The summer of scheduling: why ECB plans for the English summer would signal huge change for cricket

What the ECB’s plans for the upcoming summer mean for the future of English cricket.

The English cricketing summer has drawn to a close, and with it the arguments of county and franchise cricket will likely take a back seat for the winter months.

This summer has seen the argument grow, and the intense schedule has produced inflamatory comments from players and counties alike.

It’s a debate which has split the cricketing front in this country, and many of the viewpoints on either side of the room are rooted in the Hundred — arguably the most divisive addition to the game in a generation.

The comments against the scheduling have been loud and high profile. Following the ECB’s high performance review of the men’s game, Somerset County Cricket Club issued a statement giving their reflections which included the club’s critique of how little one day cricket was played at their Taunton home this summer.

A section of the statement read: “Over a season, a diet of cricket across all formats which is satisfying for Members, paying spectators and players is required.

“The current domestic playing programme, which resulted in only four one-day matches being played in Taunton over 43 days in the height of summer this year, with 17 Somerset players unavailable, is unacceptable to the Club, its Members and the South West’s cricketing public.”

This issue of gatekeeping the best weeks of summer for the Hundred, a tournament which is of little value or interest to supporters and most staff members of clubs such as Somerset, has drawn plenty of response.

Ben Stokes celebrates winning runs at famous Headingley Test match in 2019

One of English cricket’s biggest names in Ben Stokes has taken a back seat from One Day Internationals due to the taxing nature of the English summer schedule.

In a retirement statement back in July Stokes, who was part of England’s heroic World Cup winning side barely two years ago, said: “I think the schedule and everything that is expected of us these days, for me personally at the moment, it feels unsustainable.

“The schedule at the moment is all very jam-packed. It’s asking a lot of the players to keep putting in 100 per cent of their effort every time they walk out on the field for their country.”

When you have a man who has enjoyed so much success in the 50 over version of the game wanting to now retire from the format because of how busy the schedule is, it may well be time for a rethink.

The comments from Somerset CCC and Stokes both were released before the news of potential ECB plans to improve Test cricket by reducing the number of T20 and County Championship matches.

The proposals would see The Hundred be the only white ball competition taking place in August, and the T20 tournament would be over and done with by the end of July.

The 2023 England summer schedule is reflective of this, and the Test match window would be closed by the end of July — giving the Hundred almost complete free rein on the calendar.

The Trent Rockets and Oval Invincibles lift the Hundred Trophies after the Hundred Final match between Trent Rockets and Manchester Originals (Photo: Getty)

These plans may have a positive impact on the quality of the English game, but the reduction in quantity could have serious repercussions in how much cricket many people get to watch live next summer and beyond.

For those living within a reasonable distance of a Hundred franchise home ground, August will be a fine month where you can take the whole family to watch live cricket.

Yet for those who have a county ground on their doorstep that doesn’t become a venue for The Hundred — watching live cricket during the school holidays won’t be possible next year.

What chance has the game got of bringing in new fans when at the height of summer, cricket grounds around the country will be locked up?

The new proposals seem to focus on resting up those players likely to be involved in England duty and putting the Hundred on a pedestal, whilst at the same time harming the county game.

There is no doubt that the scheduling of the English summer needed revamping, but if the proposals from the ECB were given the green light then you would fear many of the smaller county sides who rely more heavily.