English cricket needs a fifth format as every fool can see - Chris Waters Comment
Should the captain and coach get their marching orders? Was the side perhaps complacent going into the competition? Are the players too old/out of form? Has strategy/selection been awry? Does the fact that the moon is currently in Aries have anything to do with it? And so on…
Everybody, it seems, has a view.
Rather than playing more 50-over and less T20, however, especially with another T20 World Cup taking place next year, surely the answer is simply to introduce a fifth format that meets this problem halfway.
Why, a new 35 overs-a-side tournament, which could slip seamlessly into our uncrowded summer, would bridge perfectly the gap between 20-overs and 50-overs with a mathematical precision that might have pleased Pythagoras.
The Royal Metro Friends Provident Axa Clydesdale Bank Gillette Vitality Shield - also known as the XXXV Shield or, in vulgar circles, ‘The 35’ - would dovetail with the County Championship, the T20 Blast, the 50-over Cup and The Hundred into one glorious whole with the potential to put England’s white-ball cricket back on the map and, more importantly, to make even more money for the England and Wales Cricket Board’s top executives.
As Hot Chocolate sang - perhaps envisaging this prospect as far back as the 1970s - “everyone’s a winner, baby, that’s no lie.”
Indeed, Tom O’Gormless, chair of the CDIC, the newly-formed Cricket Daft Ideas Commission, admits that the concept has already been discussed in and around the urinals of power.
“An XXXV Shield, or some such variant, would tick every box,” O’Gormless told me.
“It has the potential to bridge the gap between 20-over and 50-over to ensure that our international players, deprived of exposure to the domestic 50-over competition due to the concurrent scheduling with The Hundred, would be better prepared for the longest version of the white-ball game.”
What about the - ridiculous, I know - devil’s advocate argument of simply scrapping The Hundred and going back to how things were?
“My dear fellow,” chortled O’Gormless, “now that is the daftest idea I’ve ever heard.”
So, how would it work?
How would ‘The 35’ fit into the picture?
Well, even though there is more than enough room for the sardines to swim around in the fixture list tin already, one solution, for those who do whinge about the schedule, would be to cut/amend the County Championship.
Let’s face it, the tournament is nothing but a care in the community service anyway, providing the elderly and disreputable sorts such as cricket writers with something to do and brings in precious little brass, therefore making it irrelevant/expendable.
One idea would be to cut the number of counties (not Yorkshire, obviously, but any of the other 17 would be fine) and thereby reduce the number of games, creating more natural space for ‘The 35’.
Perhaps a better idea, though, would simply be to extend the season - not just into October, as happened during The Bob Willis Trophy, but right through the winter, effectively making the competition a year-round affair.
Why, matches could even be played over Christmas, enabling players to develop new skills on saturated pitches or perhaps those covered in ice or snow.
For a small fee, spectators could hire heaters and extension cables from club shops, giving Yorkshire and their cash-strapped rivals valuable income.
Should any spectators drop dead of the cold (unfortunate, of course, but they’re unlikely to be missed), undertakers could be on hand at all venues, emerging discreetly from warm hearses to transport the frozen souls on their way towards Dante’s Fifth Circle.
Matches could even take place on Christmas Day, pausing briefly at 3pm while the King’s Speech is played over the big screen before resuming when the BBC cuts to The Italian Job.
If Yorkshire are playing at home on that day, Mike Ashley could perhaps put in an appearance as Santa Claus, handing out sweets to shivering children as they bawl: “I wanna go home.”
When all’s said and done, something does have to be done because our brave boys in India need all the help they can get going forward.
Defeat on Sunday would mathematically put England out of the World Cup with three games left, a sorry state of affairs.
Oh, just one more thing…
If you believed any of the aforementioned, then tha’s a daft ‘apeth.
But if we didn’t laugh at what’s happening in India right now, we’d cry.
Pass the tissues.