Now, as absolutely bloody fantastic as the Finals Day win was, it did feel like being handed one of those foil blankets after finishing a marathon, such was the mix of elation with relief at having finally completed the tournament. In short it was way too long in terms of number of matches played. 144 games to eliminate 10 of the 18 sides? It had shades of the IPL in how it made many people crumple to their knees in front of the TV during yet another dead rubber from the County Ground in Derby shouting "Why?!! WHY?!!!!".
The saddest part, for me, was that after some of the losses, I found myself not being bothered by the defeat. For someone who's life is ruined by the rugby season, where Wednesday through to Saturday are spent worrying about the Saturday fixture, then Sunday to Tuesday are spent recovering from the match before starting the cycle all over again, it is pretty damning on the tournament as a concept for me just to go "doh" at a result then get on with my life.
Sixteen group games made half of them meaningless, whilst playing against half the country removed a lot of the local derby feel. I think that it has already been decided that the tournament will return in 2011 to a 6 team group with 10 group games, just like 2009. This is a good move, bringing back the regions and reducing the games, but there are still changes that I would make to the calendar:
- Group games will only be played on weekends.
- The group stages will run from the start of June until the end of July.
- Teams will only play one match a week with the exception of two weeks, where two games will be played.
- Group games will be played alternately home and away, so a home game every two weeks.
- Quarter finals will be played on the first weekend of August.
- Finals day will be played two weeks later on the Saturday.
This scheduling has a number of benefits. Firstly it spaces out the group games so that, coupled with the reduction in group matches, each game carries more importance and is more of an event. The way it will be spaced out is so: Start of June to end of July covers 8 weekends, so teams play one match a week, except for two weeks where they play two matches a week, say a home game on Friday and an away game on Sunday. This again allows for more importance to be placed on each match, and also allows for more time during the week to play Championship and one day matches, de-cluttering those schedules too.
Secondly, playing the games on weekends only offers the chance for higher attendances, as a greater number of people will be able to attend on Friday evenings and Saturday and Sunday afternoons than on Tuesday evenings, for example. The spacing out of these games, coupled with better ticket price management, would boost attendances as people would be more willing to pay to see a game once a fortnight at £15 each, rather than £20 each twice a week.
The tournament can still make the most of the supposedly best weather, whilst also allowing CC matches to be played in decent weather too. And whilst it is still spread out, the tournament should hopefully not be played over such a long period as to make overseas players difficult to come by.
Playing the quarter-finals a week after the last group games allows form to still be carried over, whilst the two week gap between QFs and Finals Day means that clubs have enough time to sell tickets for Finals day properly. The quarter finals would be played on the Saturday and Sunday, one in the afternoon and the other as a day nighter straight after, so all four can be broadcast. Finals Day arrangements would stay the same.
To keep Sky happy, each round of matches would be played over all three days available, so they would in effect still be able to show three live matches a week.
With the correct marketing, scheduling and pricing of tickets, the ECB could turn the 20/20 from an exciting yet ever so slightly fading fad into a genuine breadwinner. One that defines the weekends of the high summer and does more to boost interest in cricket than Groundhog Day masked by cheap music and dancers and other gimmicks. 20/20 is a serious business and so it must be treated thus. The first port of call for the ECB must be the calendar wallchart.
It will be okay
3 months ago