What is the CB40 for?

We’ve got a full post in the pipeline about the state of county cricket, you lucky things, but in the meantime, we wanted to turn our attention to an easy target for our ridicule. For this weekend has signalled the start of this year’s Clydesdale Bank 40 competition (known as CB40 by all and sundry). Rather like one of those utterly useless kitchen utensils you got given that sits in the back of your drawer, it’s a competition which has very little purpose and whatever purpose it does have is rubbish anyway. So let’s have a look at the CB40, the avocado slicer of domestic cricket.

It really is a horrible little competition. T20 has the financial clout; the County Championship has the historical prestige and the benefit of being the proving ground for Test cricket. The CB40 has none of these things. It somehow manages to be too long and too short simultaneously – too long because it’s not T20 and takes a full day to play; too short because it’s not 50 over cricket, which, as you might have noticed, is what’s played at international level. It’s kind of like the Goldilocks of cricket, except that instead of the porridge being just right, it’s tepid and stodgy. Nobody likes tepid porridge.

So why does it exist? It seems pretty clear that the players don’t particularly like it – watching Yorkshire and Kent going through the motions today, you could see they’re thinking more of their match fee than playing scintillating cricket. It’s a fairly pointless tournament for them. Apart from anything else you suspect that most of them would rather be playing in the IPL. 40 overs is not good practice for ODIs because it’s a different format, and 10 overs makes one hell of a tactical difference.

The ECB know this. Contrary to popular belief they’re not total idiots – they stated at the end of 2010 that they wanted a tournament to mirror the international format. So why hasn’t it materialised? Beats us. It would be extremely straightforward to tack on another 10 overs and make it the CB50. It’s hardly going to tire the players out more. Maybe the counties just want Sunday mornings off (perhaps to nurse hangovers etc.).

Is there some sort of concern that 50 overs would be too long for the average spectator? T20 has undoubted appeal to little Johnny or Janey whose iPhone-addled attention spans can’t cope with anything more, but 40 overs is well beyond that, and anyone who’s prepared to watch 40 overs would surely sit through another hour and a half (in total) to get to 50. That’s assuming that anyone goes to watch it anyway. From what we can tell, the viewership is mostly made up of schoolchildren, the unemployed and the sort of people who worry sheep. The crowd at Headingley today appears to have about the same population density as some of the more remote parts of the Sahara desert.

The reality is that the ECB and the counties are trying to have the best of both worlds. They want a competition that has the pace and excitement of T20 but the greater unpredictability and exposition of longer limited-overs cricket. It’s not possible because the two are mutually exclusive. It’s like wanting your movie to be a slow-paced Hitchcockian thriller and a quirky Hugh Grant rom-com at the same time. What you end up with is something that is neither (and rubbish). CB40 is neither fun nor engaging, except on very rare occasions (usually when it rains and you’re doing something else instead).

It’s just nothing. It is a nothing competition. Nobody wants it. Why does it exist? Answers on a postcard, please…

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  1. Trouble in the shires « Two Grumpy England Cricket Fans

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