Friday, June 27, 2008

Two into Three Don't Go

If Gordon Brown is currently the undisputed holder of the 'Maybe we shouldn't have made him leader after all' award, then Giles Clarke is certainly running him a very close second.

As evidence, may I respectfully refer the jury to 'Exhibit A' - the quite barmy idea to replace the existing two-division County Championship, with a three division regional structure involving a play-off final in September.

Sometimes the old slogan 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' really does make sense.

Look at the current tables
. All the nine counties in the first division still have a legitimate chance to win the whole thing. Even cellar-dwellers Surrey and Kent, who face off against each other next week, could bounce up the table with a couple of big wins - likewise any county could quickly find themselves in the relegation mire with two or three poor results.

In the second division, Warwickshire look a pretty safe bet to go up, and there are five teams other with a realistic chance of promotion, whilst Gloucestershire and Glamorgan are in danger of dropping down to the Minor Counties. Oh, sorry - you'll have to indulge me an idle day-dream here, because in the cosy little never-never world of county cricket that doesn't happen. Let's face it, it took over a hundred years to introduce the concept of relegation to upset their comfy existence.

In Division One you're seeing some really good quality, competitive cricket - and it's only going to get better as the season heads to a climax. Competitive cricket means more credence can be given to performance, so England selectors benefit as they are safe in the knowledge that runs and wickets are hard earned, and therefore a useful pointer to true form and class.

The 'three regional divisions' seems to be an ill thought out idea that simply ticks a box for Gile Clarke in terms of 'doing something' where no change is required. As the divisions are regionally based they won't be of equal strength, and how do you decide who the 'champion' is in the event of rain curtailing the playoffs - a bowl out?? 'Travel' is cited as one reason for basing the championship on a regional basis. Come on chaps! It's 2008 now, not 1924 - and with the reduction in the number of county games played and abolition of the old Sunday League, the old days of post-game evening trips from Taunton to Headingley and then back to Edgbaston the following day are long gone.

The current system isn't perfect, because there are too many lame duck counties propped up with annual ECB hand-outs. But it makes the best of the situation and should at least be given a chance to develop properly with some minor tweaks such as enhanced prize money, rather than simplistic 'change for changes sake'.

No comments: