England news September 1, 2010

England players need more first-class county cricket - Boycott

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Geoff Boycott, the former England opener, has said the ECB needs to schedule County Championship games during the course of a home Test series to enable national players to return to their counties and work on any weaknesses in the first-class format. Several England batsmen, including Kevin Pietersen, struggled for form during the recently-concluded Test series against Pakistan and Boycott claimed that was a major worry ahead of the Ashes.

"The England players play so much international cricket that it's almost impossible to play any County Championship games in between matches," Boycott said on Cricinfo's fortnightly audio show Bowl at Boycs. "Pietersen is one of England's players who plays everything. The fixtures for four-day matches in England are so badly arranged that the England players, even when they get a space between Test matches, they can't get matches with their counties, i.e four-day cricket matches.

"They find that when there's a week off between Test matches, they find their counties are playing a 40-over match or a Twenty20, which is not ideal. It's not the best form of practice."

Since the start of 2006, Pietersen has played just one non-England first-class match while Paul Collingwood, another batsman who's involved in all three formats, has represented Durham in just four four-day games. That pair averaged 23.33 and 19.83 respectively in the four Tests against Pakistan. Those few who have had an opportunity, Boycott said, have been able to show the benefits.

"The only ones in the England team that can play County Championship fixtures are the guys who are not picked for the international ODIs," he said. "It's no coincidence that the two guys who played best for England in the series against Pakistan have been Jonathan Trott and wicketkeeper Matt Prior.

"Now they didn't play in England's ODIs against Bangladesh and Australia, so there was a big period when they went back to their counties and batted well for them. They could take their time and play properly out in the middle. Many of the [other] England batsmen are playing poorly. It's a big worry for the Ashes."

The solution, according to Boycott, was to schedule the Championship fixtures in between Tests where there was a reasonable gap. "There are periods when England play two Tests back-to-back, where you can't return to your counties. But there are periods when there are nine days before the next Test. So if they organise the fixtures in that period where all the nine counties play Championship matches, then any batsman or bowler who felt he needed more practice could go back and play a proper four-day match."

England host India and Sri Lanka next summer but Boycott doubted the ECB would adopt a change in approach by giving precedence to first-class games over limited-overs. "They are so besotted, are the ECB, with making sure they have a four-to-six-week window to play Twenty20 cricket - about three matches a week for every county. It's difficult then to fit Championship matches in," he said.

"They're only interested in making money through one-day cricket. They think they can make Twenty20 in England like the IPL in India and they can't. We have 60 million people in England but there are a billion people in India who're nuts about cricket. So there is a bigger catchment area in all the cities to watch. It's never going to happen [in England]."

Siddhartha Talya is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • enigma77543 on September 4, 2010, 12:06 GMT

    @bobmartin "So going back to their county for one or maybe two first class games against second class county trundlers is going to set them up for a return to form in tests" Mate,you keep missing the obvious point that others are trying to make. No one's saying destroying county bowlers will make anyone a great bat at Test-level but just saying that when a batsman is out of form, especially someone like KP, for him it's just a question of regaining his confidence be it against a moderate attack; of course, he may end up with low-scores as you say but quality bat that he is will LIKELY get back to scoring runs. "form in county cricket is no yardstick when measuring likely form in the test" So how do you suggest England pick its players for Test side, or other countries for that matter? Through a lot? You're completely oblivious to the fact that no country's domestic cricket will ever be as competitive as Test-Cricket & International level isn't best arena to regain your lost form.

  • bobmartin on September 3, 2010, 9:47 GMT

    @Yorkshire Pudding You read the wrong thing into my remarks.. What I said was we've seen players flay county bowling yet fail at test level, Hick and Ramprakash being just two examples. So any form at county level is no indication of form at test level. You mention KP.. what on earth did that knock at Surrey prove except that he is way out of touch, which we knew already. And if as you say his confidence is that shot, what did that do by way of restoring it. As I said, trying to restore form at county level is a hit and miss affair. A string of low scores and where will his confidence be then. KPs. problem is that he's too wrapped up in too many other things in his life right now. He either needs a break from cricket, or he needs someone to sort his priorities out and then get on with what he does best. And maybe he should remember that no-one is indispensible. Do we not recall all the doom merchants when Flintoff retired...yet we don't seem to have done any worse since.

  • YorkshirePudding on September 3, 2010, 6:24 GMT

    @bobmartin, so what would you suggest for KP or players out of form? we just play them in the hope they come good? Taking KP as an example, his confidence is so shot that in the surrey game the other night he couldnt even get a 50 against the same county bowlers that you claim get flayed everywhere. Lets see how he does in the next LVCC Div 2 match for surrey, which by rights he should be able to 'flay' the bowers all over the place and get 50+, what does it say if he cant 'flay' the bowlers?

  • bobmartin on September 2, 2010, 22:25 GMT

    So going back to their county for one or maybe two first class games against second class county trundlers is going to set them up for a return to form in tests.. Well I don't see it. Firstly it makes the false assumption that they last long enough in the middle to have a decent knock. And say they play two county games and get virtually no runs against less-than-test standard bowling... what will that do to form and confidence. Moreover, throughout the years we've seen many batsmen flay county bowlers yet fail dismally when it comes to tests. If that isn't proof enough that form in county cricket is no yardstick when measuring likely form in the test arena, then nothing is.

  • NadirKhan00 on September 2, 2010, 17:24 GMT

    Well without Amir and Asif, Pakistani bowling line looks pretty ordinary. The best display of which was match today against somerset. Won by 9 runs only. shoaib not being in his best form, Umer gul not good in opening spells could have provide KP good hope to be in form immediately. I think when ashes is close, this may be little harsh to drop KP. Better would have been to let him be there and find his form in international matches. Well ECB reserves all the right..

  • Trickstar on September 2, 2010, 15:01 GMT

    @ bobmartin England aren't hyped people tend to place them exactly where they are ,not as good as India and SA and about the same as Australia and SrI Lanka. Obviously England have too many players out of form at the same time,usually you might have 1 or 2 out of nick in the top 6, but England seem to have 4.The trouble is, if your out of form as a international cricketer,test cricket isn't the place to regain it,sometimes you can but not as a rule.This is where Boycott is right,there needs to be slots in the schedule for players to get some County Cricket to find their timing and confidence if they need to,because in Test cricket you just keep getting too many good balls to find form.

  • YorkshirePudding on September 2, 2010, 12:41 GMT

    @bobmartin, partly agree with you on the Kolpacs, though that situation is changing, the sad part is that most counties no longer bring players through from the Youth squad to first squad as its easier (and cheaper) to bring in a ready developed Kolpac from Aus, NZ, SA....However, playing in the 4 day game wil get the players time in the middle and cricket is as much about confidence as it is about ability. KPis a prime examples, he has the ability but lacks confidence, hitting a 100 run in a 4 day county game would boost that confidence.

  • bobmartin on September 2, 2010, 11:48 GMT

    Why can't we just admit that England are not as good as the hype would have us believe. After all we are a middle-of-table side with not a single batsman in the top 15 in the world rankings. This not a lack of opportunity to play county cricket as and when it might be necessary, it's lack of quality opposition when you're coming up through the county system in the first place. As Luke Bull says, too many work-a-day cricketers and too many Kolpaks. That's where the problem lies and until that's put right, we're never going to get much better than we are.

  • Strebori on September 2, 2010, 8:26 GMT

    I'm with Boycs - no matter what the quality of the opposition, nothing restores confidence like time in the middle, and a four day game is the ideal chance to get that. It's the same for bowlers: a decent workout, a couple of wickets, and your confidence is Swann-high. It's not about having a relentless grind of fixtures - just a less pressurised opportunity to get back to what you do best.

  • YorkshirePudding on September 2, 2010, 8:18 GMT

    Boycott does have a point, although Trott did play in the first 2 ODI's against Bangladesh and got a 100 in one, but thats a small point. The main issue is that the 4 day county games need to be scheduled to take place friday-monday, not Tues-Friday, play limited overs mid week with D/N games, remove back to back tests, we should be able to fit 7 test matches in between 01-May and 31-Aug with a weekend break in between to allow the players to go back to thier counties if they are as out of form, and have 4 week Triangular ODI series with the two visitoring nations during June. Ufortuantely thats too simple for the ECB to comprehend.

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