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Kevin Pietersen wants 'franchise competition for red-ball cricket' to raise England Test standards

Former Test captain advocates radical change with call for ECB to impose Hundred template on first-class game

Kevin Pietersen was part of the commentary team on the Hundred  •  Getty Images

Kevin Pietersen was part of the commentary team on the Hundred  •  Getty Images

Former England batter Kevin Pietersen believes that the ECB must create a first-class competition with a similar structure to the Hundred if the men's Test team is to "return to its former glories".
Pietersen, an Ashes winner in 2005, 2009, 2010-11 and 2013, was part of Sky Sports' commentary team for the inaugural edition of the Hundred this summer and suggested that players involved "will have improved markedly" due to the concentration of talent.
In a column for Betway, Pietersen said that the standard of County Championship cricket had fallen markedly since his debut for Nottinghamshire in 2001 and described the competition as "not fit to serve the Test team".
"The best players don't want to play in it, so young English players aren't learning from other greats like I did," Pietersen wrote. "Batters are being dismissed by average bowlers on poor wickets and the whole thing is spiralling.
"When I first started playing first-class cricket in England, the intensity of a County Championship match was like a Test match. It was as tough as anything. I learned my trade against some of the greatest players in the world every week.
"The Leicestershire side we came up against in 2003 featured Virender Sehwag, Brad Hodge, Paul Nixon, Jeremy Snape, Phil DeFreitas and Charlie Dagnall [but] when I made 355* against Leicestershire in 2015, I would have made 250 without pads on. It was a moment when I realised just how far county cricket had fallen."
Pietersen suggested that the Championship could continue as a "feeder system… where players develop until they're ready to step up" but said that English cricket needs an eight-team, round-robin competition in the heart of summer in order to better serve the interest of the Test side.
"In the Hundred, the ECB have actually produced a competition with some sort of value," he said. "They now need to introduce a similar franchise competition for red-ball cricket, whereby the best play against the best every single week.
"They would make money available to attract some of the best overseas players in the world and the top English players would benefit from playing alongside them.
"It would be a marketable, exciting competition, which would drive improvement in the standard and get people back through the gates for long-form cricket.
"We need to produce lucrative, high-quality, interesting competitions that reward and improve the best players. This could be one. This Ashes defeat needn't be a total failure if they [the ECB] can use it to implement proper change for the Test side."
The charge that the Championship is failing to produce Test-quality players has been levelled by several senior figures within the England set-up since their innings defeat in Melbourne saw Australia take an unassailable 3-0 lead in the Ashes, with Joe Root, James Anderson and Graham Thorpe among those to criticise the county game either implicitly or explicitly.
Michael Atherton, the former England captain and broadcaster, proposed in his Times column that the Championship should move to three divisions of six, with each team playing 10 games between May and July, and encouraged more representative games. "North v South, Best v Rest, Lions games… should be used as a bridge between the county and Test game," he wrote.
Atherton also suggested Andrew Strauss and Ed Smith as candidates to replace Tom Harrison and Ashley Giles as the ECB's chief executive and managing director of men's cricket respectively; called for split-format coaches to replace the "out of his depth" Chris Silverwood; and said that it was "time for someone else" to take over from Joe Root as captain, proposing Ben Stokes as "a viable alternative".