WHAT is the point of CB40 cricket?
It is a question I asked myself several times as I undertook a 510-mile round trip to Hove the other week to cover Yorkshire’s floodlit game against Sussex.
Well, it is certainly good for my Yorkshire Post expenses, if not the wear and tear on the car, because that’s a lot of miles in anyone’s book.
But it is good for little else as far as I can see, with the competition now increasingly irrelevant.
In my view, the time is long overdue to ditch 40-over cricket.
Not only is CB40 a tournament too far in a crowded calendar, but it does not mirror the cricket conducted at international level.
One-day international cricket comprises 50-overs-a-side, with subtle variations in rules and regulations.
CB40 neither properly prepares players for ODI cricket nor meets the demands of the domestic market.
There are two big problems with CB40.
First, it produces too many meaningless games, a bit like those end-of-season matches you used to get in football before they brought in the play-offs.
With three groups of seven teams and only the winners going through to the semi-finals, along with the best second-placed side, it means most teams are out of the running long before they have completed half their group games.
Consider Yorkshire’s situation this season.
They are going to find it extremely tough to qualify for the semi-finals, having won only two of their first five games in Group C, with leaders Warwickshire having won four out of five and second-placed Sussex three out of four.
The second big problem with CB40, along with 50-over cricket as well, is that it is just too ponderous in the Twenty20 era.
When the CB40 resumes next month after an extended break, it is bound to feel slow after a month of Twenty20.
Whereas Twenty20 is conducted at breathless pace, with sixes flying hither and thither, the CB40 is more tortoise than hare, with its consolidatory overs and calmer spells.
It neither appeals to those who like their crash-bang-wallop nor those who prefer the subtle rhythms of Championship cricket, falling forlornly betwixt and between.
Personally, however, I would go even further.
In an ideal world, I would scrap 50-over one-day international cricket too and just play two forms of cricket across the world: first-class cricket and the Twenty20 game.
That would free up the schedule across the board.
In an era where coaches are forever telling us players are tired, that would help to keep them fresh.
Of course, in an ideal world, too, the three formats – first-class, 40/50 overs and Twenty20 – could co-exist much better than they do.
That could be done by playing less one-day cricket, both domestically and internationally, and slightly less Test cricket, making Test cricket more of an event.
Ideally, you could perhaps have the Minor Counties involved in some sort of abridged one-day competition along the lines of the old C&G Trophy.
Unfortunately, however, the situation has got so far out of hand that one of the game’s formats should rightly make way.
The fixture list, truly, is all over the shop.
We have Championship cricket at the start of the season, then nothing for ages, then a whole chunk of it again; a raft of CB40 cricket, then nothing for ages, then a whole chunk of it again; Test series of varying length and quality; meaningless ODIs, and so on.
But with first-class cricket still the game’s pinnacle, not to mention key to the development of players, and with Twenty20 here to stay, it’s time to get rid of the 40/50-over stuff.
The CB40 would be a great place to start.