What is the future of the eighteen counties?

Counties are the backbone of English cricket

With the start to the English 2020 cricket season now being postponed to 1 July at the earliest, it looks more and more likely that there might not be a ball bowled due to the coronavirus situation. This has once again raised the future and role of county cricket.

There are eighteen counties affiliated to the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB). Historically they have played a major role in making England the architect and origin of the game of cricket as we know it today. However, there are many critics that believe that the number of counties should be reduced because the system is too costly and unwieldy in the modern game.

They might have a valid point because counties emerged mainly in the amateur era when county cricket was bigger than international cricket. These roles have now been reversed, with international cricket being the main cricket product. For example, Australia has dominated world cricket over the years with only six state teams producing their international players.

Whether it is a conspiracy theory or not, there is a general feeling among certain counties and their members that the ECB has started “The Hundred” as a city-based franchise competition, paving the road to eventually do away with the counties and replacing it with less franchise teams.

There are many theories that the world will never be the same again after COVID-19. This might be the opportunity to restructure the English game by those who desire to do so. However, they will find stiff resistance from the counties with their long history and what they bring to the table.

It would be a sad day for cricket if such a group of people were to succeed and destroy English cricket, of which the counties are the backbone, in the cause of commercialism. The reason why England has such a strong cricket culture is because of the counties and their membership.

The English game needs the balance between a rich tradition and modern day commercialism. Anything less will prove to be cancerous for a very important cricketing nation.

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