OPINION: Player (Non) Availability Risks Making 50-Over KSL A Farce

In the wake of this year’s successful T20 KSL competition, the ECB are now making plans for 2017 – including the extension of KSL to 50 overs, which we are assured will definitely take place before the World Cup, due to begin on 26 June.

In fact the current suggestion, according to a recent ECB document seen by CRICKETher, is for matches to take place on Saturdays and Wednesdays during May, with a final on the first weekend in June.

Sounds reasonable… or does it?

There will be very few overseas players in this inaugural 50-over KSL competition. Few boards are likely to release players for a tournament which takes place right before a World Cup. Therefore the teams that contest the 50-over KSL will be almost totally made up of England, Academy and county players.

Nothing wrong with that. Except… it doesn’t seem very compatible with a tournament played on weekdays in May.

Outside of the contracted England players, all female cricketers in England are still amateurs. That means they are either a) students, or b) holding down jobs which they juggle their cricket around.

Students – whether at college or university – will almost all have exams in May. It seems inconceivable that any of these players will choose to put KSL before formal examinations, which cannot be rearranged when (not if) they clash with KSL training / match commitments – and why should they be expected to? Women’s cricket is not yet a meal ticket for any except a very select few.

Those with jobs have the option of taking holiday in order to play in KSL matches – but with two (big) caveats. Firstly, for any of those – such as Vipers’ Carla Rudd and Arran Brindle – who are committed to teaching or term-time coaching jobs (a not inconsiderable number) it is likely to prove nigh on impossible to get leave to play in midweek games in May.

For others like Beth Morgan, who took 3 weeks leave from work (some of which was unpaid) in order to play in the inaugural 20-over KSL, it will come down to a straight choice between playing in 50-over or 20-over KSL. Many will opt for the latter.

So what are we left with? Essentially a competition which will take place with many of the best non-international players in England – surely the very players the tournament was aimed at – unavailable.

Could the 50-over KSL be rescheduled? Unlikely. Timings are going to be very tight next season, with most teams – not least England – likely to want some time to come together and train in the weeks preceding the World Cup; and with the T20 KSL to follow hot on the World Cup’s heels. It is difficult to see when else a 50-over competition could be fitted in, were it not played in May.

But if things go ahead as planned, the risk is surely that the KSL “brand” will be massively devalued, and that the excitement which built up around this year’s competition will quickly dissipate.

Perhaps it might be better to kick the idea of a 50-over KSL into the long grass for the moment, and focus efforts on the Women’s County Championship instead?

 

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7 thoughts on “OPINION: Player (Non) Availability Risks Making 50-Over KSL A Farce

  1. My first thought create two parallel divisions and play weekends only with semi-final & Finals between the top four teams. Make it more compact in its first season.

    My wider view is that Women’s cricket can be compared with men’s recreational Premier NOT County cricket in so much as the pool of amateur players (with educational and job demands) is getting shallower even if the ECB has created more semi-pro players in the women’s game than before.

    I’m not saying the the Women’s game is not inspirational I’m saying that there has been a lull since the high of the 2000s and competition from hockey, netball and the dreaded football means that there is not a decent talent pool of aspiring county / WSL cricketers.

    In fact the process is being restarted with a new generation of U15s through the WSL training camps and CAG cricket. Maybe too late to fill a WSL50 competition but something that is needed if the game is to grow again.

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  2. “The sooner the ECB drop the idea of a 50 over KSL next season the better. I won’t list the reasons – they are blindingly obvious” was a comment I left on a blog that Syd posted on 9th September. Many of the “blindingly obvious” reasons have now been articulated in Raf’s cogent article here.
    Proposed Season Structure:-
    Apr/May/June : County Championship
    July : World Cup
    August : T20 KSL & County T20 Championship

    Further mud has been added to the waters with the proposed men’s city-based Twenty20 competition, be it in 2 or 3 years’ time. The Australian BBL has demonstrated the synergy of having both male and female teams within a franchise. So, if the men’s version did start, where would that leave the KSL ?

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  3. It always seemed tricky to fit senior club cricket, senior county and 50 over Super League into the same season. Next year’s schedule makes it even more difficult. Time now for the ECB to decide if women’s senior county cricket has a future, and to make the changes necessary if they really want to launch 50 over SL next year. So whatever they’re planning (scrapping county altogether, making it U19/U21 only etc) needs to be sorted out NOW!

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  4. Some good observations Raf, and of course all of this pessimism could come to pass, but I think you’re being a bit too negative. It’s mainly to do with what you expect from the 50-over league. As most people seem to agree with you and I like to be different, I’d like to play devil’s advocate and to make a few points around your objections:

    “There will be very few overseas players in this inaugural 50-over KSL competition.”

    Firstly, define “overseas players”. If you are talking full overseas Internationals, then yes, the 50 over KSL may have none or maybe 1 per team. But there is more of an opportunity for fringe and non-Internationals overseas players to take part. They can often be almost as good as full internationals and offer a variety of skills and experience to the league.

    “Those (players) with jobs have the option of taking holiday in order to play in KSL matches – a not inconsiderable number – it is likely to prove nigh on impossible to get leave to play in midweek games in May.”

    As women’s cricket develops, there is bound to be an ongoing conflict between increasing the amount of cricket the players play, which is vital to progression, and lifestyle balance / time and funding issues. There comes a point where players may have to decide between committing to their regular jobs or playing more cricket. You are discounting the possibility that other innovations or situations could intervene to fix this issue in individual cases. Sponsorship can come in a variety of forms these days from equipment contracts to crowdfunding. It will be a challenge for players and employers alike, but I think a good number of players will choose to keep playing, and find a way of doing so, if they enjoy doing it more than their “regular” job.

    “But if things go ahead as planned, the risk is surely that the KSL “brand” will be massively devalued, and that the excitement which built up around this year’s competition will quickly dissipate”

    This is speculation, and negative speculation at that. There is no particular reason to assume that the 50-over KSL would be “equivalent” to the 20 over KSL. T20 competitions worldwide are always more glitzy than their 50 over counterparts. There are however a variety of reasons to think, as you have gone a long way to explaining here, why it should be more focused on development, contrasting against an elite KSL T20 league. Which brings me to…

    “For others like Beth Morgan, who took 3 weeks leave from work (some of which was unpaid) in order to play in the inaugural 20-over KSL, it will come down to a straight choice between playing in 50-over or 20-over KSL. Many will opt for the latter.”

    You are assuming it will be the players’ choice. With the 20 over KSL being mainly dominated by big international players, this is only likely to increase in the future as each team seeks to get the most from their stars. Many other county and even Academy players who did not play much part in the first KSL may increasingly struggle to find a spot in the team, and I think some would rather play in the 50 over KSL than sit in the dugout or carry drinks, especially if they are going out of their way to make themselves available to play. Thus, they may not have to miss as much time from study/work as you think.

    As for pouring the money into the women’s county championship, that could work as long as it gets more media focus and starts to be treated seriously by the ECB (no more ridiculous match abandonment rules and Play Cricket giving us the wrong stats a week late!). It would need to be always played at grounds with proper facilities and amenities like the KSL T20 had. This is difficult with so many sides though. Would they need to be “rebranded”? If so, we are halfway to 50 over KSL already. Otherwise I can’t see how attendances would improve much.

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  5. I’m interested to see the ECB media strategy for the women’s game next year (and beyond). This season the WSL T20 was allowed to start under the radar without TV coverage.

    Will the 50 over game start the same way and will the ECB provide the necessary impetus to the T20 comp before the men’s game restructures?

    Why because the women’s game needs to attract REAL money otherwise the decision of whether to play cricket or not for young aspiring sportswomen will be an easy one, in an economy where the cost of living is always on the up and other women’s sports pay better.

    Only the ECB can set the structure and give the host Clubs the support they need to take the women’s game to the next level.

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  6. Why is football “dreaded” Baz? I enjoy the football WSL myself, indeed the ECB could learn a few things from the way it’s run. It will clash less with cricket after next year as well. After the 2017 “spring series” the league will be moving to a winter season, which may be helpful as far as competition with cricket is concerned.

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    • Sorry James I agree with you that the women’s football is well run. I just feel football is already in that overkill phase, as a sport. Although the women’s game can also be said to put the men to shame.

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