Wednesday, July 11, 2007

How to resurrect English cricket, vol. ∞

An evidence based approach to the identification and development of England Test cricketers in the County Championship. (including the full stop at the end) is the simple, unprepossessing title of a paper written by Neil Davidson, Chairman, Leicestershire County Cricket Club and released by the club recently. The 69-page paper is available on the county’s web site – click here to access it. (Caution: opens a pdf file.)

Based on an analysis of England test cricketers from June 1996 to December 2006 and of the 2006 County championship season, the author comes out with a “unique development system which will deliver a high quality Test team over a sustained period.”

The development system set out in the paper comprises seven recommendations.

  1. The creation of branded ‘Academy Showcase’ cricket to funnel under 17 talented young England qualified cricketers into the First Class system.
  2. ‘Senior Academy Showcase’ cricket to bridge the gap into First Class cricket, replacing the current 2nd XI Championship.
  3. A combination of regulation and incentive to ensure that young England qualified cricketers get proper opportunity, across 18 counties, consistent with Phases 1-3 identified previously.
  4. A mature and informed debate about the role of unqualified players as part of such a unique development system to create the best standard of First Class cricket in the world.
  5. A salary cap to deliver a level financial playing field.
  6. Clear communication to all stakeholders by the ECB PR machine.
  7. A phased approach.

A couple of reviews have started coming in and more are likely to follow. Better worthies than this blogger will no doubt pore over the report, identify the good points (there ought to be some), slam the bad ones (there might a contest on who finds the most here) and pass overall judgement on the paper. The inevitable comparisons with the Schofield report (and innumerable others of its ilk) are bound to crop up too.

But there is one sentence hidden rather unobtrusively in the report that made one wonder.

Premiership football is now ‘big business’, thankfully cricket has not reached that stage and hopefully it never will.

Cricket is not big business? Ask any Asian cricket administrator. Even in England, isn’t Twenty20 an effort to make cricket big business? Even assuming cricket is not big business yet, why be hopeful that it never will? Is being big business necessarily bad? After all, cricket moved from being amateur to professional long long ago. Therefore, a professional cricketer is as much a businessman as a financial consultant or any other professional. And which businessman would not want to become a big businessman?

Associated with this is the fifth recommendation above: A salary cap to deliver a level financial playing field. What were you thinking, Mr. Davidson? That cricket become a government department, with fixed salaries and pensions?

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