Australian news June 11, 2011

Major overhaul for Futures League


One of the most widely cited contributors to Australian cricket's sharply declining fortunes over the past few summers, the Futures League, will be drastically overhauled for next season.

At the same time Simon Katich was raging against the compromises and inconsistencies he saw in Cricket Australia's management and selection structures, the board signed off on a plan to tear up most of the measures introduced to the Futures League - formerly the second XI competition - in 2009.

Age restrictions limiting the number of players over the age of 23 to three per team will be relaxed to allow six players over 23, while matches will be returned to four days' length rather than three. Restrictions on the number of overs in each innings - 96 in the first innings, 48 in the second - have also been thrown out.

The changes were recommended to the CA board by the playing conditions sub-committee, which included Mark Taylor, Matthew Hayden, Greg Chappell, Shane Warne, players' union chief executive Paul Marsh and CA chairman Jack Clarke.

Marsh said the Futures League, a gambit largely introduced by Chappell when he was head of the Centre of Excellence in Brisbane, had severely weakened domestic cricket by thinning out the number of experienced players available to state sides.

"The Futures League with the restriction of only having three players over the age of 23 has made it a very weak competition," Marsh told ESPNcricinfo. "The players would say almost universally that the gap between grade and first-class cricket has never been larger than what it is now.

"Therefore the Futures League or second XI competition, which sits in between those competitions, is even more important than ever. Yet it's being made artificially weak by these age restrictions. One of the outcomes of the playing conditions committee meeting was that they would lift that restriction to allow six players over the age of 23, which is a step in the right direction.

"From our perspective I'd prefer to see no age restrictions in there; you only need to have a few good young players coming through your system but you want to make sure that they are getting the best possible development opportunities.

"You want them to have the best possible development through that pathway and I think we've gone away from what's made us strong through our grade system and through our first-class system."

The views of Marsh have been echoed by numerous players and coaches, including Tasmania captain George Bailey, who led them to the Sheffield Shield title last summer.

"It's become really difficult to have guys who aren't in your best XI, consistently playing good, hard cricket against other teams, with that under-23 rule," Bailey said. "I've got no doubt that cricket and the way the bodies are, you play your best cricket after you're 23, and it's much the same as the Australian team. I think the best Australian players are better for having a really strong first-class system and we're much the same.

"Domestic cricket is only as good as the depth in squads, and the guys who, when they do enter first-class cricket, are ready to play. So that's been a real challenge: to keep the guys who aren't in your immediate XI or XII playing at the level that you expect of them at first-class level."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on June 13, 2011, 23:51 GMT

    @ duralsumo - the big problem is availability of 1st class standard grounds outside of Summer & late spring! AFL in particular is played on cricket grounds (or vice versa).

  • Andrew on June 13, 2011, 23:48 GMT

    Another thing - I hope in future cricinfo covers the Futures League better. I like to see who's coming thru - & you don't get to see much of the Future Leagues on the site!

  • Andrew on June 13, 2011, 23:46 GMT

    @ tfjones1978 - I think that is happenning at state level in QLD & NSW at least, the Sydney grade comp is fairly regional, Gold Coast play in Brisbane etc. I do like the idea, it would only work if it had a major sponsor who stumped a fair bit of cash. That amount of sides would require a fair bit of travel even it was in zonal groups. I would a -- -- -- I would actually like to see a slight tweak to the Shield competition where the cricket academy, ACT & NT play games against the states that don't count as Shield games. They would be first class games maybe played over 3 days. -- -- -- I do like the return to 4-day contests for the Futures League. I would also like to see the age restrictions reversed - instead of up to 6 over aged players, what about - up to 6 under aged players. The fact is in cricket there is nothing stopping a 14yo (batsmen in particular), playing against men. An old Rugby League saying - if they're good enough, they're old enough!

  • John on June 13, 2011, 0:39 GMT

    I am advocate of applying the best possible system for the test team. This includes playing at least one round of full strength shield cricket. Instead of Spring tour why not have five rounds of full strength teams playing shield cricket. This will not only increase the level of cricket for shield players but improve the level for younger players. If players are injured they can find a player who is in form and has played against the best. Players Associatian may argue about player burn out however they woudl playing the same amount of cricket. I appreciate that Cricket Australia commitments under Future Test Program however these could be staggered over the autumn and winter. Just a suggestion? It worked well for a 100 years. Lets go back to the future.

  • Philip on June 12, 2011, 23:15 GMT

    I am supportive of a more regional approach, but I think the idea that there are "more than 360 clubs" is an understatement. Our local region comp has 12 for probably less than 40,000 population.

  • Terry on June 12, 2011, 8:28 GMT

    I think it needs to be examed what is the purpose of a second class cricket system? As it says in the article "gap between grade and first-class cricket has never been larger than what it is now". A system needs to be higher then grade cricket but lower then first class cricket. By having only one team per state this does not increase the gap between them but duplicate the problem. The idea should be of have approximate one player per club in the regional competition. In my model I have listed 24 squads (360 players) in the competition. There would be over 360 clubs in Australia, so on average each club would have nearly one player in their regional team. Thus 15 players per region and 15 clubs per region means a connection between each region and the clubs that it represents. Please note that I am not suggesting that a regional team must have one player from each club, only that in an even region there would be roughly one talented player in each club that plays for their region.

  • Dummy4 on June 12, 2011, 0:42 GMT

    good, i like Chappell as batting coach because what he did with Watson and maybe bring some toughness into the team but the age restriction has really hurt us,age should never be a problem at any level just as long as they performing constantly, better the younger cricketers are exposed to more experienced cricketers, i cant wait till my son plays cricket against more experienced cricketers, be much better for his skills, the young are much more aggressive and reckless in the game because of there carefree attitude also because of T20 so its good when a bunch of older experienced cricket to rein them back and make them men of cricket.

  • Daniel on June 11, 2011, 23:55 GMT

    Gilly4ever: Chappell didn't have anything to do with us having 17 different spinners in the Test team. The problems go deeper than just one man. Really, I'm not sure how much influence Chappell is having in the selection. The decisions being made now aren't much different than before he was appointed. For mind Hilditch has to go.

  • Philip on June 11, 2011, 22:26 GMT

    The more regional approach could work, but obviously not with anything like 24 teams. One city and one country team from easily the three most populated states (NSW, Vic & Qld) and one team each from WA, SA, Tas, ACT & NT - plus a national academy/institute one (perhaps with more youth in this last one) would make an even dozen. That way, the youngsters wouldn't miss out on opportunities (there'd be about the same number of spots for them as before). The problem has been the balance. The competition needs a core of older, more experienced players to toughen it up, along with the return to 4-day games. The changes have addressed these points, but perhaps the six teams could have been expanded without jeopardising the quality renewal too much.

  • Simon on June 11, 2011, 12:34 GMT

    tfjones1978-as nice as your plan sounds how practical and feasible is it logistically and is it not fraught with its own problems in diluting the playing pool and therefore the intensity and level of cricket second eleven in the old format worked fine and produced our arguably our most dominating and greatest team ever i know of one current first class player who has said he use to feel like hed earnt his 2nd XI and treasured whereas recently theyve been handed out to guys who haven't even performed in grade cricket-all based on potential greg chappels obsession with youth has gone to far-if a young player is good enough they will make it through rather than being given a free elevator ride to first class cricket andrew symonds did it at a young age-you find a large majority of our past players shone at senior cricket while still young-the best of the best will always make it-and to play against hardened sneior cricketers rather than boys of the same age can only be of benefit

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