Shake-up wins some approval

David Llewellyn canvasses opinion on the Board's blueprint for the future of cricket, unveiled at Lord's yesterday
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There would have been a lot of quiet commuters heading back to the shires last night, their heads buried in the 32 pages of the England and Wales Cricket Board's "Blueprint for the Future Playing Structure of Cricket".

The consensus was one of approval tempered with caution. Somerset's chief executive, Peter Anderson, emerged from the 70-minute presentation at Lord's and said: "I'm a bit shell- shocked. But I thought it was an innovative presentation, with some pretty good ideas.

"What worries me are the costings - as a smaller club we are worried about our income level. One of the most radical things is a proposed reduction in Championship cricket, which worries me. But the increase in one-day cricket appeals."

There were no such misgivings from the bigger clubs. Bob Bennett, the chairman at Old Trafford, said: "I am delighted with the report."

The Surrey chief executive, Paul Sheldon, was more subdued, adding: "Although a two-division championship was preferable to us, a three-conference scene and the merging of the Sunday League and Benson and Hedges Cup certainly gives the appearance that we will be fighting for a lot longer in the season."

Yorkshire's chief executive, Chris Hassell, said: "It is more radical than I had expected. Once you get into the detail of the proposals you can see much in their favour."

One or two delegates were reluctant to say anything before they had had time to study the implications. The Worcestershire secretary, Mike Vockins, would only venture a brief: "It's interesting." Nottinghamshire had taken a vote beforehand not to say anything until the county had discussed it.

The Sussex chief executive, Tony Pigott, questioned the validity of reducing the number of four-day games. "This was meant to be for the good of Test cricket," he said, "so cutting down on the four-day game leaves something to be discussed." Overall, however, he was behind the proposals. "I'd be surprised if Sussex did not support most of it."

Other aspects of the proposals include the phasing out of the Second XI championship by the year 2000, something which the Lancashire coach, Dav Whatmore welcomed. "I reckon it's not a bad idea," he said. "A player can easily get lost on a county staff, there are so many players. This way you are going to have to perform."

Kent's Matthew Fleming, chairman of the Professional Cricketers' Association, said: "While I cannot speak officially for the PCA, I think the majority of players will be pleased, even though they had wanted two divisions . But I think this is a pretty good balance. It would mean an average of three [Championship] games a month, giving players a week off, which represents time for training, time to do quality work, time to recover from injuries."

England will give Darren Gough an intensive work-out today as he tries to shrug off a knee injury for the fifth Test. The Yorkshire fast bowler did not bowl during practice yesterday.