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Monday, July 12, 2010

Letter to the editor

The July edition of the Wisden Cricketer arrived today, and is as entertaining and interesting as ever, particularly its list of the ten best cricket books ever published, of which more anon. However a more immediate concern was a piece by Mark Nicholas in the Expert Eye column:
http://wisdencricketer.com/item.php?parent_id=12&child_id=8&item_id=704

It postulates a reduction in the number of first-class counties to 14, or even 12. Now, I don't like this idea, but the day will probably come, and opposition based on dogged sentimentality is unrealistic. What made me dash off a letter to the editor was the assumptions that Nicholas makes about how the change would come about.

Here's the letter:
If there is to be a cull of first-class counties, it must not be driven by the assumptions made by Mark Nicholas (Expert Eye, July).
First, why should the Test-staging counties be guaranteed a place in the new structure? So that it can benefit from the financial and cricketing acumen that has taken Surrey from top to bottom in less than a decade? Or so that we don't miss the one player of true international class that Glamorgan produces every 30 years? How would we manage without Yorkshire's people skills?
English cricket would do better with more influence from counties that have used scarce resources to produce young players of true international potential, as, for example, Leicestershire are doing, and less from those whose grandiose dreams have lumbered the game with more international grounds than it needs.
A knowledge of geography wider than Mr Nicholas' would also be useful. The view that a merger between Gloucestershire and Somerset is "natural" is sustainable only if you believe that everybody south and west of Swindon wears smocks and sucks straw. A more natural alliance would be between Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, given that the cricketing heart of the former is in the north of the county, half an hour from New Road, but two hours from Taunton.
And why should the south-eastern counties be inviolate? As a lifelong Kent supporter I hope the day never dawns, but with the population of the county balanced towards London and the books in dire straits, amalgamation with Surrey is every bit as realistic as any of those suggested. Nor is Brighton to Southampton an arduous journey.
I like Mark Nicholas as a broadaster and journalist. At any rate, reading and listening to him is more entertaining than watching him play ever was. As an Englishman verging on the posh, his achievement in becoming the face of cricket on Channel Nine in Australia is remarkable, even if he has adopted the every-day-is-Australia-Day commentary style which only Messrs Benaud and Chappell resist.

But he's wrong about this.

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