Surrey have reluctantly given their backing to the new Twenty20 tournament but Gareth Batty, the club captain, warned it could set English cricket back years if it fails.
“I actually think it is the biggest thing in cricket since Kerry Packer. The ECB have a huge responsibility to get it right to the game as a whole. If it bombs then I think cricket will be damaged for a decade or more,” Batty warned of the competition due to start in 2020.
“We are very tribal in this country. Is a guy who lives in Liverpool going to support Manchester cricket? Probably not. Will he support Lancashire? Yes he will because it has been passed down from generation to generation. Can we get around it? Yes, but good luck. We are little pockets in an island so good luck getting that right.
“Obviously players are excited about something new that could be massive but there is also a worry about if the PCA are looking after the three-quarters of players who will not get a gig in it.
Meanwhile, Alec Stewart described Surrey’s Ben Foakes as the best wicketkeeper in the world and ready to push for an England place.
Jonny Bairstow’s position as England’s No 1 keeper is assuredafter a brilliant 2016 but a good summer for Foakes with the bat could put pressure on Jos Buttler as first reserve for this winter’s Ashes tour.
Stewart, who kept wicket himself for England in 82 Tests, has overseen Foakes’s development since he joined from Essex two years ago where wicketkeeping opportunities were limited due to the presence of James Foster.
Foakes became Surrey’s first-choice keeper last summer and averaged 53 with the bat in division one, before a winter with the Lions where he worked with Andy Flower, who has been a long standing supporter.
Now with Surrey boasting a squad capable of a sustained championship title challenge, Foakes, 24, has the opportunity to put himself in the selectors’ plans.
Stewart’s support is not surprising given he is director of cricket at Surrey but at the same time he is not one for making grand statements about his own players, and is particularly careful when it comes to talking about his own former job of wicketkeeping.
“I have to be careful not to be biased when it comes to Foakesy but I reckon he is the best wicketkeeper in the world. His batting is Test-match quality and he has got a very good cricket career ahead of him. He is going to have to fight his way in with Jonny doing so well and Jos the No 2. But purely on glovework he is the best there is,” said Stewart.
“Wicketkeepers have to be all-rounders these days and Foakesy fits into that. He can bat anywhere in the top seven and his keeping is as good as there is.”