Alec Stewart Voices Concerns over County Championship Respect

A Respectful Plea

In the serene and dignified world of cricket, Alec Stewart, Surrey’s esteemed director of cricket since 2014, has voiced his concerns over the perceived disregard shown by the ECB towards the cherished County Championship, particularly on the auspicious day Surrey clinched the 2023 title.

The Heart of the Matter

Stewart’s concerns revolve around the scheduling of a one-day international series against Ireland, which, he believes, has impacted the availability of players for the concluding rounds of the Championship. His worries extend to the proposed 2024 schedule, fearing it may relegate the first-class game to the margins. Stewart’s earnest plea to the governing body is to render more support to the counties, the cradles of cricket where players are moulded before they ascend to represent England.

The Absence of Key Players

Surrey found themselves bereft of Gus Atkinson and Sam Curran due to England resting their World Cup squad for the Ireland series. The absence of Will Jacks and Jamie Smith further compounded Surrey’s challenges, causing them to struggle in the penultimate fixture against Northamptonshire. However, the return of Jacks and Smith on the second day of the final match against Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl brought some relief after the Ireland series concluded in Bristol.

A Call for Reverence

“I find myself compelled to express my discontent with the ECB,” Stewart remarked, emphasising the need to uphold the sanctity of the County Championship. He finds the scheduling of the Ireland games particularly disrespectful to the county game, questioning whether a more considerate staging could have been employed to ensure maximum availability.

The Conundrum of ‘Super September’

Looking ahead, the 2024 T20 World Cup in June and July threatens to push domestic competitions further into obscurity. Stewart, having glimpsed the preliminary plans, deems the situation untenable, with men’s competitions likely to suffer due to international fixtures, including a series against Australia, coinciding with domestic events. He stresses the importance of maintaining a harmonious relationship with the national team while preserving the integrity of the county game.

A Return to Tradition

Stewart advocates for a return to an eight-team top division and criticises the experimental use of the Kookaburra ball, viewing it as another obstacle to maintaining a balanced league structure. He empathises with those tasked with creating the schedule but remains steadfast in his commitment to safeguarding county cricket from dilution and neglect.

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