English Premier League essential to England's future prospects, say Nottinghamshire's one-day experts

James Taylor and Alex Hales want change to T20 system but small counties could go under

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The Independent Online

A streamlined English Premier League Twenty20 tournament has to be created sooner rather than later if England are not to suffer another embarrassment when England and Wales host the World Cup in 2019.

That is the view of Nottinghamshire’s Alex Hales and James Taylor, two members of the humbled England squad that failed to progress beyond the group stage in this year’s 50-over showpiece.

Backed by their team-mate Samit Patel – the county’s most experienced one-day international batsman – they want to see the season-long NatWest Blast format abandoned only one year after it was introduced, in favour of a Big Bash-style tournament played over a month in midsummer, featuring a maximum of 10 teams.

Such a move would almost certainly mean cutting the number of four-day Championship matches to create space in the calendar.

Hales, a natural big-hitter puzzlingly omitted until the win-or-bust tie against Bangladesh as England bowed out in Australia and New Zealand, believes England have to find a way to replicate the fearless approach characteristic of Australia’s play if they are to succeed.

“None of the England players are hiding from the fact that the performance was embarrassing,” he said. “With the amount of one-day cricket we played leading into it, to not qualify out of the group stage was inexcusable.

“We have to find a way to play with no fear. Looking back on it, I think we all played within ourselves, as if we had a fear of failure.

“If you are going to succeed in one-day cricket, particularly now when the scores are going up, you have to erase that fear of failure. If you look at the Australians, the Indians, they just keep coming hard at you and we have to find a way to do that.

“This summer and next winter, we play New Zealand, Australia and South Africa – three of the best sides in the world in one-day cricket – and there will be no hiding place. We all know as a group we’ve got to get better.”

The Nottinghamshire trio are unanimous in seeing an English Premier League T20 competition as the way forward to raise the skill level among England players in 50-over cricket to somewhere comparable with the best.

“The England players really need the opportunity to play in the tournaments overseas so they can be among different world-class players,” Taylor said. “But given the international schedule it is hard for them to play in the Big Bash or the IPL so, hopefully, in the future we will get an EPL up and running.

“The IPL is slightly different but the Big Bash is a model we can work with. It might have to be slightly tweaked because there are more county teams here but I think we should look at something similar to that.”

Patel favours city-based franchises, even if it means the interests of smaller counties have to be put aside. “It is about looking forward rather than back and how English cricket can move to the levels we want it to be at,” he said.

“Franchise cricket for me is the way forward. If you look around the world, at the IPL, the Big Bash, and you speak to guys who have played in those competitions, it is a completely different tournament to what we play on a Friday night here. If you want to be the best in the world the structure has to change.

“I would like to see eight to 10 franchises. I know the smaller counties won’t appreciate that but, for English cricket to progress and the England team to move forward, that has to be one of the ECB’s goals.

“And it has to be in a block so that for that period you specialise only in T20 cricket. That’s when you get the best standard of cricket and attract the best players.”

Mick Newell, Nottinghamshire’s director of cricket and an England selector, also favours the block format, although he has reservations about creating city franchises, fearing that it could be the beginning of the end for some counties.

“I could see how it works for some counties to play across the season but, going from a four-day game ending on a Wednesday to a Twenty20 match on a Friday, it makes it hard to practise for T20 to any high level,” Newell said.

“But the city franchise thing does not quite grab me. We are not the same as Australia and we mustn’t just assume that everything they have done would work here.

“Football in England is the model for tribal support and I don’t think, for example, there would be too many Derby fans coming to watch a team called Nottingham.

“You risk it being a starting point for the dissolving of the county structure, and then you ask if cricket would become a less relevant sport in areas where you don’t have a county club.

“There is a lot up for debate but one thing you would say is that, if we are trying to make space for more one-day cricket to improve England’s chances at the 2019 World Cup, you are going to have to lose some four-day cricket.

“For the first time that I can remember, I am seeing a reduction in the Championship as more of a probability than a possibility.”

For that to happen and an EPL to be born, it will require 75 per cent of counties to set aside or modify their vested interests and agree. New ECB chief executive Tom Harrison  and incoming chairman Colin Graves will have their work cut out to achieve that.

Blast and bash: What’s the difference?

England’s T20 Blast

All 18 first-class counties take part in the annual competition, played throughout the season. It is split into two regional divisions of nine teams (a change from the three leagues of six until 2013). The semi-finals and final are played on the same day at a single venue.

Australian Big Bash

Established in 2011, comprising eight city-based franchises instead of the six state teams which had participated previously. Each state’s capital features one team, with Sydney and Melbourne featuring two.

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