What is happening to league cricket? For years now it has been outdated, there is no semblance to the professional game, it’s becoming tedious for a lot of players and isn’t developing youngsters. For things to improve we have to see changes.
I was recently involved in a debate on changing the structure within league cricket. The problems being is that some and I stress some, ECB premier leagues have rules which mean you can see a successful club team with three or four good players and the rest just make up the numbers. The purpose of top end league cricket is not only for players to compete on a Saturday, but it is a breeding ground for the next generation of County and International cricketers.
I am a strong advocate for change and there are so many reasons why. There is no place anymore for win/lose/draw scenario in a 50 over game. Matches would be far more competitive if you could only win or lose. I see it all too often when a team is 150/8 chasing 200 and the captain will tell a youngster when he goes in to block out for the draw. It is a real pet hate of mine. That youngster learns nothing by just blocking every ball. In a win/lose environment they would have the freedom to play shots and improve their game. It is a real skill chasing down a total and it can only be practiced out in the middle in the heat of the battle.
On the flip side it teaches bowlers the art of death bowling, and believe me it is very tough. It’s easy for bowlers to just run in at the tailenders and blow them away; you are waiting for them to make the mistake. But you are under most pressure as a bowler when the batters are after you. It is a different type of bowling which players develop too late in their careers. Both these skills are highly sought after in the professional game and it essential l that young players can develop these skills in the leagues.
Another pet hate of mine in league cricket is the fact that you can survive with only two bowlers. There is nothing worse than seeing two 40 year old ‘dobbers’ bowling 25 overs each. I know this doesn’t happen in every game, every weekend. However it shouldn’t happen at all. Ever. How can young bowlers develop when they are stood in the field for 50 overs watching others bowl? It’s happened to me and it’s so frustrating. There just has to be a restriction on bowler’s overs, somewhere between 10 to 15 overs per bowler.
I would also like to see a 30 yard fielding circle introduced, so you have to at least four fielders inside the circle at all times. This then adds an extra dimension to an innings, meaning you have to be cuter with your fielding positions as you won’t be able to send them all to the boundary when the pressure is on.
Organisers seem very content for current system to remain. For me they are not seeing the bigger picture. The development of young players should be of primary concern, but currently being stunted by an outdated system. The organisers need to wake up and smell the americano, change the structure and better cricketers will be developed. There can be no prouder feeling for league organisers than watching professional cricketers develop through their system. But with outdated rules and structures I’m afraid this feeling will become extinct.