Yorkshire’s fabulous start to the county season has paved the way for them being the last winners of the County Championship as we know it.
There is a heck of a long way to go before Andrew Gale is lifting the pot at the end of September, but three wins in their first five matches has given the White Rose county a chance nobody ever dreamed they would have.
We do have a lot of cricket but that’s only because the one-day competitions have expanded
Good early season weather combined with a points change and no use of the heavy roller on pitches after the toss has made for an exciting start to the LV= Division One season.
Why, then, are the England and Wales Cricket Board so keen to change it?
Consultation papers have been sent to the 18 counties, with five options for change to the 120-year competition.
The options are as follows: l An elite division of eight counties playing each other home and away. The other ten counties would form a regionalised division.
* Three conferences of six counties with play-offs.
* Three divisions of six counties with games played over five days.
* Two divisions of nine counties playing 12 or 14 games.
* Three divisions of seven counties, including three minor counties.
There is an acceptance from players, officials and supporters that there is too much cricket in our domestic season.
But there is also an acceptance that it is not the Championship that needs changing. There is too much Twenty20.
If they do not want to alter the Twenty20 due to financial reasons, then they should look at the 40-over competition.
There are some fabulous 40-over matches but it is not as enjoyable as Championship cricket.
The players have been sent information on all possible changes and are currently considering the options ahead of June 4, when counties need to make their preferences clear.
Pace bowler Steve Patterson is Yorkshire’s Professional Cricketer’s Association representative, and he said: “My personal thoughts are that there’s nothing wrong with the Championship as it is. We do have a lot of cricket but that’s only because the one-day competitions have expanded.”
Patterson’s thoughts will be music to the ears of a lot of avid county cricket followers.
He continued: “Since the two-divisional structure has come in, it’s produced some very competitive cricket.
“Since we’ve been in Division One, it’s been very strong. I see no reason why we should change.
“In an ideal world I suppose 12 or 14 games would work better in the schedule we have, with the one-day competitions the way they are, because it would give more time for rest and preparation.
“But you’ve got to find a way of reducing games without jeopardizing the quality of the cricket. And, as a squad, we don’t feel the options that have been come up with are good enough.
“It’s important that whoever wins the Championship has to be playing against the best teams. It has to be fair.
“If somebody wins the Championship you have to be able to say that they’ve deserved it. The problem with the new models on the table is that it is not necessarily going to be the case.
“Since the two-divisional structure, the best sides have generally got into and stayed in the top division. If you win that league, you are worthy county champions.
“The problem with the conference system, for example, is that you are not always going to play the best sides. It then means that the Championship loses some of its integrity in our opinion.”
But Patterson says the thoughts of the players count for very little with the ECB.
He continued: “My role as PCA rep means that I pass on our squad’s opinions to the PCA. They then pass them onto the ECB, but effectively we don’t have any say. It’s up to them what they do.
“We said last year that we weren’t sure about the 40-over competition. We said that we wanted the one-day competition to mirror international cricket.
“It was said that 40-over cricket was more lucrative, so the 50-overs was brushed aside. It doesn’t always go the way we want it to. We just give our opinion.”
There was talk earlier this week that the Test match counties who are so in favour of a franchise system in Twenty20 rather than the current format will spoil their ballot papers regarding Championship change early next month.
Patterson added: “It’s worrying. This season we are playing four home Twenty20 games in the space of eight or nine days. It’s a big ask for people to come three or four times in a week.
“Crowds will then go down and, although there’s more games, you aren’t going to make as much money.”
The way things are currently structured, there is a real danger of killing the golden goose. But, for all avid county cricket lovers, the Championship is the real golden goose.