England batsman Dawid Malan has backed proposals to reduce the number of County Championship matches but former Test batsman Geoffrey Boycott fears any such move would mean the “death of county cricket.”
Former captain Andrew Strauss last week presented a High-Performance Review commissioned by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) after the team’s Ashes debacle in January. The proposals, which include a 15% reduction in men’s domestic cricket, have polarised opinion, with several counties deciding to oppose their introduction for the 2024 season.
“Cricket is now a 12-months-a-year game,” Malan said. “It’s about creating a schedule that keeps players wanting to play all formats. If you’re a player that is trying to get better at your game, there’s no time to work on your game and you’re burning yourself out.”
He also pointed out that England have been a top-ranked team only for about 12 months. “We can’t argue that the county system is working if we’ve only been number one in the world for such a short period.”
Boycott expressed the opposite view, saying the ECB preferred lucrative shorter formats to red-ball cricket.
“The problem is the ECB is run by corporate suits who only look at balance sheets,” the outspoken 81-year-old wrote in the Daily Telegraph. “They see county cricket as losing money and, like any commodity, if it doesn’t make money it has to go.”
The former opener wondered how players would improve unless they played more.
“It is too simple to say cut down the amount of four-day matches to give players more rest and make sure the matches are more competitive. I have never seen sportsmen and women improve sitting on their arse!”
“I do understand you have to adapt or die. But if the counties adopt the Strauss report with fewer matches then it is the end for our red ball game.”