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Page last updated at 17:00 GMT, Thursday, 20 May 2010 18:00 UK

County cricketers launch backlash over heavy workload

Taunton
This idyllic scene masks hidden tensions in the county game

By Oliver Brett

Eighty per cent of players believe the new county cricket structure is worse than last year, BBC Sport has learned.

The figure comes from a Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA) survey in which players also openly criticise the heavy workload they have to cope with.

"Players are inevitably going through the motions at various stages so the cricket's not as good as it could be," said one anonymous player surveyed.

"It's impossible to maintain intensity with the amount of cricket we play."

Another is quoted as saying: "The people writing the schedule cannot honestly understand what it requires. At the moment, we are in the middle of playing 15 out of 17 days, including arriving home at 3am after travelling.

606: DEBATE
LTFC39

"I am happy to do as much as possible during the season, but the risk of injury just gets greater and greater."

One county, Middlesex, are currently involved in their seventh Championship match of the season after the season started unusually early on 9 April.

It goes on until the final of the Clydesdale Bank 40 competition, on 18 September, while the new enhanced Friends Provident T20 competition starts on 1 June - with fixtures on an almost daily basis until mid-July.

But most players remain keen that the structure of the Championship, which features 16 four-day matches per team, should be maintained.

The PCA survey reveals that only a minority would make a reduction in the existing Championship programme, while 69% would opt first for a reduction in one of the one-day competitions, or from a combination of one and four-day cricket.

Imran Tahir and Ian Bell of Warwickshire put their hands on their heads
Two competitions alone feature 16 fixtures each this season

The PCA has concluded that this year's increase to 16 Twenty20 fixtures "risks overkill" and suggests fewer matches "will not necessarily reduce income for the counties."

It adds: "The benefits of better scheduling will mean better attendances for one-day cricket, and - with some modest scope for periods of rest and recuperation - better cricket too."

The PCA also suggests three divisions of six teams in the Championship should be considered as a way of alleviating the burden, and wants matches against university teams to be reassigned either as optional fixtures, or pre-season warm-ups.

The survey also reveals 89% of professionals believe it is important for the schedule to allow participation in the lucrative multi-nation Champions League competition.

The dates for this year's competition - 10-26 September - clash both with the end of the domestic season in England and a one-day series in which England are hosting Pakistan.

The PCA surveyed its members through an online survey (completed by 300 current professionals), face-to-face meetings in March and April with squads at all 18 counties, and further research with a representative group including captains and PCA representatives from each county.



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see also
Guide to county cricket
06 Apr 11 |  Cricket
Miller worried by 50-over demise
28 Aug 09 |  Counties
Caddick raises Twenty20 concerns
27 May 09 |  Somerset
PCA survey underlines lure of IPL
25 Apr 08 |  Cricket
Players want less one-day cricket
03 May 07 |  Counties


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