The England and Yorkshire batter Dawid Malan has given his unequivocal support to the England and Wales Cricket Board’s proposal to reduce the number of county championship matches.
“In county cricket you just go from one game to the next and it becomes like you’re going through the motions,” Malan said. “England have only been No 1 in the world rankings in Test cricket for a small period of time.” While England has produced “some world class players” in recent years, he added, “we can’t argue that the county system is working if we’ve only been No 1 in the world for such a short period.”
Malan believes that main problem is that the county setup means that players do not have enough time to practise. “If you’re a player trying to get better there is no time to work on your game,” he said. “I do think that less cricket [but] at a higher intensity, with the ability to actually train and prepare for those games, would be better.” He says it would lift the standard of cricket too, because “bowlers will be fitter, and they will be able to bowl quicker for longer periods of time, so it will be more challenging for the batters”.
The 35-year-old, who scored 36 from 35 balls for England in Wednesday’s fifth Twenty20 international defeat by Pakistan in Lahore, also argues that the reduced first-class schedule would make it more likely that young players are able to commit to all formats of the sport.
“Cricket is now a 12-months-a-year game,” he said. “It’s no longer a six-month game for the majority of players, especially once they make that step up to play for England, or if they’ve shown any promise in white-ball cricket.
“Look at the young players like [Surrey’s] Will Jacks, who has come in and done so well in the Hundred and the T20 Blast. He’s getting a lot of opportunities. I know he’s got Test ambitions but if he starts doing really well, and gets into the England white-ball teams regularly and he’s playing around the world in three or four tournaments this winter, then by the time it gets to April he is probably knackered after playing three or four games. Then he’s got the Hundred and T20 Blast, plus international cricket during the summer. Something has to give for players like that.”
Jacks has said he still wants to play Test cricket, but Malan believes that a lot of players in that position will give up red-ball cricket. “It has to make it appealing for players to still want to play four-day cricket, scheduling-wise,” he said. “So there needs to be a bit of time between games for them to actually rest, recover and work on their games. That’s the challenge. You don’t want to lose a lot of cricket but you don’t want to get to the stage where people are saying: ‘It’s too much, and I’d rather play XYZ’ – because then you lose your best young players from one format, which you don’t want to do.”
Malan’s arguments will not go down that well with the Yorkshire members – but then not much about the team has this year. Malan said their fans should cut them some slack: “It has been a tough year. I think that was always going to happen with everything that’s gone on off the field. The boys are obviously very hurt about what’s gone on, losing the whole backroom staff and having new people come in who’ve never really seen the local players, and who are trying to find their feet in county cricket as well. Especially because Yorkshire, it’s like playing for England, it’s such a proud county.
“But it was really tough for the new coaching staff coming in a month before the season and trying to work out who fits in where, and what type of players they think are good and aren’t good and what they need to add to the squad. The first year was always going to be toughI guess we should only be judged from next year when we’ve had a bit more time to build.”