As another domestic season draws to a close in England, the counties prepare for their long winter hibernation… but what kind of a world will they wake up to next spring? The truth is that nobody – not even those “in the know” – actually knows.
What we do know is that the ECB are clearly determined to press ahead with the 50-Over Kia Super League; but where this leaves the counties – especially the Div 1 counties, who share a lot of players with KSL – nobody is quite sure: the ECB are currently conducting a review of this year’s KSL, from which will emerge a strategy for next year, but this means that at the moment there is quite simply no information.
Information, however, abhors a vacuum, and in its place, rumours fly uncontrollably. In the past few weeks we’ve heard speculation covering every base from: (a) the County Championship will be effectively abolished in its current “national” form, and replaced by a regional competition; to (z) the KSL-50 will be played on Wednesdays to allow all the players to continue to play the County Championship on Sundays.
Meanwhile the counties themselves are trying to draw up winter training programs, but the information vacuum has left them writing them up on a blackboard… in black chalk… in the dark!
Berkshire, for example, want to build over the winter, but they simply don’t know which players they will have – they have already lost 3 of the squad to “retirements” – Amanda Potgieter, off to start a new life in New Zealand; Alex Rogers, off to do the same in Australia; and Rachel Hardy, off to college in America on a football (soccer) scholarship. Now they face the possibility of maybe losing Heather Knight, Linsey Smith, Carla Rudd, Lissy Macleod, Fi Morris and Daisy Gardner too – all to KSL-50.
That’s pretty-much their entire 1st XI, which is sad, but ironically not actually the real point – it is that word “maybe” which is killing them. How can they even select their winter training squads, let alone book gyms and nets, when they don’t know which players they’ve got, or which competitions they will be competing in?
Sussex meanwhile are potentially in even more of a pickle – they have massively restructured and professionalised their women’s program, taking the “business” side of it fully into Sussex CCC, and building a new “Women’s Academy” – a huge investment, presumably based on the premise that county remains the seat of elite women’s cricket in this country. Are they now potentially about to have the rug pulled away from beneath their feet and discover that that is no longer the case, if the county championship is indeed effectively consigned to a regional development structure?
Again, we emphasise, these are all “ifs” – nobody knows – but to quote John Cleese’s character in the movie Clockwise – “I can take the despair – it’s the hope I can’t stand” – and that’s how the counties feel right now.
Answers are needed… and they are needed soon.