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Darren Gough: Unbelievable that Headingley is put out of action for four months

OUT OF ACTION: Emerald Headingley. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com
OUT OF ACTION: Emerald Headingley. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com
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I LOVE county cricket, but it is at a real crossroads and, unfortunately, no one actually seems to really know where it is going.

We have got to find ways to make it more interesting. But my worry is: Are we effectively flogging a dead horse? What are the real options and where can we go?

Are we going to get to the point with county cricket where we accept it is never going to make any money, continue to play at the start and end of seasons or do we actually try and do something to make it more accessible to people?

Do we just write it off as a country yet still play it, so it is just a breeding ground for players to prepare for Test cricket? It would leave domestic cricket surviving through the Royal London Cup, T20 Blast and the new eight-team franchise competition.

Or do we back the Championship? The Conference idea is decent, but if they are going to play it in June, July or August, where is the T20 Blast, eight-team franchise and one-day competition going to go? Do we have to get rid of one of the one-day cups and play the County Championship alongside the eight-team franchise?

As is stands, as long as the championship continues to be played at the start and end of seasons as it is now and your home county is not going to play at their home ground for four months, like Yorkshire, then how can you attract new people?

Out of action: The fixture planners have ensured there will be no more County Championship action at Headingley until August. Inset, Yorkshire's Andy Foggarty and his fellow county groundsmen have an unenviable task. 'Pictures: SWPix

Out of action: The fixture planners have ensured there will be no more County Championship action at Headingley until August. Inset, Yorkshire's Andy Foggarty and his fellow county groundsmen have an unenviable task. 'Pictures: SWPix

For me, Yorkshire are strong when they are winning games at home at Headingley. People do not like coming here and it is a fortress and we have bowlers who do really well on it.

Looking at the championship scheduling this year, there are three games in April, two in May, three in June and July – one is in Scarborough – and six in August and September. Four months without a county game at Headingley is just unbelievable.

If you are a member and live in Barnsley, Sheffield or Leeds, you are paying to watch a lot of cricket in minus two temperatures in April. One was rained off without a ball being bowled and in the other game, Yorkshire won, which shows they have a dominance at home.

Now we are not going to play a county game until the end of August at Headingley, which will not suit Yorkshire as the pitches will be drier in August and September. It makes it very difficult for Yorkshire to be successful.

Looking at the championship scheduling this year, there are three games in April, two in May, three in June and July – one is in Scarborough – and six in August and September. Four months without a county game at Headingley is just unbelievable.

Darren Gough

I remember when we used to travel around the county and one of the reasons we stopped was because we never really got any home advantage.

But, as it stands now, we do not because we are not playing at our main home in the most important part of the summer.

For me, we are relying on Test cricket to keep Headingley going – without that, it cannot survive. There might be T20 and limited overs games, but that is it.

It could reach a situation where counties eventually have one-day membership options. Some players now play just white-ball cricket so some members may soon start asking: ‘Can I just get one-day membership?’

The action so far this season just shows why we are struggling in the four-day game.

Playing championship games now and at the end of the season benefits nobody. The pitches are bad and bowlers just run up, hit the seam and take wickets. Simple as that. My point is reinforced by looking at how many Yorkshire were rolled over for at Chelmsford yesterday – 50!

If it was not for the rain, I do not think we would have had a game to have gone four days yet.

We are also coming around to selection for the first Test against Pakistan and how can you select anybody on what you have seen so far?

The winter was a disaster in Test cricket for England, but you cannot make changes because you cannot judge the bowlers on the pitches they are playing on.

Look at the type of bowler taking all the wickets and it gives you a story in itself.

The chairman of Test selectors is working on a stats game. But how can you judge players on stats at the start of the season? If you did, you would be picking 11 different players to the last Test.

You need to be playing County Championship cricket on the best pitches in the summer to have a proper look at the players. You cannot judge any players on some of the pitches we are playing on at the moment.

Groundsmen do get very sensitive when I talk about the pitches we prepare. Because of the two divisions, people know you need results to win the Division One title and, in Division Two, the pitches are even worse because counties are worried about not getting the results to get back up.

The better teams back themselves to beat the sides below them and that is why you mainly get teams coming back up nearly all the time such as Worcester.

This is not a dig at the groundsmen, who are absolutely fantastic in what they do. I have seen them at close hand in preparing both cricket and football pitches.

But they are under pressure from the clubs to produce pitches to get results.