The Bob Willis Trophy
The competition has been hailed a success, and there is a prospect that this format will replace the current County Championship, with some changes to relax the regional element of the three groups, and play full group home and away fixtures.
► What do you think of the BWT?
► Do you think it should continue?
► Would you prefer to keep the traditional championship?
Ahead of the final starting this week, few cricket enthusiasts would challenge the view that The Bob Willis Trophy has been a great success. The ECB must be congratulated (I never thought I would write those five words, in that order) on rescuing the season and delivering an enthralling red ball competition. The 2020 season was an exceptional time and it called for exceptional measures. Does this make it a model for the future? My response is a firm "NO".
The County Championship was already in the middle of change, with 10 teams in Division 1 and 8 in Division 2, a reversal of 2019. The ECB should run this system for at least two years before considering further change. We can all see how the population at large react to constant tinkering with the COVID-19 rules, which can be a matter of life and death. Cricket is far less important (another phrase I didn't expect to use) but there are clear reasons for maintaining the status quo:
- All the evidence shows that the standard of play in Division 1 is distinctly higher than Divsion 2. It's almost impossible for a rising star in Division 2 to be picked to play Test cricket for England.
- A conference or regional system, as in the BWT, reduces the intensity of some matches when it should be a proving ground for budding Test cricketers.
- The County Championship is a marathon and shouldn't be decided on a final, late in the season. Imagine Liverpool having had to have a play-off against Manchester City, having "won" the Premier Division by a country mile? I know that is the system in Rugby Union but it doesn't make any more sporting sense there - Exeter have done a "Liverpool" and cannot be caught with still two matches to go - but will still go into a play-off.
The BWT was an exceptional competition for an exceptional time. Let's leave it at that.
I have to say without a doubt the BWT was a significant success in this Covid ravaged season of 2020. Sad to see the coverage of the final so limited but maybe not for everyone as both Essex and Somerset dominated again. Not keen on a repeat though if there is any chance of a normal county season. I don't want to see a reduction in the number of home red ball games and at seven as 2019, this must be maintained. Furthermore I cannot see how a knock out competition can fairly reflect on the concept of champion status if the outcome is not a true league with home and away fixtures in equal proportions. To win a reduced sized table and then play a winner takes all final seems unjust against all the season long endeavours.
But whatever I just pray for some live red ball cricket at Chelmsford again next year and to be seated amongst friends at the same time.
The BWT was an excellent competition which, given the circumstances of a shortened season, proved a great success. Making it regional allowed a mixture of both championship divisions to compete in the same group and gave the chance to play different opposition, which the traditional championship only does through the promotion/relegation places.
However, it is rumoured that the BWT format will continue and replace the current county championship. Although home and away group fixtures are planned with a top-two final, it cannot compare with a full season-long red ball game. The number of games will be reduced, and the outcome does not reflect the true title of the championship.
So for me, the traditional championship must be maintained although with the divisional split set to be 10 and 8, it will lose some of its authenticity by the fact that first division clubs will not be playing home and away against all others making it a bit of a lottery.
Hopefully though, we will be in a position to attend games and enjoy all the twists and turns that the game inevitably produces.