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?