The ECB must be wary in its handling of the development of Twenty20 cricket in England.
The news that the ECB have shelved plans for an EPL – an English Premier League – is welcome. However, it is only a step in the right direction, as the administrators remain committed to introducing another major Twenty20 competition.
The success and popularity of the newest form of the game is to be applauded and embraced, but governing boards around the world must be aware that they run the risk of overkill in their bid to squeeze every drop of profit out of the format.
If England is to have its own version of the Indian Premier League, then it must be distinct from the county system. The original EPL proposals, for 18 counties and two new teams, would leave supporters confused who had just watched the 18 counties contest the Twenty20 cup.
A scaled-down EPL of two divisions of nine with promotion and relegation does little to alleviate this confusion; aside form having four overseas players rather than two and two divisions rather than three, the new competition will act as little more than a re-run of the Twenty20 cup.
The maintenance of the county structure in a new Twenty20 competition is of course largely due to the counties’ instinct of self-preservation – and who can blame them from wanting to be part of the biggest ever domestic money-spinner when they are constantly under pressure to merge or disband – but a second English Twenty20 tournament needs to take the IPL’s lead.
The IPL is a cricket circus, based in big cities with big name players and funded by big money. It can be argued that India maintains the rebel Indian Cricket League alongside the IPL, but the pre-eminence of the big tournament is clear and unchallenged.
An EPL – or P20 as it is now rumoured to be called – would struggle to rapidly outgrow the successful Twenty20 cup and would suffer in comparison with the IPL and possibly any new Twenty20 tournaments that will inevitably spring up around the world.
A shortage of funds would make the attraction of the star names, who had already lined their pockets in India, difficult. MS Dhoni is unlikely to be as desperate to play in England as Kevin Pietersen is to in India.
Now that Giles Clarke is guaranteed a second term as ECB chairman, it must be hoped that he oversees a proper review of England’s Twenty20 plans. He has surely learnt from the mistakes of the dash for cash that was the Stanford Super Series; if not we are in danger of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.
Written by Philip Oliver, an online sports writer for Betfair - check them out when making a Cheltenham bet.