Atherton's reformers dig in for long innings

The rebels will meet the establishment next week in the first round of talks about starting a revolution in English cricket. It will be a civilised confrontation, but it may also herald a bitter struggle, which could yet see a dramatic reduction in the number of professional players, a cut in the number of county clubs and a restructuring of the game from almost top to almost bottom.

The insurgents will be armed with a detailed manifesto, prepared by the former England captain turned cricketing pundit Michael Atherton. He is one of five founder- members of the Cricket Reform Group. They also include another former captain turned commentator, Bob Willis; the chat-show host and sports writer Michael Parkinson; the businessman and Saracens Rugby Club owner Nigel Wray; and Willis's elder brother, David, chief executive of the National Sporting Club and a seasoned administrator in amateur cricket.

This disparate band suddenly announced their formation during the year's final Test at The Oval, when England were in deep trouble against South Africa and about to end the season on a low note. A day later, match and summer were transformed by the home side's astonishing victory, and the CRG's points were submerged.

For a high-profile bunch wishing to force fundamental change on the game, they have been keeping a distinctly low profile since. The reason appears to be that they want to come to the table next week armed with substantial arguments rather than the flimsy A4 sheet of paper on which their original call for revolution was contained.

"Our manifesto for change is now in its final stages," said David Willis, who provided the original impetus for the CRG and enlisted the illustrious recruits. "Michael Atherton has undertaken discussions with a whole range of people in the game, and a number of very important people as well as players."

The CRG will meet officials from the England and Wales Cricket Board on 19 November, and they are not being dismissed lightly. The ECB delegation will consist of the chairman, David Morgan, and the deputy chief executive, John Carr. It would have been the chief executive, Tim Lamb, but he will be away on England's tour of Sri Lanka that week.

The CRG are unwilling to reveal much of their hand as yet, but key aims are likely to be a change in the County Championship to implement three divisions of six and therefore only 10 games for each side a summer; the end of Minor Counties cricket; and the formation of a much stronger club system, at which substantial amounts of cash would be thrown each year.

Secretly, it is entirely possible that many officers within the ECB share some of these objectives. But the ultimate power for change resides in the First Class Forum, the representatives of the 18 first-class counties.

Carr said: "The CRG consist of respected figures and of course we will be taking them seriously. There are always contentious issues in cricket, but we have to achieve a balance between being prepared to be honest and review our procedures, and reinforcing the fact that there is a lot that is good about the game at the moment. If there has been some concern about what the CRG have said, it is that."

The CRG are likely to have plenty of backing from club cricket. Barry Stuart-King, head of the Club Cricket Conference, said: "We are more organised than ever before and we are definitely in broad agreement with the CRG. There has to be more money handed down from the centre to club cricket."

The CRG want clubs to be far more closely linked to the big-time game. It happens in Australia. For instance, Jason Gillespie, who aims to play in the First Test against India in three weeks, is starting his comeback from injury today for his club team, Adelaide. Most English players sever connections with their clubs when they sign for counties.

The clubs have now formed the National Association of Club and League Cricket Conferences, and if they start kicking up a unified stink, boats could be rocked.

David Willis said: "After we have met the ECB and outlined our proposals we shall put them into the public domain. We will then make a concerted and organised effort to enlist support from all walks of cricket life. We don't intend to stop until we achieve change. This is for the good of the English game and the England team."

The CRG have already had talks with the Professional Cricketers' Association (who may not want to shed too many members) and will not be short of public forums to air their views. Their short-term chances of progress will depend on English failure. If England win in Sri Lanka and the West Indies this winter, everything will be hunky-dory, no matter what former England captains say.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?