Australian news January 27, 2010

Ponting not keen on Top-End Sheffield Shield games

Cricinfo staff

Ricky Ponting has rejected the idea of playing Sheffield Shield cricket in northern Australia early in the season as a way of fitting an extended Big Bash into the peak summer period. Cricket Australia are planning to introduce an eight-team Twenty20 tournament in two years but squeezing it into the existing busy schedule will be a challenge.

Jamie Cox, one of Australia's selectors, this week suggested beginning the Sheffield Shield tournament two months early in August or September, by playing in tropical regions like Darwin or Cairns. However, Ponting has previously voiced his concerns about altering the four-day competition and he wasn't a fan of Cox's idea.

"There seems to be a lot of talk about ways and means of making the Big Bash bigger and devoting more time to Twenty20," Ponting told AAP. "If I think about moving [Sheffield Shield] games to the Top End, you're going to lose something there somewhere.

"Those young guys are not going to get the chance to play at the MCG, SCG, those sort of venues, or play at the Gabba early season when the wicket's green. Those are the things that have made Australian Test players as good as they are because of the way they've learned to adapt to different conditions, in the conditions you play Test matches."

Cricket Australia's problem is that by adding two teams to the Twenty20 tournament they will increase the number of matches from 17 to 31. The current modelling is based around not reducing the amount of Sheffield Shield cricket played, although Cricket Australia have not categorically stated that the first-class competition would definitely remain at ten games per team.

"I'm sure they'll find some way around it," Ponting said. "I'm not sure what it's exactly going to be because all the talk is just about making the Big Bash better. I'm supportive of that because it's been a great tournament this year.

"I just don't want it to interfere with young up and coming Test players to get the right opportunities and experience to play good, hard, solid Sheffield Shield cricket. That's what's made all of us guys what we are today, the fact we've been brought up in a really hard, tough first-class cricket system and I'd hate to see the day where that's ever changed or compromised."