Dominic Cork has expressed his disappointment at not being able to take Hampshire to the Champions League in South Africa after leading them to the Friends Provident t20 title. They clinched the trophy by losing fewer wickets as scores finished level against Somerset but, unlike last year when Somerset and Sussex headed to India in October this season, there are no places for English counties due to a fixture clash.
The Champions League runs from September 10-26 which coincides with the closing two weeks of the domestic season, including the conclusion of the County Championship and CB40, and also England's one-day series against Pakistan. The ECB had brought the end of the season forward by a week under the belief the tournament would be held in late September but it was shifted so that India could play Australia.
It left the ECB with no choice but to say to counties couldn't take part because of the extensive changes that would have been required to the domestic fixtures. There is a certain irony, then, that Hampshire with their strong IPL links to Rajasthan Royals are one of the teams that would have qualified for the Champions League and Cork said it was a major loss for the club as well as English cricket.
"It's a disappointment for me as a player because I'd have loved to have gone but also for the guys who have performed so well, the younger players who would have benefited from playing against top international cricketers," he told Cricinfo Switch Hit podcast. "It's just a shame we won't be able to go and I hope the ECB are looking at that to make sure counties are represented in the biggest competitions in the future.
"We've seen how when the England players were first refused a chance to go to the IPL England's Twenty20 campaign was disastrous and when they were allowed to go all of a sudden we win a World Cup in West Indies," he added. "That's no coincidence, that's the fact that players are able to perform in the biggest competitions. Hopefully now the ECB can look at the Champions League, put all these rows to bed with India and sort it out because English cricket will suffer if we don't have clubs represented."
It is hoped that from next year there will be a clear window after the English season which will allow counties to rejoin the tournament although there remains a feeling that the ECB have been left behind in the global development of Twenty20 despite inventing the format back in 2003. Discussions remain ongoing about the structure for domestic cricket from next season with serious movements being made towards a franchise-style structure based around the Test grounds.
Cork believes the biggest change that needs to be made is a reduction in the number of matches after an explosion in fixtures meant 151 games in this year's Friends Provident t20. But he thinks that county teams would be able to hold their own against IPL franchises.
"The English Twenty20 is a very strong tournament," he said. "It was too long with 16 qualifying games and the ECB need to look at that because we don't want to reach overkill, but the fact we can attract some very good Twenty20 players, and the fact there are some good domestic players, means we can be very proud in having a strong competition. Hopefully we can keep it as strong as possible and I'm sure if we were able to play IPL teams all counties would put up a good performance."
For a full interview with Dominic Cork listen to Tuesday's edition of the Switch Hit Cricket Show
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo