The news that plans for a “KSL-50” – a 50-over Super League to accompany the T20 KSL – have officially been abandoned (link) means that the Women’s County Championship is set to muddle-along for the next couple of years at least.
The problem with the KSL-50 was that it was the wrong thing to do in practice – there was no space for it in the calendar and the overseas stars who make the KSL what it is were not going to be available for a much longer competition with a very small budget.
But in principle, an elite 50-over competition is a “must” if England are going to look to successfully retain their World Cup in four years time – somewhere to blood the new players we will need by then, given that several members of the current team are unlikely to make it to 2021.
When the KSL-50 was first mooted, the suggestion was that the County Championship would become an “Age Group” feeder competition; but in a way that has already happened – with the England players mostly unavailable due to World Cup commitments, this was always going to be a year when the counties needed to raid their age-group squads for new talent.
But ironically, the KSL has actually made things worse in some cases, as older “county” players have found the pressure of County + KSL + Job + Life too much, and have decided to call it a day with cricket.
So whilst Australia press-on with the full-scale professionalisation of their domestic structures – both 50 and 20-over – we have Div 1 counties fielding teams of teenagers, with a dearth of senior players to support them as they inevitably struggle.
The importance of having senior players on the pitch can’t be underestimated. Earlier this year, I saw a young fast bowler struggling, as she sent down two wides at the start of an over. She was wobbling; but New Zealand wicket-keeper Rachel Priest came over… had a chat… and the bowler bounced back to take 2 brilliant wickets in the spell!
But without those senior players, the County Championship will count for less and less.
The good news is that there is a relatively easy fix – arrange the calendar so that all the England players can play all of the County Championship. After all – it is in the name – it is a County Championship… so make it count!