Sheffield Shield final uncertainty grows
Uncertainty over the future of the Sheffield Shield final has been underlined by the announcement that only three of six states will have access to their prime venue for the competition decider in late March.
Top-of-the-table Victoria have nominated Traeger Park in Alice Springs as their choice for the final rather than the unavailable MCG, while second-placed South Australia have plumped for Gilderol Stadium at Glenelg in place of Adelaide Oval.
New South Wales are yet to confirm their choice of ground but are understood to have suggested Coffs Harbour, with Cricket Australia to review its appropriateness as a ground during the Blues' forthcoming Shield fixture on the north coast.
"Three of our six states are in positions where their regular season venues are unavailable, meaning they needed to nominate an alternative ground for Cricket Australia approval," CA operations manager Sean Cary said.
"A venue for New South Wales will be confirmed closer to the Final should they look likely to finish in top position. This Sheffield Shield season has been one of the most notable in its 123-year history, including hosting two games under day-night conditions as well as playing the first ever match overseas in Lincoln, New Zealand last week," Cary added.
Last October, the outgoing CA chairman Wally Edwards and the chief executive James Sutherland both expressed doubts about the future of the final, which is being squeezed by various fixture pressures such as the Big Bash League. Football's insistence on taking possession of the MCG, Adelaide Oval and the SCG before the end of the Shield season is also affecting the issue - Victoria hosted Western Australia in Hobart last year.
"The Shield final, over many years, has proved itself to be a bit of a non-event, to be honest," Edwards said following CA's AGM. "There probably have only been three or four good Shield finals.
"The rest of them have been shockers, a bad advertisement for the game. I think it confuses the back end of our season. I think the best team should win in Shield cricket. If you play eight or ten games, that should sort it out."
Sutherland echoed Edwards' views, noting how the expansion of the BBL was leaving fewer and fewer spare days in each season. "I think Wally is right. If you do look through history, the Shield finals have been absolutely dominated by the home team or a long draw," Sutherland said.
"I don't think we should change it unless there was good reason to change that. But, at the same time, we are in a good position at the moment of having a burgeoning Twenty20 domestic competition that is in big demand.
"At some stage in the future, we will be looking at ways in which we can expand that, whether that is expansion through number of matches or number of teams, of what have you. That might put pressure on other parts of our program."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig