England news February 26, 2015

'I get to make changes' - Graves

Colin Graves, the new ECB chairman, is listening - for the moment © Yorkshire CCC

Colin Graves, the incoming ECB chairman, has insisted that the consultative document about the future of professional cricket in England has no hidden agendas and that, for the foreseeable future at least, he retains an open mind about the future direction of the game.

Minds cannot remain open for ever, however, when views have already been shown to be so varied. Graves has also emphasised that he regards the ECB executive, led by himself and the new chief executive Tom Harrison, as empowered to decide the future direction of English cricket and it will not be overly long before some ideas - to adopt his own phrase - are tossed "into the long grass".

Details of the "Strategy Conversation Summary", exclusively revealed by ESPNcricinfo as a melting pot of options that now provides the basis for further examination, showed support for ideas as diverse as a revamped Twenty20 tournament not based on the 18-county system, a cut in the number of Tests in an English summer, and a return to three-day Championship cricket with no promotion or relegation.

The summary was drawn up by Harrison around a series of "away days" between the ECB executive, county chairmen and the recreational game and was a deliberate attempt at a widespread consultation exercise before the executive draws up firm priorities.

Graves re-emphasised the document's democratic nature when he told the Guardian: "It's just something where everyone has thrown into the pot. There are no agendas, nothing has been pre-empted and nothing is cast in stone.

"This is where we're starting from. We've got a blank sheet of paper and we want to discuss everything. Nothing will be swept under the carpet. Nobody wants to say afterwards 'Why didn't we think of that?' 'Why didn't we discuss this?' We'll discuss everything and if it gets thrown into the long grass, it gets thrown into the long grass.

"I'm open and transparent, and that's how I'm going to run the organisation with the executives - for the first time ever that's what we're doing. I now get to look at certain areas and make changes.

"There's no timescale: we want to do it openly and properly. We're trying to do the right thing for what spectators want and the right thing for cricket. I'm prepared to put my head on the chopping block. We've got a massive opportunity to make a difference."

Some of the more left-field ideas - such as four-day Test cricket - have caused a general outcry among cricket fans worldwide, accentuating the distinct impression that the ECB, for the moment anyway, is not in a rush to raise the matter at the ICC.

Other proposals in the document, such as a fresh T20 competition, are being actively discussed, however, and are already the subject of passionate and conflicting views among the 18 first-class counties.

Graves, who is about to step down as Yorkshire chairman after 13 years, where he has won widespread respect within a county, has a five-year term at the ECB in which he intends to stamp is mark. The question remains if the counties, whose contrary views have already been established, will allow him to do just that or whether despite being elected unanimously he will only win or lose after a prolonged and messy civil war.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

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