Tag Archives: ECB

Cricket balls

Will white ball contracts spell the end for Test cricket?

Test cricket was once the cornerstone of our great game, it was the pinnacle, the ultimate stage on which to showcase your skills. The La Scala of the cricketing world.

Grace, Bradman, Hutton, Lloyd, Gavaskar, Botham, Lillee  — the list goes on of greats whose careers have been defined by their performances in the Test arena. But is this a thing of the past?

In case you missed it, England internationals, Adil Rashid, Alex Hales and Reece Topley have all turned their back on red ball cricket as the trio have signed ‘white ball’ contracts with their respective counties and in doing so, almost certainly ended their Test careers.

All white now

As we all know, cricket is not what it once was. With a new, more dynamic audience craving speed, innovation and power, white ball cricket is thriving. So much so that worldwide domestic T20 competitions and their teams are now investing astronomical sums of money in players that have little hope nor little ambition of Test selection.

Tymal Mills is earning more in the IPL than England captain Joe Root

I present to you, Tymal Mills. The Sussex T20 specialist recently landed a whopping £1.4 million from Indian Premier League side, Royal Challengers Bangalore, which rather astonishingly, is just shy of double the salary of England Test skipper, Joe Root.

Not bad for a guy that has taken just three international T20 wickets in four matches.

Players such as Mills certainly cannot be begrudged or blamed for committing to the shorter format, but can the same be said about those with realistic hopes for Test match selection? Do players have a duty to support the game’s most traditional format?

Not according to former England bowler Chris Tremlett: “Some people will be disappointed that Hales and Rashid are no longer putting their hats in the ring for Test cricket, but the game is moving forward.

“Like it or not, this is the way modern-day cricket is going and it’s a personal choice for the players in question. You look at IPL contracts and that is where the money is – players are bound to follow it.”

Dagger through the heart

So, as the game continues to evolve into a calendar full of limited overs games, will higher profile players make themselves unavailable for Test selection as they eye the big bucks?

One man who could indeed do that is South Africa’s A B De Villiers. The quite brilliant Protea batsman is one of the most sought after one-day players in world. Despite being in the middle of a Test series battle against Australia, rumours persist that this could be his last outing in white clothing as he looks to cash in.

If that is the case then it would be a dagger through the heart of Test cricket and could potentially encourage other high profile players to follow suit.

Testing times

So how do the players see it?

“No one is watching it [Test cricket] and soon, it won’t be viable. There’s no money in it because it’s all in T20 leagues and we have to be worried about that,” says England Test opener, Alistair Cook.

Whilst England’s current limited overs captain, Eoin Morgan echoes those thoughts:  “Test match cricket has had a lot to worry about for a while now. If something was going to be done about it, it should have already been done already.”

Make county cricket great again

I agree with Eoin Morgan that something should have been done but the rapid rise of T20 cricket has made it difficult for the ICC and the respective governing bodies to come up with a solution. Or perhaps I’m being rather naive and in fact they see T20 as a lucrative cash cow they want to milk for all it’s worth, even if it means the Test arena is neglected.

So what are the options?

Financial Incentives

If players want the big bucks, then give it to them.

The ‘Test Championship’ has been talked about for some time now with no sign of it forthcoming. The ICC need to introduce this as soon as possible and offer big rewards, not only for the team winning it but for standout individual performances.

Show the players they can be rewarded.

Make county cricket great again

The stereotypical view of first class cricket in England is that it’s miserably cold, viewed by a solitary fan accompanied by his or her Jack Russell and played by glorified club cricketers.

Whilst that isn’t the case, it’s not a million miles from it and that should be a huge concern.

The ECB has to start engaging the youth of Britain and raise interest levels in the longer format and they need to do that by introducing a friendlier schedule.

Nobody wants to watch cricket in April with a flask of coffee in their hands and a blanket over their lap, so stop shaping the schedule to suit limited overs games and start playing first class games in school holidays, even if that means a shorter schedule.

Prioritise quality over quantity and make it fun.

Let the kids see a fiery spell of fast bowling on a quick bouncy pitch in July, not a 200 ball half century in April.

Innovate in the Test arena

The shorter formats are innovative, so why isn’t Test cricket?

Day/night Test matches have been a great hit with the crowds — let’s have more of them.

What about introducing penalty runs for slow over rates? Even as a cricketing purist I can acknowledge that the longer format can be painful to watch at times. So why not introduce an ‘over clock’? All overs must be bowled inside an allowed time or penalty runs are awarded to the batting teams.

Yes, these ideas aren’t perfect, but it’s a start.

Whatever is done can’t come quickly enough, because as it stands Test cricket and its future looks bleak.

Cricket balls photo by Farrukh via Flickr Creative Commons under Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Heather Knight

‘Let’s not make World Cup win a one off’

Accusations of under-performing in big tournaments are now a distant memory for Heather Knight and her England team after they defeated India at Lord’s in a nail-biting contest to win the Women’s World Cup for the second time in three attempts.

“To do it on home soil at Lord’s in front of 26,000 people, and millions watching all over the world, it’s what dreams are made of,” said Knight.

The 26-year-old is, however, not keen to dwell on that success. “We don’t want to stop here, it’s important to keep pushing, and we want to drive the women’s game forward.”

Women’s cricket has already taken tremendous strides in recent times – in the space of just 10 years, it’s seen a rise of more than 650% in new women’s cricket clubs.

The ECB’s Director of England Women’s Cricket, Claire Connor, is excited for the future, saying: ‘There is a great area of potential, especially with the arrival of the All Stars Cricket programme. The future is bright, that’s for sure.”

So how does it get better than this for the female game?

Spotlight

“Of course, the World Cup win is going to be difficult to top, it was such a great day for women’s sport and you don’t want that to be a one-off,” said Knight at the launch of a new salad she has helped to create with health food company Squirrel.

Heather Knight
Knight is relishing England’s upcoming Ashes challenge

“We recognise these sort of days don’t come around that often, and that’s why it’s vital that we keep the women’s game in the spotlight.”

That spotlight should continue to shine on the England team for some time yet as there is a small matter of an upcoming Ashes series in Australia, which Knight admits won’t be easy.

“It’s a tough place to go as you feel like the whole country is against you.”

“As everybody knows, the Australians love to beat the English, so that’s something you have to deal with, but we’re just concentrating on ourselves.”

Influential Australian captain Meg Lanning will miss the series through injury, but the England skipper believes the void left by her opposite number will be filled.

“Of course, any team in the world would miss Meg, but they have a great batting line-up as we saw in the World Cup, with many able replacements, so we’re expecting a tough battle.”

Determination

The Rochdale born right-hander has proven in her time in charge that she is exactly the person you want to lead you into such a battle.

She handled the fall-out from predecessor Charlotte Edwards losing the captaincy with professionalism and an inner determination to prove people wrong – all characteristics of this current England team.

‘We’ve got a lot of younger players and lots of potential, so we want to keep dominating for as long as possible’ – Heather Knight

So what of the future?

Long-term ambitions in sport often fall foul of fluctuating form and fortune, but Knight has no qualms in discussing hers.

“I want to continue as captain and see how far we can go. We’ve got a lot of younger players and lots of potential, so we want to keep dominating for as long as possible.”

One of those younger players is 18-year-old, Sophie Ecclestone. The Lancastrian missed last winter’s tour of Sri Lanka due to school commitments, but Knight believes she’s a star in the making.

“Sophie has a great future ahead of her with plenty of potential, and we’re looking forward to having her in Australia.”

England have recently overtaken Australia as the world’s number one-ranked women’s side, which will add some extra spice heading into that first ODI at Brisbane in late October.

Heather Knight was speaking at the launch of the ‘Green Knight’ salad, part of the ‘Best In Field’ series of dishes from London-based healthy eating outlet Squirrel. Images courtesy of KK Communications. You can follow Heather on Twitter 

Is it time for captain Cook to go?

He is England’s most capped player, their highest-ever scorer, longest-serving Test captain, and is a double Ashes-winning skipper.

But all good things must come to an end, and Alastair Cook’s leadership of England’s Test team looks set to end ahead of the summer.

“Captaincy always brings pressure… when things do not go your way, instantly questions will be asked of you”

After this winter’s tour struggles in Bangladesh and India, is the time right for the Essex man to step down?

Joe Root, the current vice-captain of the Test side and Cook’s most likely successor, has loyally expressed his desire for him to remain as skipper.

“I do think he’ll make a decision in the best interests of the team, and in my opinion it would be great if he did stay on and lead it forward. I think he’s got a lot to offer.

“Regardless of what decision he makes – whether he’s captain or not – he will continue to be a massive leader and a focal part of this team moving forward.”

Pressure

Former Ashes-winning England captain Michael Vaughan does, however, expect Cook to resign. He told BBC Sport: “His body language over the last three matches [Against India, all ending in defeat]… he looks like he might be thinking of calling it a day.”

Cook without a doubt is one of England’s greatest cricketers, having amassed over 11,000 Test runs. His average as captain in Test cricket is an impressive 47.84, but his recent form in the series in Bangladesh and India has dented that.

Cook’s top score in the series in India, at Rajkot in November, was 130. One century in your last 14 innings is not good enough.

Captaincy always brings pressure. You are expected to thrive in every match but when things do not go your way, instantly questions will be asked of you.

Nothing left to prove?

One example would be Angelo Mathews being captain of the Sri Lankan team. In Test cricket, Mathews’s average has sky-rocketed to 50.94 as captain when critics have been on his back for not scoring runs.

“The pressure onSangakkara was lifted and he was freed up to focus on delivering match-winning performances for his team”

This shows that Mathews has the ability to handle pressure as captain and continue to score runs and produce hundreds.

This situation on the England Test captaincy is similar to when MS Dhoni gave up the leading India during their Test series against Australia in 2014, with Virat Kohli succeeding him.

After a stellar career at Test level, Dhoni probably felt he had nothing left to prove, and the negative of the job had begun to outweigh the positives.

Cook won’t want to step down after a bad winter for England, but he’s achieved so much and has cemented his place in England’s cricket history.

Match-winning performances

Of course, no-one is suggesting Cook should actually stop playing for England as well. As Root says, he still has a lot to offer, and with the pressures and responsibilities of the captaincy removed, he can just focus on his batting.

Cook’s best Test innings came pre-captaincy in 2011 against India when he scored a mammoth 294. Giving up being skipper has benefited other players, including Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara.

In 15 matches as Test captain, Sangakkara scored seven Test hundreds with one double century. Pretty good, but after he gave up the captaincy in 2011, he became a run machine that could not be stopped.

He scored another 13 hundreds, with three double centuries and one triple ton between June 2011 and August 2015.

The pressure was lifted and he was freed up to focus on delivering match-winning performances for his team.

Inspiring young players

Another reason why Cook should give up the captaincy but remain in the side is because it will benefit up-and-coming Test players, with his experience helping inspire the likes of Haseeb Hameed.

“Root will surely become England’s captain and has the potential to lead them to even greater heights than Cook”

The possibility of him giving up Test cricket completely can’t be totally ruled out, and it would allow younger players a chance to get into the side.

Personally, I think England should want to keep Cook in the Test side, freed from the stresses and strains of the captaincy.

Less pressure will be on him, he can focus on his main strength which is his batting, whilst also helping younger players who are finding their feet at Test level.

But Root will surely become England’s captain and has the potential to lead them to even greater heights than Cook.