ball cricket as well.

  5. How about a complete restructure to 9 divisions, each containing 2 counties. The only first class game of the year could be played in late February and would be timeless. The winner moves up a division and the loser down. At the end of March the winner in division one would be declared champion and moved directly to the bottom of division 9 (be much like Lancs winning the county championship).

    April could be reserved for the Home Bargains 50 / 30 comp. Played on Tuesday and Thursday evenings (but sometimes on Monday mornings and mid-afternoon Friday) the HB50/30 would see teams of any division pitted against each other, seemingly randomly. The general principal of the game would be to see if the team chasing could better or equal half the score, in thirty overs, the team batting first made in fifty.

    May, June & July would see the “Bet Victor (almost the IPL) step and fetch it 20/20 league cup championship knockout”. This would involve regional towns, geographically close to existing first class cricket grounds, to enrol in a franchise system. It would involve all the important towns & cities in England and Wales such as (and restricted only to) London.

    August could host some other domestic bobbins, but to be fair it doesn’t really matter, because even the most devoted of cricket supporters are utterly perplexed about what’s going on by August. ‘What? Notts are out, I thought they were doing OK?’

    If we could draw a line by mid-August then at least Sky and all the shouty dick head ‘pundits’ could get the football season properly underway

  6. The way I see it, Rashid and Hales have surrendered – and that’s not down to the volume of cricket. Whether they should or shouldn’t have is debatable. But they’ve made a choice. The volume of cricket is not going to reduce. Specialisation is one of the futures. Whether they have the skills, fitness and passion to make it all work is the only question. ABD, Kohli, Dhoni, Stokes even a Warner have all demonstrated it. 2 largely mediocre Englishmen backing off is alright. But my belief is that cricketers who know what they’re good at are increasingly going to make these choices. Ex-Test cricketers in the 1950s and 60s I’m sure had a choice between becoming car salesmen or opening batsmen. Today it’s limited overs specialist or Test player, or both – if they’re exceptional. That’s acceptable – I do not want to see reluctant Test cricketers either way.

  7. Excellent multi-format work, King. The FB T20 (Tweet20?) teasers sometimes lead me here to the ODI summary pieces, and occasionally then I may dip my toes into the five-day test Wisden tomes. This from a former limited-overs specialist (short attention sp

  8. It’s not about reluctant test cricketers. We want to see *good* cricket. The point is not to ratchet up the pain until only the strongest survive, it’s to improve the games we watch. That means administrators need to care about who is playing – and at all levels, not just tests.

    The county game has too much cricket. That’s one problem. The other is the ridiculous assumption that if you’ve played a lot of white ball cricket you can’t possibly be picked for a test without an obligatory grind in the first class game. Cricketers today are incredibly fit athletes, and the one day game can be quite unforgiving. Maybe fast bowling is an exception but that doesn’t really apply to Rashid and Hales.

    • King Cricket

      March 9, 2018 at 7:55 am

      Yes, right on all counts. Although surely the final point only applies if you already have a decent idea what a player is capable of in the red ball game. Hard to establish that if they’re not playing the format at all. It’s not just about proving fitness, but also fitness for purpose.

      • Being prolific in the county game or on dead Ranji pitches does not assure fitness for international test cricket. Conversely, it’s easier to blood players in one day cricket, and I think there is much to be learned from someone who can play top bowling well over 50 overs.

        Obviously we wouldn’t want to give someone a test debut if they have never played first class cricket, but I think we look for too many first class games with no evidence that it’s a better way of selecting people. And it’s not like there aren’t any one day stars moving into test teams and doing well – just that England seems more reluctant than most. The bottom line is that if Rashid felt he had a reasonable shot at test cricket without playing every single first class game around, he likely would play a few and wouldn’t feel that ODI performances count for nothing in the big picture. Of course it probably doesn’t help that his 500 first class wickets get overlooked for Mason Crane, at that point you may well be justified in throwing up your hands.

      • King Cricket

        March 9, 2018 at 9:36 am

        England are entirely happy to keep their best one-day players out of the Test side at the minute because they don’t want to overburden them or blunt their confidence ahead of the 2019 World Cup. Whether people think that’s right or wrong, that’s what they’re doing.

        We agree that international 50-over performances can be as good a signal of Test readiness as first-class performances. You normally get the clearest picture by looking at both though.

        We also agree that you can get a decent perception of a player from a moderate volume of first-class cricket. In a world with fewer domestic matches, less squad rotation and stronger teams for each fixture, that moderate volume of first-class cricket would also tell us more than we learn now from a greater number of matches.

      • Giving someone a debut who hadn’t played a first class game?

        Debut in a test, batted at 10 and didn’t bowl or keep wicket, previously wasn’t good enough to get into his school’s XI.

        I think I have a new hero.

      • King Cricket

        March 10, 2018 at 8:42 am

        Like an international Jim Foat.

  9. Fewer games are unlikely to happen. It seems the players have made peace with it, would be great if the audience would too.

    • King Cricket

      March 10, 2018 at 8:47 am

      That might be okay in some parts of the world, but here in the UK cricket simply doesn’t attract enough interest that it can afford to divide its stars between three different formats.

  10. Also I get a decent perception of a player when he doesn’t want to play first class cricket. I think that’s fair enough, and I move on.

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