Spectator sport

Cricket needs a top-to-bottom overhaul: here’s how I’d do it

Fewer Tests, conferences for the counties, and inter-city T20s full of razzle-dazzle

28 May 2016

9:00 AM

28 May 2016

9:00 AM

No place for the faint of heart, Headingley, and certainly not for some sketchy Sri Lankan batsmen at the back end of a cold damp week in May with the two best seam bowlers in the world swinging away. Nobody liked it much on either side, which makes Jonny Bairstow’s big 140 all the more spectacular.

Test matches in May are silly. This isn’t the hottest place in the world at any time. I mean, did you catch the opening of our very own IPL, or the Natwest T20 Blast as you might know it? While I watched Essex take on Surrey in the warmth of my sitting room, Sky’s Nasser Hussain and Rob Key were pitchside, fully togged up for Everest base camp. You practically got frostbite watching them.

More than six Tests in an English summer is a bit much too. The game is developing at Mach 1 and the traditional forms will have to keep pace. So how about this: most summers England should play two three-match Test series, broken up with five-match series against Australia, India and South Africa. And let’s use May for a few appetisers of T20s or one-day internationals. And why not make all Tests four-day affairs, possibly with 100 overs a day? Not many go the full five any more. What about dropping the toss and letting the visiting team choose what they want to do, in all forms of the game? That would be the end of the doctored pitch.

Organise county championships around three six-team -geographical conferences, each playing home and away. Three winners and best runner up go into a four-team knockout. The same format could be applied to the 50-over game, with matches played after the four-day game. There would be fewer matches but they would all mean something.

And now the masterstroke: clear the last few days of July for an eight-team inter-city T20 extravaganza. Try these for starters: North London Mets (Lord’s), South London Suburbans (Oval), Cardiff Dragons (Swalec), Southampton Seagulls (Rose Bowl), Birmingham Bears (Edgbaston), Manchester Reds (Old Trafford), Leeds Tykes (Headingley) and Nottingham Stags (Trent Bridge). First plays fourth, and second plays third in the semis. You’d get a game a day in the group stage with two on Saturdays and Sundays, and the final played on August Bank Holiday Sunday.

The ECB should run it, with a sponsor dishing out prize money and the emphasis on marketing, promotion, tickets and merchandising. All pro cricketers can declare for the draft, and current England international who play for a county that is a franchise must join that franchise. English restraint would have to give way to Chris Gayle-sized hoopla.

We now have a sensational football Premier League with the best managers in the world all operating here: Mourinho, Guardiola, Klopp, Wenger, even Ranieri and now Antonio Conte at Chelsea as well. There has been a fair amount of nonsense recently that Mourinho isn’t quite ‘suitable’ for United. Come off it: Sir Alex Ferguson was a hard man, brutish, hard-drinking, bullying, but a great football manager. Mourinho will, I suspect, win United the Premier League at least twice in the next three seasons, and quite possibly the Champions League too. Then we will see who’s still talking about the United way.

But he needs to deal with a tasty little employment case coming up in Croydon next month. In the first match last season, Mourinho decided to pick a fight with his team doctor, the widely liked Eva Carneiro. She is claiming constructive dismissal and sex discrimination. The case could last up to ten days and that is an awful lot of dirty washing. If I were a United fan, I would be begging José to settle out of court. As a journalist, though, I hope he is up for the fight.

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