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England's T20 'old fashioned' says Murali

ESPNcricinfo staff

June 13, 2012

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Muttiah Muralitharan smiles during his spell of 2 for 15, Auckland v Wellington, HRV Cup, December 18, 2011
Muttiah Muralitharan has become a globetrotting T20 specialist in his dotage, such as his spell at Wellington, and he has seen enough to conclude that England's set-up is old fashioned © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Muttiah Muralitharan

Muttiah Muralitharan, Sri Lanka's record-breaking spin bowler, has dismissed England's Twenty20 format as "old fashioned" and called for it to adopt the franchise format favoured by the IPL.

Muralitharan is about to begin his second season with Gloucestershire in Friends Life t20 and as the competition begins he has risked a storm by suggesting that they should merge with their fiercest rivals Somerset.

"That would be good as they are close counties and they would benefit financially," he said. The ECB insists that the 18-county system is sacrosanct yet England players play little, if any, domestic T20 cricket because of an international programme that dominates the entire summer. England's T20 tournament was an innovative product when it launched in 2003, but Muralitharan argued that it has now fallen behind rival tournaments around the world.

"They introduced it worldwide but now England is old-fashioned," he told BBC Points West. "They need to change and become franchised teams and each county would benefit financially. If it happens like that it would be huge in England. I think the market is there, and the TV rights will come."

Muralitharan, 40, has a wealth of experience on his side. As well as Sri Lanka his clubs include Chennai Super Kings, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Kochi Tuskers, Chittagong Kings, Kandurata, Lancashire and Wellington.

Since its inception in 2003, the game has been adapted worldwide, taking on several different guises. But the FLt20 will struggle to make impact this summer, not just competing against England's unrelenting schedule but the European football championships and London's hosting of the Olympics.

Debate is still going on about the structure of England's T20 tournament in 2013, but this season the 18 counties, restricted to a maximum of two overseas players, play 10 matches in three groups of six before reaching the quarterfinal stages.

Muralitharan even suggested that England's T20 competition was lagging behind Bangladesh, a competition that has been characterised by a stand off between FICA, the international players' association, and the BCB over owed player payments.

"Bangladesh launched it big and their crowds have been 30-40,000 for every match," he said. "Australia has merged into eight franchises so I think England should also do that and it could equal IPL."

Muralitharan starts his second spell with Gloucestershire on Thursday against local rivals Somerset, and believes merging the two counties to become a T20 franchise would be a good move.

"At the end of the day the public will see good cricket and enjoy it," he said. "Money will be spinning from the competition and they can sustain the other forms of the game within county cricket. It would be one of the best things to happen if they do that. It will make sure the competition is more successful than what it is now."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by 2929paul on (June 15, 2012, 9:07 GMT)

Reasons it won't work and won't happen: 1. The counties won't agree to it and won't let it happen. 2. There's not enough money in a recession hit country to support it. 3. What grounds would you play it at to get these "massive crowds"? Lords, The Oval, Edgbaston, Headingley, Old Trafford, Southampton are the only ones with capacities over 20,000 and none reach 30,000. Where would Murali's West Countryshire United play and squeeze in 30,000 spectators? 4. The spectators won't support it. The mentality of sports watchers in England is generally that we are ridiculously loyal to the team we were brought up support due to parental pressures (tradition), birth place, some strange affinity as a youngster that is totally illogical but ties you to them for life etc. Had the T20 concept started with franchises, as it did with the IPL, then it might have worked. However you have to remember how risky it was in the first instance. Nobody knew what would happen in that first season.

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Posted by gunnerr4life on (June 14, 2012, 15:59 GMT)

friends life t20 league is way more entertaining than any other 20/20 league .. It's pure cricket and not a business or entertainment industry .. The spectators there comes to see cricket , unlike , IPL where most of the people come to see cheerleaders and movie stars !

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (June 14, 2012, 14:25 GMT)

@thesau, but this is what Murali is doing, hes trying to say that a franchise system would work here, when it wouldnt, also the counties wouldnt get a look in, besides it would reduce the pool of England qualified T20 players as you would be moving from 162 (18*11-(18*2)) to 99 (9*15-(9*4)) England qualified players. Also the EU would then get involved and you wouldnt be able to restrict the number of Overseas players allowed, a Problem other countries dont have.

Posted by exiledtyke on (June 14, 2012, 13:22 GMT)

@johnathonjosephs: WSC in the late 70s tried something like this with the Australia/West Indies (the two best test sides at the time) and a World XI.

Posted by the_wallster on (June 14, 2012, 12:22 GMT)

@ reyme - to conclude, how on earth can a prospective EPL compete as a respectable competition like the IPL, with a population of 60 million, TV audiences at a peak of 20million, and the sport being a distant 2nd or 3rd behind soccer in terms of national favouritsm?

And regarding Muralidaran, he took 11 wickets in 9 games in the recent IPL. Wasn't the favoured choice, and was part of an extremely talented team, which FAILED to reach the top 4. His record for Gloucestershire last season was equally similar, in which they finished BOTTOM of their division. Not to mention he was average in the World Cup final last year.

Posted by the_wallster on (June 14, 2012, 12:13 GMT)

@reyme - What planet am I living on? I say the BPL couldn't even afford to pay its players, and you back my point by noting that up to 20% haven't been paid. So yours by the looks of things. My point on the IPL's success, which you have seemed to have missed, was not due to performances. IPL's success is based on the notion that it attracts the world's best players, due to its guarantees of financial reward. The guarantees are reinforced by maximising TV revenue domestically, as a the number one sport in a phenomenally large population, and through its global audience as a consequence of the big names the competition attracts. How many of the Indian superstars played in the BPL or the Big Bash? Where was Pietersen and Dhoni? The top-scorer in the Big Bash was Luke Wright, someone who wouldn't get into England's second-string eleven. Hardly Kieron Pollard or Suresh Raina is it?

Posted by SRPP on (June 14, 2012, 11:37 GMT)

@ All English fans, Look I don't care about county cricket and i understand same feeling for u guys about IPL. I am not big fan of IPL compare to our national team. I was upset because in article the guy saying Conty system should chage to franchise system is SRILANKAN. So please don't drag us. We love our cricket, our cricketers and everything that related to india. For me if i watch IPL because i want to see our players. I don't care what is happening in England. Same feeling you alos feel for us. So waht it is OK. But here all bashing should agaisnt Murlidharan if you don't like his idea. That's it.

Posted by thesau on (June 14, 2012, 11:14 GMT)

@yorkshire pudding that exactly why I gave example of usa . When there is no need to involve usa's public interest here , then why the subcontinent public is being drawn here and being humiliated because we love cricket more than football. The so called FACT which you gave is also no business of interest to us whatever the british public like that is non of our concern. I just wanted to prove that there is no sport superior or inferior neither any sport is associated with a superior class of people nor inferior class of people so stop treating the sub continent people as they were in early 19th and twentieth century.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (June 14, 2012, 10:59 GMT)

@thesau, its not pride, ITS fact, and its generally someting that goes back through generations, most families all support the same team, because thier parents supported them, and so on, theres the odd schism. Also What has what people watch in the USA got to do with what people watch in the UK? Sports fans are sports fans, and most prioritise what they watch, and if given the choice between a Cricket match and a Football match most fans would watch the Football. In the US Football (or Soccer over there) is not even second, its marginalised behind, American Football, Baseball, Basketball, Ice Hockey, and college Athletics.

Posted by thesau on (June 14, 2012, 10:00 GMT)

For all those english people who are criticising that we asian(specially sub continent people) are over fanatic with cricket and don't like football much. And they are showing so much pride that they love football more than cricket (i don't know how one sport can be superior to other when motto of any sport is the same amusement of players and public.) it is a shame for english who talk like this because cricket did not originate in subcontinent it is an english sport so you are blaming yourself. And even football is second string game in usa and people hardly see your rubbish league here. So please don't talk nonsense.

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