Concerns grow over draft plan for England's new T20 competition

Alec Stewart fears England's new Twenty20 competition could plunge county cricket planning into chaos unless top administrators quickly provide 'answers'.

Surrey coach Alec Stewart, left, Michael Di Venuto and Gareth Batty. Picture: Steven Paston/PA.
Surrey coach Alec Stewart, left, Michael Di Venuto and Gareth Batty. Picture: Steven Paston/PA.

Surrey’s cricket director has called on the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to map out their plans for the new contest, which launches in 2020.

Former England star Stewart believes the squad draft process for the eight-team event that starts in March, 2020 cannot happen any later than July, 2019.

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Stewart insists leaving that draft any later would leave cricket directors unable to plan their squads – and potentially put players’ futures in limbo.

“The competition is not until March, 2020, but we need answers now, so we can plan,” said Stewart.

“If it starts in 2020, I’m doing my planning for my staff for 2020 in July, 2019.

“If I don’t know by July 19 who I’m going to lose, how on earth am I going to plan my staff, who am I going to potentially have to release or retain, who do I have to recruit, who’s going to come through our system?

“When am I going to know how many and what players I will lose? Will it be the week before, a month before, six months before, a year before?

South Africa's Morne Morkel. Picture: Nigel French/PA

“So if I’m thinking: ‘Do I keep him or release him.’ I could release a player, because I think I have the staff, then find out I haven’t, and then a bloke I’ve just let go has already gone to another county, when actually I would have kept him had I known all this. It’s players’ livelihoods.”

Stewart revealed the issue was discussed by the same meeting of the counties’ cricket directors at Edgbaston last week, where frustrations over player release for the Indian Premier League were also raised.

“This was on the agenda last week. We want the new T20 to be a hit because of the amount of money invested there,” said Stewart. “But it’s got to be fair to the domestic game, and, more importantly, to the players.

“Compensation, you’ll have to have it, but I’m looking at that as the least of my worries, because I need bodies.

South Africa's Morne Morkel. Picture: Nigel French/PA

“I need to know when I’ll have them, and who I’ll have and when I’ll have them.

“So, for me, the draft needs to have taken place by July at the latest in 2019.”

Surrey have offset losing overseas signing Mitchell Marsh for the start of the campaign to ankle surgery by recruiting Morne Morkel. The South African’s two-year Kolpak deal means he will not count as an overseas player.

Stewart, however, believes county sides ought to be ordered to select nine home-grown players for each match.

“Morkel will give the game a lift, someone of his quality,” said Stewart. “Top-quality Kolpak players add value, but, when it’s almost convenience, I question why they should be taking the place of an English player.”

“I’d like to see a regulation brought in, if it’s allowed in law, where nine English-qualified players have to play every game.”

Glamorgan coach Robert Croft insists Australia batsman Shaun Marsh will handle any county cricket brickbats that may come his way over the ball-tampering scandal his country were involved in last month.

Marsh, who featured for Yorkshire last season, played no part in the incident which saw captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and batsman Cameron Bancroft banned from international and domestic cricket.

But Marsh is the only Australia player from that Cape Town Test set to feature at the start of the new county season here.

But Croft dismissed the suggestion Marsh will be ‘sledged’ on the field this summer in the wake of what happened in South Africa.

“It is not an issue for me,” he said. “Shaun was not mentioned in any of that - and do you think an Aussie ever worries about chirping?”

“But if he does get any of that I think he’s the type of chap to just stare them down.”