Franchises raise their head in English cricket yet again
Excuse the big sigh as I start this piece, but over on Cricinfo there's discussion regarding tinkering with the T20 format, yet again. Not only are envious glances (or brazen stares) being cast towards the IPL, but now the success of the Big Bash in Australia is the catalyst for all manner of suggestions regarding the English T20 competition, under whichever moniker you care to choose.
For Derbyshire fans of more recent vintage, that's the competition that we have, thus far, played abysmally, but spend each Spring convincing ourselves that this year could be different. Maybe this year will, but that is a subject for another piece in the future.
I'm not a fan of gimmicks. There, I have said it. I can live with Power plays and see the merits. I can understand and appreciate a 'super over' to decide a tie, and follow the logic of restrictions on bouncers. I just don't follow suggestions to spice it up with additional fielding limitations, more power overs and assorted nonsensical ideas.
If it carries on, we'll soon be seeing the batting side getting double runs, if they make more than ten in an over from the bowling of a player who was born outside the county boundaries, but only if the names of the two batsmen at the crease can be rearranged by anagram into 'We are cocking up cricket, big time'.
I have watched some of the Big Bash and have not been all that impressed. Yes, there have been decent crowds for the franchise sides, but Australian cricket has created two sides each in Melbourne and Sydney and for me the cricket has been distinctly average. The bowling has been better than the batting, though whether because of sub-standard wickets rather than genuine skill I'm not sure.
In England there are effectively two choices – a T20 compacted into a month in the middle of the season, when the nights are longest and the weather potentially the best, or spread over several weeks to fill cricket grounds on Friday nights with those straight from work and looking forward to the weekend. That's the model we currently have and most in its favour is that it avoids burning out players too much.
Against it is that luring a big name overseas star to play for one night a week is nigh impossible, meaning that counties generally have to be content with second tier stars from overseas. You can have success with some of those, mind.
You will note the word 'potentially' in bold above. As I said when putting in my tuppence worth over on the site, there's less appeal in a game when you're sat with a heavy jacket on and wondering whether the drizzle is worth putting your brolly up, or it will simply convince the umpires it is time to take the players off.
I have said many a time on this blog that I am not a devotee of T20 and would sooner watch one four-day game over any ten of the shorter format. But it is cricket, Derbyshire play it and I would follow their fortunes if they were playing a one over a side competition in a barn. I entertain hopes that sometime soon we might actually become decent at it, but I really don't want it to be so complex that I need Stephen Hawking to explain the rules, nor do I wish to watch a composite East Midlands (or 'Mercia' side, as one correspondent called it) in action.
Therein lies the crux of the matter. For decades we have enjoyed local rivalries and attended games in the hope that we would hammer Nottinghamshire, or Leicestershire, or Yorkshire, because we're not fussed in being so partisan. Their supporters are the same, so are those of Middlesex and Surrey, Lancashire and Yorkshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire. The powers that be cannot expect such rivalries to be overturned on a whim and I couldn't ever see myself attending Trent Bridge and cheering on a side that featured, notionally, six of their players, three of ours and two from Leicestershire.
There's already a composite East Midlands side anyway, They play at Nottingham and feature the best of former Leicestershire talent, with the exception of Shiv Thakor, potentially the best of the lot.
And he'll be playing for Derbyshire. Long may that continue, and the meddlers stay out of our game.