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May 24, 2006
Rarely does a competition come along that's deemed an allround success. The Super Fours, which has brought together the top 48 players in England for the past five years, is one such rare gem - but apparently it's just not glitzy enough. Like Roxie Hart in the musical Chicago, the ECB appear to have been seduced by the wily lawyer Billy Hart's crass exhortation to "Give'em the old razzle dazzle."
In a bid to razzle dazzle 'em - and in this case that's the would-be crowds at the Super Fours - the ECB has completely rebranded the teams, stripping away their all-action epithets and replacing them with, erm, jewels.
So, out with Super Strikers, the Braves, the V Team and Knight Riders - all of which convey a sense of combat and capability - and in with the rather namby-pamby Sapphires, Diamonds, Rubies and Emeralds. The marketing exercise clearly aims to dazzle, but instead just provides a rude glare.
The kit has undergone a revamp, too - although the ECB at least stopped short of ordering in sequins and reverting to the skirts which were only abolished a decade ago. "The playing kit is more stylish and flattering," says the chief executive Gill McConway by way of explanation.
Fortunately, and most importantly, the structure of the competition hasn't been touched. It's no coincidence that the England women's side has been improving for the last five years since the Super Fours were introduced in 2001. The competition successfully bridges the gap between county and international standard - and it is from these games that the England squads are chosen. Holly Colvin, who was just 15 when she won the Ashes last year, is one such product of the system. She will play for the Rubies this year, the only team not to be captained by a current England player.
Gill Richards, a spinner and MCC player, leads the Rubies, whose team includes Kent 's Lydia Greenway and Colvin's Sussex and Brighton College team-mate Sarah Taylor. Shining stars all. The other captains are Laura Newton, who leads the Sapphires; Arran Brindle, who heads the Emeralds, and England's captain Charlotte Edwards will skipper the Diamonds. Clare Connor, who recently retired as England captain, will not play in the competition.