ECB shouldn't reduce Test match cricket

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The English Cricket Board (ECB), led by new chairman Colin Graves and chief executive Tom Harrison, have recognised that the game in England needs an overhaul in order to keep pace with the demands of the ever-changing cricket world, and those of society in general, which demands instant entertainment and gratification.

As a consequence the English game could face huge changes from 2016 onwards if the ECB get their way.

It looks like the possible proposals could be at the expense of Test cricket with the possibility that the number of Test matches during the English summer will be cut to just five, from seven, in order to accommodate the other forms of cricket.

Is this the right thing to do?

The ECB’s possible proposals, in general, do seem to be logical and something that critics of the game in our country have been demanding.

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A Big Bash type T20 tournament is required, of that there is no doubt, after seeing the success of the Indian Premier League and the Big Bash League in Australia, and the ECB have recognised this. Supporters in general will be very happy with the new proposals to try and implement an English version.

It will be tricky to organise for the ECB but there is a very strong case for regional franchises, meaning less teams involved, and therefore a stronger competition involving all the England stars, available because of reduced Tests, as well as some of the very best players from around the World. There will be less games but the quality of those games is the most important thing rather than the quantity. The current T20 tournament lasts far too long.

Voting system 

Counties though will need to vote for this proposal which will be very difficult for them to do if they are to lose out financially, particularly counties who do not have Test match or ODI income during the season. The ECB will need a well-thought out plan to persuade the counties. Compensation could be one option.

Kevin Pietersen has long been an advocate of England adopting a more competitive and exciting T20 tournament to rival other countries and it appears he may get his wish which could ultimately see England’s leading run-scorer once again play in England, as well as many other top players from around the World. We all want to see the likes of Chris Gayle playing in England so why not make it happen?

An FA Cup style 50-over knockout tournament, as proposed by former England captain Michael Vaughan, also looks a fantastic idea.

Involving clubs outside the counties, whether they be minor counties or club ECB Premier League teams, who could spring a surprise or two and will keep the counties on their toes, will boost everyone and will show that the transition from club to county level is not necessarily a closed shop or huge leap in class. Just like Australian grade cricketers know that if they perform consistently for their first grade side they can play first-class cricket for their State.

The County Championship is also up for discussion which could lead to games being reduced to three days rather than four, which used to be the case, and fewer games being played.

Balance is needed 

For me though Test cricket is the pinnacle of the game but I have a feeling that supporters of Test cricket compared to T20 cricket are becoming less and less as the clamour for instant entertainment gathers momentum.

Should Test cricket matches be reduced to accommodate other forms of the game when Test cricket grounds up and down the country continue to attract very good crowds compared to most of the rest of the World.

However, even though the purists of the game have little time for T20 cricket, there must be a balance between the different formats if England are to achieve more at international level. T20 appeals to the wider public so it would be folly to dismiss it but to accommodate all forms of cricket there must be sacrifices.

2005, when England and the country were on top of the World after beating Australia in The Ashes, appears to be in the past and reform is urgently required for England to regain their status as one of the best teams in World cricket.

Colin Graves has certainly started his new role with fresh ideas and a real intent to deliver what is best for English cricket. Lets hope that he does deliver and is not opposed by club chairman who try to protect themselves rather than look at the greater good of the game in England.

If England win the World Cup in 2019 and are holders of The Ashes by then we will no doubt forgive the ECB for their reforms, no matter how radical they may be.

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Kevin Pietersen
England cricket

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