A slimmed-down top division in the county championship and a reduction in overall playing days are among the initial recommendations of Sir Andrew Strauss’ high-performance review into English cricket.
A group led by the former England captain has been conducting a broad-based assessment of the men’s game, prompted in part by last winter’s Ashes thrashing, and is now ready to debate its findings in a consultation stage with the wider game.
The current mark of 14 first-class fixtures is set to remain next season while consensus is sought, but in a blog published by the England and Wales Cricket Board, Strauss has made it clear that shrinking the current domestic schedule is a priority.
In the same breath, it has been confirmed that none of the existing 18 first-class counties are under threat.
Strauss, whose panel of experts includes the likes of Sir Dave Brailsford, Dan Ashworth and current director of men’s cricket Rob Key, wrote: “Initial options for the game to discuss include a revamped 50-over competition and a smaller LV= Insurance County Championship top division to ensure higher standards and more intense best v best red-ball cricket.
“Our research shows that the first-class Counties play a higher volume of cricket compared to the rest of the world, while feedback from players is that a reduction in the amount of men’s domestic cricket played is essential.
“We have made our initial proposals and findings and now it will be for the first-class counties to make any decisions over domestic structures – all we can do is provide them with informed recommendations. We want a thriving and future-proofed men’s domestic game, in which all 18 first-class Counties are established at the heart of our ambitions.”
Other suggestions from the review panel include plans to expand the England Lions programme to include more overseas cricket, bringing back the North v South match as a pre-season curtain-raiser in the United Arab Emirates and re-examine the central contract system.
Among those who will be involved in discussions over the coming weeks are county chief executives, chairs and directors of cricket, the Professional Cricketers’ Association and supporters’ groups. Strauss will then oversee a final report, which will be passed on to the ECB, being put to the counties and the MCC for a final vote.
“Cricket is at a critical point with a fast-changing landscape and we must be prepared to be open minded and engage in considered debate if we are to move forward together and future-proof our game in the current climate,” Strauss said.
“Whilst I recognise debates over our domestic structures are impassioned and will attract a lot of discussion, our review and proposals are much broader.
“I am looking forward to a healthy and constructive debate over the coming weeks before the Men’s High-Performance Review produces a final report which will provide the game with a clear and well-researched pathway to sustained England Men’s success and a healthy, vibrant, domestic game.”