England and Yorkshire batsman Dawid Malan has unequivocally backed the England and Wales Cricket Board’s proposal to reduce the number of county championship games.
“In county cricket you just go from one game to the next and it becomes like going through the motions,” Malan said. “England have only recently been ranked world No. 1 in Test cricket.” While England have produced “some world-class players” in recent years, he added, “We can’t say the county system works if we have only been number 1 in the world for such a short time.”
Malan believes the main problem is that the county structure doesn’t give players enough time to practice. “If you’re a player trying to get better, you don’t have time to work on your game,” he said. “I think that’s less cricket [but] at a higher intensity, with the ability to actually train and prepare for those games would be better.” He says it would also raise the standard of cricket because “bowlers will get fitter and be able to play for longer periods to bowl faster so it’s more of a challenge for the batters.”
The 35-year-old, who netted 36 balls from 35 for England in Wednesday’s fifth Twenty20 defeat by Pakistan in Lahore in Lahore, also argues the reduced first-class schedule would make it more likely that young players could play in all formats of the sport.
“Cricket is now a 12-month-a-year game,” he said. “It’s no longer a six-month game for the majority of players, especially if they make the step forward to play for England or if they show promise in white ball cricket.
“Look at the young players like [Surrey’s] Will Jacks who did so well on Hundred and T20 Blast. He gets a lot of chances. I know he has Testing ambitions but if he does really well and gets into England white ball teams regularly and plays in three or four tournaments around the world this winter then he’ll probably be done in April after three or four To play. Then he has the Hundred and T20 Blast and international cricket in the summer. Something is needed for such players.
Jacks has said he still wants to play Test cricket but Malan believes many players will give up red ball cricket in that position. “It has to be attractive for players to still want to play four-day cricket on schedule,” he said. “So there needs to be some time between games to allow them to rest, recover and work on their games. That’s the challenge. You don’t want to lose a lot in cricket, but you don’t want to get to the point where people say ‘that’s too much and I prefer to play XYZ’ – because then you lose your best young players in a format you don’t want. “
Malan’s arguments won’t go down too well with the Yorkshire members – but then the team doesn’t have much to offer this year. Malan told her fans to ease up a bit: “It’s been a tough year. I think that would always happen with anything that happens off the field. The lads are obviously very hurt about what has happened, that they have lost all the backroom staff and that new people who have never really seen the local players have come in and are trying to break into county cricket as well. Mainly because Yorkshire is so proud of England.
“But it’s been really difficult for the new coaching staff that come in a month before the season and they’re trying to figure out who fits in where and what kind of players they think are good and not good and what they need to add to the squad. The first year was always tough. I think we shouldn’t be judged until next year, when we’ve had a little more time to build.”
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