Cricket could finally go completely crazy tomorrow morning when the ECB meets to discuss so-called ‘radical’ changes to the domestic game. Among the new ideas mooted, according to reports, are a return to a three-day county championship, which may or may not be divided into three ‘conferences’ based on regional distribution, and, most bizarrely of all, a retention of the Pro-40 competition, but with innings divided into four ‘quarters’ in which each side bats for 20 overs and then fields and then bats again. So, not only are the powers that be trying to force more Twenty20 on us via the backdoor, in a competion whose length bears no similarity to one-day internationals, they want a return to the bad old days of county cricket’s contrived finishes, which, not so long ago, was considered detrimental to those trying to adapt to the five-day game.
This is all being done in the name of commerce, and is a knee jerk reaction to the lure of the IPL. But how many real cricket supporters found themselves turning to Setanta for the latest bout between the Delhi Supercharged Turbo Fuel Injection XI and the Mumbai Indians (they’re not all Indians, anyway, are they?) when there was gripping Test fare to be had both at Old Trafford and Sabina Park? In fact, even when there is no Test fare to be had, like right now, I am no longer tempted, after my initial curiosity, to turn back to Setanta (the gold helmets did for me).
The Pro-40, it is said, may be retained because it is popular with fans; well, if so, why mess with it? I watched an experiment of a one-day game in quarters at Perth during England’s tour of Australia in 1994-5 and it did nothing to improve it. In fact, it was just quite silly.
I think it is time for real cricket supporters – not the fly-by-night Twenty20 newcomers – to stand up and be counted – even if we do not exist in numbers large enough to keep Kevin Pietersen and whoever follows him to the sub-continent in Ferraris. Do we want a cricket that is no more and no less than football in summer’s clothing, or do we want a cricket that we celebrate for its unique and steadfast qualities in an ever-changing world. Just because you like things as they are, it does not make you an old fogey?
With this in mind, I intend to mount a campaign against any moves to change back from a four-day championship or mess with the Pro-40 (although if they just got rid of it altogether, the ECB would have my backing). When I’ve mastered the technicalities I will be starting a petition to oppose these moves, should they be rubber-stamped. Hopefully the ECB will show some common sense and not implement them, but if they do, you know where to come to voice your disgust.