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Page last updated at 16:11 GMT, Thursday, 1 April 2010 17:11 UK

Durham skipper Will Smith not keen on three divisions

Will Smith
Will Smith has been part of back-to-back County Championship title wins

Durham captain Will Smith has expressed doubts about a three-tier County Championship, following reports of more changes to English cricket's structure.

England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive David Collier has undertaken research into ways of reducing the volume of domestic first-class cricket.

And a move to three six-team divisions would mean reducing the number of games per season from 16 to 14, or even 12.

But Smith said: "To me, the two-divisional structure has worked well."

Speaking after his side's 311-run win over the MCC in the ground-breaking Championship curtain-raiser at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, Smith told BBC Sport: "Two divisions seems to have served the purpose it was intended to serve.

"Obviously the reason they are looking at trying other things is to cut down he amount of cricket which is being played, and that is something I do agree with in the general scheme of things.

"But I can't see that a three-conference structure would work that well."

Former Nottinghamshire chief executive David Collier told The Times: "The mood has altered. There is a growing understanding that the championship breeds England players and that they need to train and recuperate.

"A key part is to make sure that if we do create additional gaps, then dates freed up are sacrosanct and do not get filled with more games.

"What has changed is the income stream of Twenty20, so that it now provides the bread and butter for the counties. It has given them more confidence to look again at the overall volume. Membership brought in by the championship is a big thing but, if the standard goes up because players are better prepared, that is a good trade-off."

The pink ball worked well for the most part. The problems were the twilight period, when it is much harder to see, and when we had a bit of dew and the ball was like a sponge

Durham skipper Will Smith on pink balls

As the leader of a successful side who have won back-to-back county championships (Dale Benkenstein skippered Durham to their first title win in 2008 before Smith took over last summer), Smith is naturally wary of any moves to tinker with the playing format.

Nevertheless, he accepts that cricket is a game which has been evolving quickly, and often dramatically, since the inception of Twenty20 in 2003 - so much so that the traditional season-setting game between the champion county and the MCC was not only transplanted from Lord's to Abu Dhabi, but performed as a high-profile day/night trial for pink balls.

And while Smith, 27, describes himself as a traditionalist, he also insists that he remains receptive to new ideas.

"I'll always be slightly cynical of change, which is probably quite an old-fashioned quality, but I do like the traditional values of cricket.

"Saying that, you always have to try and be open to change. If you do have experiments and they seem to work then why not go with it?

"I was slightly sceptical about the pink ball being used in this game. And it's played very well, so you're always there to be proved wrong.

"The ball seemed to work well for the most part. The only problems were the twilight period, when it is much harder to see, and when we had a bit of dew and the ball was like a sponge.

"They are the two drawbacks for me at the moment. I don't see how you can change those environmental factors too much, which would seem to be a problem, but if there are scientific ways of getting round that then I'm all for it."



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