So the winter is behind us, the frenetic activity of spring as we re-activate our Club after the winter, has gone, and we settle down to either play or watch the game we love.

After the several weeks of barely honoured friendly fixtures, when we struggle to pull players away from either their tuporic winter firesides, or the never-ending list of “key” football or rugby fixtures, and their seasons that will not die, we finally reach the promised land of competitive League Cricket. To welcome it this year we are also blessed with some sun, albeit accompanied by precious little heat! Bearable in the sun – freezing in the shade!

Last season saw 3 of Reeds 4 most senior Xl’s achieve results that sees them performing in higher leagues this season. For the 2nd and 3rd Xl’s that just means a change of some opponents and a different “digit” at the top of their League Tables. For these players and members, the fairly long established, eminently sensible, and refined match playing rules and conditions are barely changed. However, at the top of the Reed tree, our 1st Xl have the new “Herts Championship” to contend with.

2013/14 saw a mega-upheaval in the very top end of Hertfordshire League cricket. After years of mumbling, grumbling, and moaning about the length of top tier matches, the high degree of travel involved at the top level, and the “family unfriendly” baggage that went with Fathers and Sons often disappearing from their families for virtually the entire Saturday, someone had to act. When also faced with documented reductions in Cricket Participation Levels and promised reductions in Sport England Funding to the ECB (and below), the issue was confronted. After a relatively short period of “Internecine Warfare” between the Home Counties Premier League and the Saracens Hertfordshire Cricket League, the senior Hertfordshire sides left the HCPL and the top tiers of the SHCL was re-structured with a Herts only Premier League, and a “feeder” Herts Championship League. Of which Reed 1st Xl is now part.

Very sensible! Great! An opportunity to simplify the matches, reduce the travel time, reduce match duration, increase viewing interest, and increase participation in RECREATIONAL Cricket!

Much has changed has been proposed and the format matches are underway.

Has it worked? Will it work? Time will tell. However, in the view of this jaundiced correspondent the omens are NOT good.

The alleged basic aims were fine and the potential logistics much improved, but the outcomes in terms of increasing player and spectator interest, reducing the fast increasing cost of undertaking Cricket matches, and increasing individual participation, I fear we are charging in the wrong direction.

Focus has been lost. We now have two formats of match rules applicable at different stages of the season in the same Leagues – and one format so cluttered with trivia from “International 50/50 Cricket” that it makes the Umpires, Captains and Groundsmens roles increasingly difficult, and the passing spectators understanding of the spectacle almost impossible to comprehend.

Far from enabling the Umpires to focus on the basic rules of playing Cricket they are now required to have eyes in the back of their heads monitoring compliance with fielder positioning. Faced with the already established constant moronic “appeal for anything” culture, is it any wonder that they will be increasingly pressurised, make more mistakes, have to referee more inter-player disputes, and probably, vote with their feet and be increasingly less likely to continue in role.

A spectator arrives to view a Top Tier SHCL match in progress.

What is the match format? Who knows!

Are the fielders in non-regulation positions because it is 50/50 with Powerplays or because the Captain is a moron?

Is there a Powerplay underway? – How do the Spectators know?

Why is the wicket and  outfield littered with more lines than a multi-purpose Leisure Centre? Are they this weeks lines or last weeks?

We know what the score is – but what is the “Match Points” state of play?

We don’t know because we are not sure of the Match Format.

Never mind the match – into the Bar – Give me a drink!!

The prices have gone up – “Why”?

Well, amongst other things, there are the extra costs of the computer we have had to install in the pavilion to run the Duckworth Lewis Software required in case it rains during one of these 50/50 matches. We also had to BUY the Duckworth Lewis Software, pay expenses to the people who took time out to travel to courses to learn how to use it, and also had to BUY a Printer for the Clubhouse to print off the required DL scores every time it rains!!

If you are really lucky the mandatory Home Club “Duckworth Lewis Manager” will agree to be present at the ground during every match and to do the job for no fee!

So –

Increase Pressurise on the Groundsmen

Increase Preesure on the Umpires

Increase Pressurise on the Captains

Confuse Spectators

Increase Costs to Clubs

Do all our players really want to “imagine/convince themselves” that they are playing International 50/50 Cricket on Sky TV.

Are they orgasmic at the prospect of a “Free Hit”?

Never mind all that – but surely all this does “encourage more Participation”.

Does it???

Does it really??

Have the lunatics really finally taken over the asylum??