Strauss says 'status quo' no option as he unveils English cricket reform plan
LONDON, Sept 23, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - Andrew Strauss has insisted "the status quo is not an option" as he called on county chiefs to back his reform plan for English cricket, which includes cutting the number of first-class Championship matches.
But several counties, including his old club Middlesex, responded Thursday by saying they remained completely opposed to a reduction in the number of Championship fixtures from 14 per team to the 10 proposed by Strauss.
The former England captain has spent the last six months overseeing a high performance review for the England and Wales Cricket Board, launched following the men's Test team's humiliating 2021/22 Ashes series loss in Australia.
His panel have come up with 17 recommendations, 15 of which already have the required backing.
But two of the most significant changes -- the reduction in fixtures and the adoption of a six-team top division sitting above two secondary conferences, who would play off for one annual promotion -- require the support of at least 12 of the 18 first-class counties, currently arranged in a two-division Championship structure.
Many county supporters have questioned how clubs are supposed to remain viable with a cut in Championship fixtures amid fears the plan is merely the first step on the way to a slimmed down county game based around grounds who also now play host to one of the eight specially created sides for the ECB's fledgling Hundred competition.
Sussex chair Jon Filby labelled the review "unworkable", while a Lord's-based Middlesex said they were "strenuously opposed" to any cut in Championship fixtures, with a statement adding: "We firmly stand behind our belief it should remain at 14 matches."
Strauss' plan, made public just hours before Surrey were crowned the 2022 county champions, does, however, envisage Championship matches being played throughout the season, rather than at the start and end of a campaign as happens now.
Whether this would mean the return of first-class cricket in the August window now reserved for the Hundred is uncertain.
But the former opening batsman said an overall reduction in the number of playing days would have the effect of helping meet the review's target of England becoming the best cross-format team in the world within five years.
Since the review was established, England have won six out of seven Tests under a new leadership pairing of captain Ben Stokes and red-ball coach Brendon McCullum.
Strauss said Thursday: "The status quo is not an option.
"Everyone in the game is telling us this. We have listened, we must now act."
The 45-year-old added: "A higher standard, more intense red-ball competition should be a great thing for (county) members, for players, for ground staff, for coaches.
"We need to understand it's not all about volume."
A vote on the changes is expected before the end of the year but the earliest they could be implemented is in the 2024 season.