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A brave new World

by Neil Burns

The England and Wales Cricket Board is in real danger of skating on very thin ice if it thinks test cricket can be taken for granted. And, the England ODI teams comprising various individuals who are really ‘England C’ players can represent the national team in a packed schedule that means its’ leading players become unavailable for selection because of injury or mental ‘burnout’. 

More to the point, I think ENGLISH CRICKET HAS LOST ITS TRUE PURPOSE. IN A DESIRE TO OPTIMISE THE MONETISATION THE SPORT, I think it has lost sight of its’ responsibility to govern the sport. And, instead, I fear the ECB has (effectively) positioned itself as a private promoter of the sport by ‘selling’ the England team to broadcasters and a schedule that is not sustainable for the best players to play year-on year.

Does cricket need to make money? 

Yes, of course it does – but only to ensure the game can be funded properly from the bottom up. 

Is cricket a sport that is in need of successful marketing and global growth – yes of course such benefits would be brilliant to enjoy. 

But, does it need an exhaustive schedule which reduces the quality of the product and develops an over-sized and over-paid professional administration? It also doesn’t need to over-pay its on-field performers (relative to their commercial value) and have them sat on the sidelines (Chris Woakes story this past year is a joke) and too many England players don’t need to be contracted to prevent them from joining the IPL. Only the best t20 players get IPL contracts – not the likes of Stuart Broad/James Anderson. 


I went to Lord’s last Sunday to experience The HUNDRED. I enjoyed it. I think the event has good potential – but needs some ‘tweaking’. In my humble opinion, the format is too long – it needs to be 10 overs per team – or 50 balls per team innings. Then, it can still be called The HUNDRED. If it s purpose is to introduce ‘cricket’ to a new audience, then make it short, fast and fun. Currently, it is a t20 match match with a few less overs and a few complicated rules and tactical time outs which contradict the idea of simplification of a complex sport.

The Royal London 50 over Cup

What a shambles this event is if it is meant to be ‘the event’ which develops a future England World Cup WINNING TEAM. Too many emerging players, and too many ‘sub-standard professional players are playing – this serves to dilute the effect of any performances returned by players. For example, Kent look like a club team (largely because of COVID) and thus any batsman who scores runs against ‘Kent’ is effectively a good club player’, not a future England prospect. In days of yore, county runs meant something – and helped the individual gain the attention of the media and the England selectors.I think it needs to become either an ‘Emerging Players’ competition and priced accordingly to attract local crowds, or reduced in size to be a winner takes all  knockout format ?(like the old Natwest Trophy/Gillette Cup) with ALL the best players available for selection. ‘The Best versus The Best’ brings out the best performances in players.

The County Championship

It is ‘a dog’s breakfast’ of a tournament/league. Few people I know have any idea of who is playing who, when the fixtures take place, and whether the winner of the Bob Willis Trophy is the leading county over a season or the team who played well in an end of season match to determine the winner.

The t20Blast

0 BlastThe desire to promote The HUNDRED ha marginalised the t20 Blast. And, with few leading international players being made available to participate in the tournament, the appeal and the credibility of producing good performance has dropped off. It’s sad. With increasingly more funding to promote the tournament, and with fewer matches to make each match more meaningful, the t20 Blast can be a brilliant product, not just a regular cash-cow for county clubs. Less is more, sometimes.

Test cricket

England is in danger of becoming a mid-ranking test team because it has a national governing body that has prioritised white-ball cricket and revenue. Player burn out, injuries through excessive play, and poor technical skills due to an excess of short-form cricket in the schedule has created a worrying lack of skill and fitness/all round health in players being asked to play test cricket successfully against the world’s best individuals and teams. The ECB has shown a dereliction of duty here in my opinion. It ha s’talked a good game’ about the primacy of test cricket but in actual fact, despite its’ riches, the English game is not ‘schooling’ players from its domestic system to become good test match players.

A Proposed Solution

Go back to the drawing board – think about prioritising cricket as a performance-based sport with only the best players being contracted by ECB (Stokes/Root) TO SAVE COSTS and fund the infra-structure below the international team in a sensible, practical way that takes care of the long term health of the sport. 

Have fewer teams, 3 divisions of county cricket. 2 white-ball tournaments (50 over and t20) with fewer matches and more time to practice and rest. And re-start The HUNDRED with a focus on making it a promotional tool to introduce the game to youngsters and families.   

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