Cricket: Two divisions: The professionals' verdicts

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The Independent Online

Jim Cumbes (Lancashire)

"IT WAS time for a change and we are pleased with the decision. We hope it will lead to a raising of standards and we will have to wait and see if it achieves that. In any event, we were not getting anywhere with the existing format.

"The idea of conferences was put forward and rejected last year because no one could understand it, but a two-division arrangement is much more straightforward and easy to follow.

"Availability of players is going to be a problem because of the size of the international programme and clashes between Test and one-day internationals and county matches. But given time the competition will benefit.

"I don't believe there would be any benefit in going back to uncovered pitches alongside the new structure because players have to be tested in conditions they will encounter in Test matches. But there is room for improvement in pitches overall.

"As for the commercial implications of the change, I feel that having two divisions can only improve the situation. With promotion and relegation issues at stake there will be more matches of consequence and therefore more media coverage, which will mean more exposure for potential sponsors.

"I don't think teams in the second tier will find it more difficult to attract sponsorship. In soccer, there is plenty of interest in the First Division and I think this will be the case in cricket. Playing in a division where 30 per cent of the teams will be promoted must have an advantage over an 18-team competition in which you might always be near the bottom."

Jim Cumbes is chief executive of Lancashire


David Millns (Leicestershire)

"I HAVE a mixed view. I can appreciate the arguments in favour of two divisions but I was happy with the current set-up and not only because we have come out on top twice in three seasons. There is no doubt it will stimulate interest in the game but standards will not necessarily improve. Already we are turning out England teams who can barely bat through a session and get out to one-day shots and there is a danger that two- division cricket will produce more players like that.

"It only needs for you to suffer a couple of wash-outs and lose a game or two and suddenly you are chasing your tail. Then counties are going to start producing green flyers or dust bowls because they are under pressure to win games. And batsmen will feel they have to go for balls they should be leaving alone. It should be a rule that every match starts on a brand new pitch rather than a used one. It is a step in the right direction but only the first of many steps that need to be taken. More attention needs to be paid to developing the quality of young players and encouraging existing players to stay at home in the close season.

"Too many get on a plane as soon as the season finishes and go off to coach in South Africa or New Zealand and other places. They come back having learned nothing. They would be much better off staying at home working on their own game alongside better players."

David Millns helped Leicestershire win the 1998 County Championship


Martyn Moxon (Yorkshire)

"I'M NOT against it as I'm sure it will create more interest in Championship cricket, but I don't think it will have the effect of improving the quality.

"The question that needs to be addressed is the matter of getting the pitches right, of achieving a better balance between bat and ball. You need surfaces which allow batsmen to build an innings and force bowlers to work for their wickets. Then standards will get better.

"We are trying to create a successful England team but at the end of the day if you are going to have county matches where 15 wickets are going down on the first day you are not going to produce better players.

"There is a conflict between the interests of the Test sides and the counties and I don't think having two divisions will alter that. Everyone wants to see the England side do well but we also want to win our own matches.

"Counties are bound to prepare pitches to suit their strengths because they want to win matches and if you have issues of promotion and relegation at stake the pressure to do so will be greater still.

"You need to have pitches prepared to certain standards of quality and the regulations need to be enforced. The present system of reporting pitches is not always adequate because by the second day the character of the wicket may have changed. You only have to look at last season, when there was only one instance of a county being docked points for a poor pitch. Perhaps the answer is to have independent pitch inspectors present on the first day."

Martyn Moxon is director of coaching with Yorkshire