Hampshire Cricket History

The County Championship
September 30, 2016, 7:02 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I posted Rod Bransgrove’s statement yesterday without comment, wishing to allow you guys the chance to respond first – and thank you for all the comments. I’m going to make one or two over the next few days and I’m doing so in the capacity of the bloke who runs this Blog and nothing more. I am no longer the club’s Hon Archivist, I am therefore no longer a co-opted member of the Members’ Committee, and coincidentally, I shall be at Winchester College, speaking to young people about the future cricket on 12 October when the Forum is being held,

In this post I shall limit myself to the opening paragraphs in which Rod refers to the excitement at Lord’s last week and says: “I am … in no doubt that such a headline-grabbing climax would not have been possible without the existence of the two-divisional system that was introduced in 2000.  I applaud the forward-thinking decision makers of that time who, in the face of stiff opposition from the ‘traditionalists’, stuck to their aim of improving the competitiveness and therefore the quality of the 4 day game.”

That change was being mooted and discussed around the counties during the 1990s before Rod Bransgrove first joined the Hampshire Committee. It may be that there was “stiff opposition” but as a Committee member in those days, I don’t recall it that way. There was a desperation about the state of the England cricket team which culminated in the appalling World Cup of 1999 – there was a strong sense that something had to be done. It seems to me that here Rod is constructing his main rhetorical device – either you are one of the enlightened progressive group that will lead us to the promised land or you are a “traditionalist” who obstructs progress. From the outset I reject that simple dichotomy and as someone who actively (as a Committee member) supported the introduction of T20 and two divisions but now has serious reservations about where we are heading, I decline to be stereotyped in that way.

But what about his specific point that such a finish was only possible because of two divisions. That’s nonsense. In 1984, in a single competition of 17 counties Nottinghamshire were 293-9, needing four runs to clinch the title with two balls of the season remaining. Mike Bore hit the penultimate ball out to the boundary but Richard Ollis held the catch, Notts lost and Essex took the title. A ‘one-off’? Maybe, maybe not, but so too in 2016. If the two divisions were responsible for such thrills how come it doesn’t happen every year? In fact there was a far stronger argument to be made, but he missed it. Over the final four days of the season, six of the nine sides still had something significant to play for but in truth the match at Lord’s was pretty dull on a typical batsman-friendly Lord’s pitch until the last afternoon.

Then he speaks of “improving the competitiveness and therefore the quality” of the Championship. I’ve made this point before but it’s worth repeating I think. There is no doubt in my mind that the First Division is as competitive as any Championship cricket I have seen throughout the whole season. But if the quality is so good, why is it that England keep picking the most successful Championship cricketers – especially the batsmen – only to see them fail? There is no necessary correlation between competitiveness and quality as anyone who like me has ever played Sunday morning pubs league football can confirm!

Ultimately there is a big hole in the case that Rod makes. I have watched a lot of T20 cricket from the start and I don’t much care what he and his mates do with that form of the game. I wish to know why it is necessary to continue dismantling the County Championship while those other changes are made. I have shown for a number of seasons now that the majority of cricketers play no more – often less – than three days per week at present, yet we are told that it is ‘too much’. Now it seems that this new competition might run alongside a Championship that is further diluted – no England players, no top overseas players, no English T20 ‘stars’ and played for the most part on days and at times when few people can watch. The decline of the finest form of the county game has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

8 Comments so far
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The match at Lords had its subplots as well as the overall context which kept things tense …Yorkshire got to 350 with the last pair to keep themselves in with a chance given that Somerset were clearly heading for victory/Middlesex then lost early second innings wickets as Yorks pushed for victory in conventional fashion. The declaration bowling was watched in near silence.

Re two divisions and promotion and relegation….would seem likely to add interest in some or even most years, although if it is such a good thing why adopt a closed league for the proposed new t20 competition?

Comment by StephenFH

Just on the history, a proposal for Two divs was tabled by MCC at a County Secretaries meeting in December… 1955! It’d been tried successfully in the Currie cup.

I’m a 300 mile round trip away on Oct 12th, but the document merits a response.

“I’m loving” the WWE data point they’re making so much of. Wikipedia says of WWE: “WWE shows are not legitimate contests, but purely entertainment-based, featuring storyline-driven, scripted, and choreographed matches”.

Comment by Jeremy

There is a large article on all this in today’s Times (and a smaller very interesting piece about future ground rights). The main article is based on Rod Bransgrove’s statement (It begins “One of the highest-profile county chairmen …”)

Comment by pompeypop

I read the articles in the Times too, as you say, a very interesting article about ground rights.

Agree with your sentiments entirely. As a Hampshire resident brought up in Somerset, the Somerset faithful are much of the same opinion needless to say!

Enjoy your day at Winchester College. I have a friend who teaches there and also happens to be the sister of Richard Montgomery who used to open the batting for Sussex not that long ago.

Comment by Hantssabre

Given the arguments about “tired” cricketers I’d rather see the T20 blast suspended for a season while the Splendid Slog competition is tested out, rather than reducing the First Class schedule even more.

And echoing Dave’s final point I don’t know how to express my annoyance at the number of weekend days that were wasted this season even after setting aside the post-T20 Saturdays. No wonder the Championship crowds are so small.

A point never addressed by the protractors of the city-based contest is that the eight Test-hosting cities in England and Wales have a catchment of only 25% of the population compared to 65% in Australia covered by the six Big Bash-hosting cities. I suppose if the city grounds are filled to capacity, the “disenfranchised 75%” will be moot for the ECB accountants.

Comment by Hedgehog

The (mainly) US scholars whose ideas influenced the establishment of the IPL had as their context city based teams on continent wide horizons. The organisational structure of the IPL and BBL does makes some sense (given what they are trying to achieve). In Europe, city based teams in the Champions League over on planet football would be a comparator of sorts.

With the odd exception nobody has suggested rebranding English football clubs, wisely I would have thought. As for those with long-distance telescopes aiming to rebrand cricket, are they holding them right way round?

Comment by StephenFH

At this year’s pre-season Radio Solent forum Rod Bransgrove justified the reduction in the County Championship by saying he believed in “quality rather than quantity”.

But how is quality to be judged? The only objective measure would appear to be England’s status in the world Test rankings, yet that has fluctuated over the years irrespective of the size of the County Championship and is no doubt affected by many other variables like injuries, pitches et al.

Every spectator has his/her own criteria of quality e.g. Hampshire success, exciting finishes, brisk over rates, prevalence of spinners. So “quality” in this context is just a meaningless, subjective concept, a sound-bite designed to put a positive spin on the prospect of less first-class cricket.

Comment by Ian White

I agree totally with Dave’s piece here. The one-eyed statement from Mr Bransgrove was as laughable in its childish logic as it was insulting in its belief that it could be taken seriously by anyone who knows our great game.

The problem is that it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks because our chairman has made his mind up and so it is a done deal as far Hampshire Corporate Cricket are concerned. The October meeting is a total and utter waste of time.

This along with Mr Bransgrove’s disgraceful comments earlier this week suggesting Durham be relegated makes me ashamed to be a Hampshire member at the present time.

Nevertheless I will continue to be a member in order to support the team and the traditions of Hampshire County Cricket Club. I will not support our chairman nor his money obsessed friends and will treat their utterances with the contempt that they so richly deserve.

Sorry for the rant!

Comment by James

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