County news December 3, 2013

Bradshaw revives franchise debate

Keith Bradshaw, the former MCC chief executive, believes the ECB and the counties will have to revisit the concept of a Twenty20 franchise competition in the future, despite twice shutting down efforts to herald an equivalent of the IPL and BBL in England.

In 2008 and 2010 Bradshaw was at the centre of proposals to create a domestic T20 tournament that transcended the old county model, creating eight to 10 franchise teams to contest the title in a tighter format, rather than all the traditional 18 counties.

Now overseeing the South Australian Cricket Association, including the Adelaide Strikers in the BBL, Bradshaw told ESPNcricinfo he still felt strongly that the franchise concept would provide a better avenue for T20 in England, and draw new supporters to a game that is being increasingly marginalised by other sports and pursuits in the British Isles.

"I always felt it was something that could have had huge benefit for English cricket," Bradshaw said ahead of the Adelaide Ashes Test. "At the time too I felt, particularly with David Stewart, then Surrey chairman, we were particularly concerned about losing our elite English players to the IPL and the various T20 leagues we thought would pop up.

"So we wanted to create something that rivalled if not bettered the IPL, so players would want to stay in the UK and attract people there. I just felt at the time, as did David, that an 18-team competition wasn't delivering the potential of T20 cricket. It didn't get up, but I understand the concept is being looked at again.

"When I was around they used to call it 'the F-word', a dirty word, but if you look at the success of the BBL in Australia, English cricket has massive potential. There have been some changes, they're bringing in the Friday night games, so it will be a watching brief to see how that goes."

T20 in England has undergone various tweaks since it was launched as the world's first T20 tournament in 2003. Next season, a new NatWest T20 Blast features 14 group stage matches spread across three months with the majority of matches scheduled for Friday nights. The format is set to remain until at least 2017.

Team identities have become a source of contention in the shortest format. Team nicknames have been adopted, changed and in several cases now dropped altogether. But Warwickshire have taken the dramatic step of renaming their T20 side the Birmingham Bears.

Bradshaw said that while he had accepted the opposition of the counties and elements of the ECB, he expressed regret that the ideas of the former IPL supremo Lalit Modi in particular were not more closely examined by those in power.

"It's like playing the game and the spirit of cricket, you accept the umpire's decision and you move on," Bradshaw said. "I'll always think that was the best model for English cricket at the time. We spoke to Lalit Modi about the IPL in terms of his experience and his learnings about what worked and what didn't.

"He really was an amazing innovator, I think he was a genius in many ways, and we certainly tried to use what were the best parts of the IPL model but recognising that the English model had to be different. It wasn't a straight take from the IPL at all, it was a different model."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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