Plan to energise Sheffield Shield final
Future Sheffield Shield titles would only be awarded to the outright winner of the final, under one of several proposals currently being considered by Cricket Australia to revitalise the competition decider.
Planning of the domestic schedule for next summer is at an advanced stage, and ESPNcricinfo understands the Shield final is safe from being cut, as there are no plans to grow the number of Twenty20 Big Bash League games from their present number before the 2017-18 season. Any changes to the final could then be tested before a decision is made on whether it is retained against an expanded BBL.
CA, the states and the players have been in talks about ways to revitalise the five-day final, which has run to largely predictable scripts over the years. While outstanding contest like the first final in 1983, a one-wicket win for New South Wales over Queensland in 1985 and South Australia's last-gasp escape in 1996 have stayed in the memory, most have been duller affairs on flat pitches.
This has been largely due to the fact that competition rules allow for the Shield to be awarded to the team finishing top of the table in the event of a draw, meaning the surface is invariably prepared to increase the likelihood of that outcome. The proposal to leave the Shield shared between the two finalists unless there is an outright result is geared towards ensuring a more lively contest on a fairer surface.
Pat Howard, CA's team performance manager, has floated this possibility among numerous other thought bubbles, and it is believed to have met a favourable response from CA Board directors, state associations and players. A five-day final is considered ample time to gain an outright result, provided the pitch offers enough.
Ironically, the strip prepared for this year's meeting between South Australia and Victoria at Glenelg Oval has proven to be an excellent example, affording enough seam movement to the fast men and some appreciable turn for the spinners. At the same time, batsmen have been able to make runs when applying themselves. Outstanding innings by the youthful trio of Travis Dean, Peter Handscomb and Jake Weatherald have underlined the value of the final as a proving ground.
"I'm not surprised there has been discussion," the Cricket Victoria chief executive Tony Dodemaide said. "We've had those in meetings with Cricket Australia. The cricket world changes over time, it's very different to when it was first installed in the early '80s.
"But I think we are seeing today how valuable it can be in terms of this sort of intensity of cricket, particularly for young players, it's been outstanding in this particular game how young players from both teams have really stood up and shown what they can do under pressure. That is something worth persisting with I think personally.
"I think it's been a very, very good cricket wicket, what it's done with the new ball, with the spinners and how they're getting a little bit out of it, there's a chance for everyone to have some input in the game. The surfaces are crucial in ensuring there's a decent balance."
Glenelg's successful hosting of the final, where the smaller ground has leant a pleasant festival air to proceedings while also providing an ideal surface, has not been lost on Victorian administrators as they work on long overdue upgrades to Junction Oval as a cricket hub and secondary venue after the MCG.
"I'm very impressed, I've done several laps of the ground over three days through nervousness and also wanting to have a look a what they've got here," Dodemaide said. "This is a terrific arena for Shield cricket, it's an excellent atmosphere and a perfect fit for what Sheffield Shield cricket can be. With what we are looking for at the Junction Oval this will definitely influence it."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig