This season has seen the re-launch of the domestic T20 tournament in England, now known as the T20 Blast. The games are now predominantly played on Friday and Saturdays in order to make them more appealing to supporters attending the games and, consequently, improve the income for counties who rely on it.
However, this year also sees the County Championship being played at the same time
rather than having a natural break which it has had in previous summers. The four day Championship games will start mainly on a Sunday therefore creating an impression of non-stop cricket. This gives players very little time to adjust their mentality between games, recover from tiredness and injury, or sufficient time to fully practice their skills for each version of the game.
The English county scene is considered a very demanding place to play cricket at the best of times, especially with the amout of games and the travelling involved, but this change of itinerary only seems to add to these problems.
The challenge for the modern-day cricketer is now bigger than ever but the counter argument to this would be that these players are well-paid professionals and should be able to adapt to the conditions before them. However, recent high profile mental health issues from
players such as Jonathan Trott highlights the fact that these players are also human and the right balance between playing and resting is still required. Will we see more players admitting mental strain or fatigue as the season progresses? Will we see players simply selecting the format of the game that they feel they can excel at and taking a break from other games?
When do clubs decide that the welfare of their players is more important than the revenue they produce? Or do clubs simply have to accept the fact that they need to find ways of creating revenue options in order to survive?
Looking at the game in general these changes could also have an affect on the
quality of cricket produced and could affect the quality of cricketer England has. Will we
see four day games ending early as players use a more attacking approach as they adopt the mentality that they use in the short format of the game?
Whilst we all accept that the four day game is not as eye-catching, or as spectator friendly, as T20 we also must remember that the four day game is the bread and butter of the sport. Our Test side is selected on the back of performances in this format of the game and this will
not change. We must not let the four day game become devalued. This could be a
tricky balancing act for the authorities but one which they have to get right.
It will be important to see how this season progresses and hopefully the feedback from the players, coaches and supporters at the end of the season will be used to further improve the game in England for everyone. The PCA and ECB have a big role to play in this. All cricket lovers want more cricket but not if it is to the detriment of the game itself.
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