Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Women's Cricket in 2014....

In a previous blog (http://womens-cricket.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/womens-county-championship-2013-as-you.html) I explained that the outcome of the myriad of expensive league play-offs was that nothing changes for next season. Not a single county was promoted or relegated from any of the four divisions of the Women's County Championship.

I feel particularly aggrieved for Lancashire and Somerset in Division Two. Lancashire went through the season unbeaten, but then lost in the top of the table play-off game to Somerset. Somerset were then deprived of the opportunity of gaining promotion to Division One when their game with Division One play-off losers Essex at Slough CC was called off for bad weather the day before it was due to be played. Meanwhile just 50 miles north Sussex managed to get a full game in against Yorkshire (albeit with a few breaks for rain). To leave both Lancashire and Somerset languishing in Division Two is simply wrong. Both deserve to play against the better teams next season.

Back in February I wrote a piece suggesting that eight county games in a season was not enough. I still think that is the case and I would therefore suggest that both Lancashire and Somerset are promoted to Division One, making it a league of 11 teams for 2014, who each play each other once. I would scrap the play-offs, which would save the ECB money and a great deal of effort. The winner of Division One IS the County Championship winner. The bottom team is relegated to Division Two.

I would also make Division Two 11 teams - adding Netherlands, Northants, Scotland and Leicestershire to the seven remaining teams. Top team gets automatic promotion to Division One and bottom two teams are relegated into Division Three, which would be split regionally into two leagues - North & East and South & West and would contain Herts, Derbyshire, Gloucs, Hampshire and Oxfordshire, plus the current Division Four teams. Winners of both Division Three leagues would be promoted to Division Two.

I would also like to see the same set-up for a white ball T20 league (ie two leagues of 11). All international cricket (with the exception of the bi-annual Ashes Test) is white ball cricket. At some stage the 50 over format will also have to switch to white ball too, as it is in Australia and New Zealand. It would be great if some of the Division One T20 games could be played on a Friday afternoon at some of the major grounds as T20 double-headers with the men's county T20 competition. What better way for the men's county teams to support the women's game and give their paying customers more cricket to watch? Women's T20 is not the smash-fest that the men's game has become, and some would say it is all the better for that. The top four in the league could play out a finals' day - how about at a ground with lights - two semis and then the final under lights?

In both Australia and New Zealand they play T20 games the day before and/or after a 50 over fixture, thereby reducing travelling time and costs for the teams. In Aus they play a T20 on Friday afternoon, 50 overs on Saturday and then another T20 on Sunday morning. In New Zealand they play a T20 on the Friday afternoon and then a 50 over game on the Saturday. They have not tagged on another T20 the following day. I am not sure this would work in England unless grounds could be secured for Saturdays and Sundays, but it is worth considering.

Finally I would scrap the Super 4s weekends, allowing more time for county games and county T20s to be played. The good county players will get to match themselves against the elite players in these county games and county T20s - proper fixtures that have a real meaning.

I also like Syd Egan's idea for an IPL for women (http://samebat.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/somerset-denied-but-we-can-fix-this.html). Yes its ambitious, but someone has to be? Let's do it in England where the women's game is on a high. Get the best players in the world here for a short T20 tournament played at one or more of the major grounds. Zac at Hove - What do you think?



  1. Definitely agree that this 11 teams per division format is the least worst option given the situation we currently find ourselves in. Reminds me of the old joke about asking for directions and receiving the reply ‘I wouldn’t start from here’!
    11 team divisions will mean that the gap in standard between the top and bottom of each division is considerable, but it will address the injustice you rightly point out has affected Lancashire and Somerset. It would have been better if the nine-team format had had built-in automatic promotion, and if there really needs to be a play-off, it can be between 8th in one division and 2nd in the division below.
    As I’m now stepping down from my management roles with a women’s county team I feel able to speak out. Any onlooker can rightly regard the situation where no promotion or relegation occurred in what is supposed to be a pyramid league system as farcical. The farce deepens when we learn that there is apparently a rule that the higher division team stays up if it rains on the second play-off day, leaving the team from the lower division unable to go up no matter how good they are. I might add that the official competition regulations actually make no allowance for the possibility that play-off matches might be cancelled due to weather, so this appears to be an arbitrary decision taken somewhere at the ECB.
    When I first saw the new format a few years back, my initial reaction was that it would be very difficult to gain promotion. The higher division team has an inbuilt advantage as they will have had a season’s worth of match practice at a higher level come the crucial match.
    However, with my cynic’s hat on, I wonder whether this is deliberate. By making it very hard for teams to gain promotion to the top flight, it is much easier to keep the England squad in the top division.
    Regarding your wishes for white ball cricket, yes ideally all women’s county would be white ball to aid the transition to internationals. However, when this was mooted a few years ago, the protests from the counties were significant. The logistics of providing coloured clothing and black screens are just too difficult, especially as some entrants are minor counties who only have access to club grounds for home matches. If white ball cricket was to take place it would have to be in the form of special tournaments at specified venues, with ECB providing the clothing. Given this, it does highlight the need for Super 4s, as this is played with coloured clothing.

  2. The Super 4's, as it stands, is pointless. (This year in particular, when it was neither "super" nor "4"!!) But there is a need for a competition at a level above the county championship - my feeling (having watched most D1 teams this year) is that every team bar the top two (Sussex and Kent) are "carrying" one or two players; in some cases, almost literally; and the top players are just not being challenged by county cricket. So we need something like the S4s - hence my (admittedly totally "which dream planet is he living on") proposal for a women's "IPL".

    "However, with my cynic’s hat on, I wonder whether this is deliberate. By making it very hard for teams to gain promotion to the top flight, it is much easier to keep the England squad in the top division."

    I didn't think this was a secret... was it??? (I've heard it spoken of quite openly and matter-of-factly in England circles; but maybe the counties weren't supposed to know that they were being quite so cynically dealt with?!!?)

  3. Thanks for the enlightening! I think women IPL would be exciting and would be a significant step in making this sports global...and we can ask some men to dance as cheerleaders!

  4. I also think that Lancs and Somerset deserve to go into first division unless ECB wants to cordon-off the intetests of the 'southern counties' as a norm. As a keen supporter what I would like to see is this game to grow without the bad attributes of men cricket. May be it is like an Oasis...I think there are too many administrative obstacles for a real talent to reach international level. Could you imagine non-technical guys like Sehwag Dhoni or Ajmal playing for England?