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?