DAVID LLOYD: The County Championship must follow Sir Ian Botham’s blueprint at Durham… pitches need to change and so does the timing of the competition
- The entire point of the County Championship should be to make England players
- Some of them are happy with the status quo and are not fussed with England
- Durham under Sir Ian Botham’s leadership should be seen as shining example
- Counties should be hit hard if they do not produce the correct surfaces
There will be repercussions from this Ashes thrashing and maybe another review. But the root cause is clearly County Championship cricket.
Some counties will be happy with the way things are. They are not bothered about England. But others, such as Durham, see the need for change to benefit the national team.
The whole point should be to produce England cricketers, because broadcasters will not pay the money that keeps the whole game alive for a second-rate England Test team.
Sir Ian Botham is taking a more radical line at Durham than many of the counties
The counties have an obligation to make players the best they can be. When I was 15 I wanted to play for England, and my county Lancashire were my stepping stone. Then it was up to me. But the conditions had to be right for me to develop.
Durham know all about hitting rock bottom. They were relegated and faced huge penalties from the ECB in 2016 over financial difficulties.
But they hit back and are now the perfect example again of how an English county club should be run, with forward-thinking people in charge led by their chairman Sir Ian Botham and a commitment to producing good cricket and international players.
So I am looking to the North East for inspiration now England have hit a new low and the game is searching for answers.
County Championship games need to better to prepare players for Test matches
Beefy is the figurehead at Durham. He cares about cricket and about Durham because he didn’t need to take the chairman’s job. He could have said, ‘No thanks, I’m busy enough’, but he’s grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and been shrewd in surrounding himself with good cricket people, such as chief executive Tim Bostock and his deputy chairman Phil Collins.
They have got the ball rolling by producing Starter For 10 — a document on the way forward for the ECB to consider. It’s not perfect but it’s putting suggestions up for discussion.
The biggest thing I like is the idea to play 10-10-10-10. That’s 10 games in each competition, a bit like New Zealand do, and they’re the best Test side in the world with limited resources, so they must be getting it right.
We have to correct the time we stage Championship games as playing in spring and autumn does not produce Test cricketers — and we have to play it on better pitches. Hit a county hard if they don’t produce the right surfaces. And if they need a pitch inspector to do so, then I’m available! I wouldn’t pull any punches!
There should be something for everyone in the pitches prepared for county games
If the pitch is dry, hard and firm with a good covering of grass, there are three aspects of the game that benefit. Batters can play their shots, quick bowlers can bend their backs and get pace and bounce, and when it starts to deteriorate spinners come into the game. There are no dobbers in international cricket.
And why do we need pace and bounce? Well, look at England’s openers in Australia. They play so low compared to Australia’s, who stand up to play the ball.
And schedule red-ball games when it’s warm. Start with 10 Championship matches in peak summer and build the rest of the programme around that.
It’s quality, not quantity, and that’s what it should all be about.