Chris Waters: Cricket lovers should not be forced to settle for second best

England's Liam Plunkett was forced to miss Yorkshire's Cup semi-final.
England's Liam Plunkett was forced to miss Yorkshire's Cup semi-final.
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LIAM PLUNKETT attended Yorkshire’s Royal London Cup semi-final against Gloucestershire at Headingley last Sunday, while Adil Rashid watched the match at home on television.

Neither was permitted by England to play in the game.

The reason, of course, was that both had played in the second one-day international against Australia at Lord’s the previous day and were resting ahead of the third game at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

However, both had made the trip back to Yorkshire, so it was not as if they were still stuck in a hotel down in London.

For me, their omission from the semi-final, along with that of James Taylor, Alex Hales and Jason Roy for the other game between Surrey and Notts, highlighted how the cricket-watching public is taken for granted.

They are expected to accept second-best and simply say nothing. More importantly, they are expected to keep turning up and paying their money.

Hand on heart, I can honestly say that if I was not fortunate enough to be paid to watch cricket, I would not go to many, if any, live games.

I would vote with my feet and instead stay at home.

I understand that other people feel differently and, without wishing for one minute to blame them for the prevailing state of affairs, it is why the England and Wales Cricket Board can ultimately get away with it.

For if nobody bothered to turn up to watch, there would not be any cricket.

Or at least not the cricket we have at the moment.

The argument is always that county cricket exists for the benefit of the England team, whereas I have repeatedly expressed the view that it should exist just as much for the man in the street.

The man in the street has a right to see Plunkett and Rashid playing for Yorkshire in a major cup semi-final. Yorkshire, themselves, have a right to expect Plunkett and Rashid to be available for such a big match.

Of course, Yorkshire cannot say anything publicly because international cricket ultimately bankrolls the county game, but it is surely possible to achieve the goal of making England strong at international level without treating the paying public so poorly.

County cricket is surely more likely to prepare players for Test, one-day and T20 cricket if the best players are available to play in those formats as much as possible.

Young cricketers facing Plunkett and Rashid are going to learn more by facing them than not facing them, while the players must surely want to take part in showpiece semi-finals.

Plunkett practically won the quarter-final against Essex singlehanded with a brilliant display with bat and ball and must consequently have gone into the ODI series on a high.

As one of the fittest players in the country, are we really to imagine that he could not have turned out on Sunday – seeing as he was at the game anyway – before making the short journey to Old Trafford for the ODI?

There are many things in life about which we should be genuinely angry, and the whims of the ECB/county schedule are, at the end of the day, not among them.

However, such matters are important to every cricket lover, whose voice has become increasingly ignored.