Fraser concerned for the condition of county game

FROM Mumbai to Middlesex; the contrast couldn’t be any greater as cricket’s focus switches from the glitz of a World Cup and start of the IPL to the more mundane matters of the county season, which commences today.

While the state of the international game appears to be in a happier place following a successfully staged tournament in the subcontinent, closer to home, matters aren’t so rosy.

Lancashire warned members in January to expect losses of around £2m and had to fend off a High Court bid to block the cub’s plans to upgrade its stadium. Surrey and Warwickshire, whose Oval and Edgbaston grounds have been regular Test venues since time began, also posted significant and disturbing losses recently.

Middlesex’s managing director, the former England bowler Angus Fraser, accepts it’s a worrying situation, which has developed as a result of, amongst other things, a mistaken belief that Twenty20 would cure all the ills of domestic cricket.

“The finances are concerning. I’d like to think Middlesex are taking steps to control things, but as for other counties I couldn’t say if they were living within their means,” said Fraser, who told City A.M. that his club were expecting to post a large six-figure loss of their own. “There was a wrongly held belief that Twenty20 was going to be the great saviour and that grounds were going to be filled every week. Personally, I never bought into that.

“A lot of counties have attempted to redevelop their facilities in order to stage Test match cricket. But with so many clubs bidding, inevitably there are going to be losers.

“Even then, it’s not about filling a ground for an Ashes Test. Anyone could sell that. But are places like Durham and Hampshire going to get the crowds in when they aren’t hosting Australia? I’d question that.”

Middlesex begin their promotion campaign on Monday with Fraser unsure the two tier system, brought in 11 years ago, has benefited English cricket.

“Certainly it drives up players salaries and it creates a more short-term thought process, particularly for teams in the top division,” he said.

“The threat of relegation means counties are reluctant to give youngsters a chance in favour of siding with experienced Kokpak guys and that’s going to be counter-productive.”