avril 23, 2024

English county cricket can become IPL of the red-ball world, says Durham CEO Tim Bostock ahead of new season | Cricket News

6 min read

English county cricket could own the red-ball world in the same way that the IPL owns white-ball cricket, according to Durham chief executive Tim Bostock.

Speaking on the latest episode of the Sky Sports Cricket Podcast ahead of the start of the County Championship season on Friday, Bostock talked of the importance of The Hundred to county cricket and his frustrations surrounding the domestic schedule and structure.

Bostock was quoted in The Telegraph last week on county cricket’s membership model, saying: « The long-term, big decisions [in county cricket] are made by a handful of, I don’t want to call them activists, because they’ll get on their high horse, but they’re effectively activists.

« Of all the millions of people who watch cricket in the English summer, the whole structure is being dictated to by what might only be about 10,000 people. You’ve got chairmen threatened with removal if they don’t do what a small handful of Luddites say. They’re passionate Luddites, but they are Luddites. »

Addressing his comments on the podcast, Bostock spoke of his regret at using the word ‘Luddite’. « It’s an emotive word and if I had my time again I probably wouldn’t use it, » he said, before adding that it stemmed from his frustration at recommendations from Sir Andrew Strauss’ High Performance Review in 2022 being rejected.

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Michael Atherton says the playing schedule remain the most contentious issue in domestic cricket

The review, led by the former England captain and endorsed by the ECB, included 17 recommendations in total that would have seen a six-team top division in the County Championship, a window for The Hundred remain in August, a new knockout 50-over competition introduced and a slimmed down schedule for all teams and players.

The recommendations required approval from two-thirds of county teams – 12 out of 18 – but failed to gain sufficient support.

Strauss’ High Performance Review’s 17 recommendations

1. Create accountability for men’s high performance
2. Improve our shared understanding of ‘What It Takes To Win’
3. Foster a high-performance community
4. Develop skills and diversity in performance leadership roles
5. Reward performance impact
6. Challenge our bowlers to develop their global skills
7. Give players access to experiences overseas
8. Provide earlier international benchmarking
9. Refocus the Lions
10. Produce a coherent domestic schedule
11. Upgrade the standard and intensity of our competitions
12. Incentivise higher quality pitches
13. Provide opportunities for talent and reward counties for development
14. Sustain an exciting ‘shop window’ for the game
15. Enable England players to better manage workloads
16. Improve physical and psychological resilience
17. Schedule international matches to allow players to play their best cricket, more often

‘We could create the most exciting red-ball competition in the world’

« We’ve got to understand that competition is external, not internal and this fighting among ourselves isn’t really going to help, » Bostock told Sky Sports.

« There’s two bits of competition: one are other sports encroaching into the summer and into what young people want to do, and the other one is the global franchise white-ball world, which is encroaching. It frustrates me.

« We could create the most exciting, high-quality red-ball competition in the world.

We should not be playing first-class cricket at this time of the year, and we shouldn’t be playing first-class cricket in the last sort of seven days in September either. This is not ‘high performance’; this is not producing 85mph bowlers, spin bowlers… we’ve got to find a solution for this.

Durham CEO Tim Bostock

« India own the IPL and the IPL owns the white-ball world. Fact. But there’s no reason whatsoever that, with a little bit of lateral thinking, the English County Championship, with its tribalism, its rivalries going back decades, couldn’t own the red-ball world and be right at the forefront of saving first-class cricket and Test cricket – not just for the UK, we’ve got a massive responsibility for everywhere else as well.

« That’s why Strauss was so frustrated and I was so frustrated as well, because we could see it’s nearly there.

« Instead you end up arguing about do we play 14 games, or do we play 12 games with play-offs? Let’s have some lateral thinking about it. There was almost this obsession about the fact that you can’t play less than 14 games.

« There was no real thought about the fact that, one, this is possibly a structure that would mean we play cricket in the better part of the summer, unlike the weather that’s outside at the moment – it’s just freezing cold, we’ve got heaters on all over the place.

« Two, you’d get your better players playing and, three, there’d be more excitement and more jeopardy.

« The gap between first division cricket and Test cricket, I can see how we could close that, if we just had a more open mind about what that sort of structure might look like. »

‘The Hundred is county cricket’s saviour’

Bostock took over as Durham CEO in 2018, shortly after the team’s relegation from the top division of the County Championship in 2016 following a points deduction for financial issues.

Durham secured promotion back to the top tier as runaway winners of the second division last season and play Hampshire in their season opener on Friday, but Bostock worries for the financial future of county cricket generally, adding that The Hundred – and the injection of money it provides – might prove its saviour.

Durham
Image:
Durham won promotion back to Division One of the County Championship las season

At present, all of the broadcast revenue for the Hundred goes to the ECB and host venues get 30 per cent of tickets and hospitality revenue; all the 18 counties receive £1.3 million a year from the ECB as a dividend.

« It will be hard for all 18 counties to survive. I know that we’ve been in trouble, other counties are in trouble, » Bostock said. « While it’s seen as the root of all evil, The Hundred, it’s actually going to be the saviour, to be perfectly honest.

« County cricket costs most counties money, and therefore to maintain a really vibrant first-class competition, protect the pathways, and keep all the investment into the women’s game, where’s that money going to come from?

« The Hundred is the silver bullet, effectively. It’s why the tournament was set up in the first place.

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A look back at the best plays from the 2023 season of The Hundred as overseas and domestic players starred.

« I know a lot of discussions have been taking place in the last few days around ‘why couldn’t we just recreate the T20 Blast?’ But you can’t create a short-form competition to be played within four weeks with 18 teams. It just doesn’t work.

« There’s a very specific slot there where it’s played, ostensibly between the end of the football season and the start of the next football season.

« I know that it messes around with the schedule and the structure and all the rest of it but for the long-term future of the game it’s absolutely critical that we can’t just rely on international cricket TV media rights, we must have something else and this is it. »

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