MARTYN MOXON last night praised “an overwhelming desire to do the right thing for English cricket” after chairing a special meeting of his fellow county coaches at Edgbaston yesterday.
The Yorkshire director of cricket said that there was complete agreement that the key issues facing the sport, such as the health of the County Championship and the threat to clubs from T20 franchise cricket, are bigger than any individual priorities held by each county.
Seventeen of the 18 first-class counties were represented at a meeting that Moxon said yielded “a massive amount of common ground”, with only Essex head coach Anthony McGrath unable to attend.
Although the coaches agreed they would not comment publicly on the intricacies of what was discussed, pending presentation of their findings to their respective chief executives and then the England and Wales Cricket Board, there was affirmation for the 18-county structure and the importance to all of Championship cricket.
“There’s an overwhelming desire among the coaches to try and do the right thing for English cricket,” said Moxon, whose personal wish is for a Conference-style Championship that gives every club a chance of winning the trophy.
“It came through loud and clear that the issues facing the game are bigger than any individual needs, and that it’s about the game and protecting the game going forward and making cricket something that people want to take part in and watch.
It came through loud and clear that the issues facing the game are bigger than any individual needs, and that it’s about the game and protecting the game going forwardMartyn Moxon
“We probably spoke for the best part of two and a half hours on just the Championship and there was total agreement that we should protect all 18 counties, while everyone in the room felt that red-ball cricket was important to them as a county and to the players who play for their county as well.
“It was 100 per cent in that respect.”
Such strong support for the Championship will be welcomed by those who feared it was no longer a priority for certain clubs.
How the Championship will look going forward is anyone’s guess, with a range of views presently on the table.
Of particularly timely importance is the T20 franchise issue, with Yorkshire having lost Liam Plunkett and David Willey to the Indian Premier League just days before the start of the new season.
Moxon has already called for an IPL cut-off date so that clubs know where they stand after the January/February player auction, and is seeking support from the ECB.
“We are worried as counties about the consequences of what’s just happened regarding late IPL replacements,” he said. “We have agreement among ourselves as to how we can get the balance between players being free to go and play in T20 competitions and earn extra money while at the same time making sure that counties are not excessively penalised.
“We also discussed the various T20 comps and the new T20 franchise competition that is starting in England in 2020, and we’ll put our findings to the ECB as soon as possible.”
Yorkshire’s eve-of-season plans have been hit not only by the loss of Plunkett and Willey prior to their Championship opener against Essex on Friday, but also by the loss of another pace bowler in Matthew Fisher.
The 20-year-old suffered a side injury on the first day of a two-day friendly against Leicestershire at Grace Road on Monday and could be out for several weeks.
Day two of that friendly was abandoned yesterday due to rain, meaning that Yorkshire have had just 50 overs in the field and 10 overs of batting since returning from their pre-season tour to South Africa last month.
The three-day fixture against Leeds-Bradford MCCU at Headingley last week also fell foul of the elements.
“It’s hugely frustrating, especially given how well the pre-season tour went, and hopefully we’ll be able to net outside now in the run-up to the Essex match,” said Moxon.
“Speaking to the other counties, I know that there’s been a lot of practice games that haven’t taken place due to the weather, so it seems to have been a country-wide problem.”