The Changing World
By Grockle et al
October 28 2018

We have one season before the cricket world in the UK alters.  Next year we will have an Ashes tour AND the World Cup in the British Isles and the mayhem to come related to that and THEN we have the new world of the 'Hundred' in 2020 which no one seems able to give concrete information on.  Meanwhile the country is looking to leave the European Union in March of 2019 with no real infomration about how that affects 'kolpak' rulings (I doubt the government has much time to discuss cricket aspects) or the roles of 'Commonwealth' players.  So the whole thing is in a state of flux.......

My first frontpage article for a time and from a different 'offshore' base is a look ahead to a world that will alter the nature of the game we have followed, the county that we support and the way we access the games.  Some of this is exciting and some of it is of pretty high concern.  Very little of it has any real answers and loads needs to be decided yet if it is to work properly or at all.

2018 was a decent season for Somerset.  An issue in Australian cricket caused some upheaval, but the county came out of it pretty well with the replacement of Cameron Bancroft with Matt Renshaw.  Many of us hope that last season started a long term relationship with the Aussie batsman and the majority might like to see him again early in the season at Taunton given the late start of the summer Ashes. 

Our skipper became our skipper in 2018 after a tumultuous 2017.  Tom Abell now leads the county by right and is the man in charge without doubt.  Lewis Gregory will lead the white ball onslaught, again by right even after weeks of speculation about his future.  As the most improved short form player he has cemented his place in charge of those teams and may have earned himself an international follow up as well.  

Marcus is on for another year - the jury may be out on the benefits of that to some.  James is 'Mr Consistent' these days even if England don't seem to understand that. The Test gap he could fill is taken and vacated by others on a regular basis while he just scores the runs in his day job.  Oh dear, how sad for a Somerset supporter.  Jack is back in England colours for the winter in Sri Lanka and it will be interesting to see how he goes if given the chance.  Dom probably still needs a season or so but Jack's inclusion gives the young man CC1 sides to aim for in the early 2019s and hopefully allays the fears of some locals that he may be enticed away by more first team cricket at another county.

Pete's short form contract gives us at least another year of Trego magic with luck and the return of Tim Groenewald will give us the bowling experience we were missing at the end of the season.  One has to be pleased at how the Overton's and Josh Davey in particular took to the task set however. With Jack Brooks arriving as well our pace bowling will be in pretty good hands we all hope. Consistency is still the main issue however across the bowling but much more importantly the batting of the first team.

The floodlights are going up at Taunton - not sure why to be honest, day/night Tests seem to be on hold after the UK ball debacle (and we are not a candidate for any of this except in the ECB's time of need until we deal with our attendance shortfall - something that was not mentioned by the outgoing management when lauding the achievement of international status at Taunton late in 2017).

We play white ball games at the time when the light is OK in Somerset.  Floodlight games have a novelty value but in one years time we are going to be a one day 'second string' county for a while during the period of the 'Hundred' running its course to bankruptcy or a worldwide welcome (I'll let you decide which is more likely).  Are the World Cup matches going to be late in the day?  If not I'd love to see the forecast of how long it is going to take to get our part of the investment for the lights back.  Maybe there are autumnal plans for their use?

The last year of Blast! relevance for a while comes in 2019.  It is pleasing to see that we have not lost younger players to the urban counties in order to set themselves up for this new 'thing' the ECB has put its reputation (such as it still has) on.  I expect this will be the last year we field the strongest side possible from our full squad because I doubt major players in 2020 will be able to afford to stay out of the 'Draft'.  As the nearest ground where the new 'thing' will be played is in Hampshire or a different country I doubt many of us will be travelling to watch much of the 90 minute spectacular.  Live TV coverage will be available and that may marginalise whatever games Somerset take part in during the Blast! of 2020 or the 50 over tournament - whichever one is played alongside this other 'thing'.  Who will stay and who will go?  No idea, but the money will be held out to get players there and you can't blame professionals for going to where the coverage and the wages are.  How that relates to our wage bill and whether we get compensation beyond the 1.3 million quid 'bung' is all up in the air at the moment I assume.

Grockles will be covering all this from its new beach house in the middle of the North Atlantic until the end of June at least and maybe until the summer of 2021.  Thanks to the work of Ben at the ground, Anthony on the radio, Mike on the boundary with his camera and Farmer in the stand with his notebook and laptop this is not that much of a problem because we can all see the home games live online now - will this be free in the next season?  The commentary is synched in and later we get live photos of the action in the threads and reports much bigger and with far more empathy than I could produce from a man watching.  One has to hope that other grounds will link in a little more elaborately for away games.  As a watcher from afar I hope so - the Somerset experience in 2018 was so much more satisfyinig than that at other games.  The 'InCider' provides interviews and features we have never done in that amount of detail and all seems pretty right with the web world for the county.  I seem to be acting more as a forum web moderator and organiser than I used to but I am very grateful from those who have moved in and filled the gaps so well as if they were waiting for the changes.  We are stronger for their contributions and I hope that as I step back the content actually improves.  We have been very lucky to be honest in relation to support from the county and those who have the same passion for the game in our part of the world.

How long can Somerset survive in the brave new world?  Well it depends on the support from the centre for the Championship and our ability to stay in it.  We CANNOT contemplate a scenario where we are the county to be relegated next season when many come up and only one goes down. 

The side that relegation happens to next year will never be back at the top level I fear.  I think many in the capital would be very happy if we were the 'provincial' side that went into Division 2.  We have to ensure that we are still a thorn in their side into the 20's if something is to remain of what we know pre 'Hundred'. 

We must accept that Somerset has been marginalised by the centre.  Cricket in the whole South West has been sidelined after 2019.  The talent coming up from Cornwall and Devon may look to the Welsh and Hampshire organisations as a way into the mainstream rather than naturally being attracted to Taunton.  How will the county pay for the ground?  Will the punters still come to see the events they presently do?  There is little else nearby but the premier nature of the product will obviously be affected by the drain of the 'Uber20' thing.  TV will be an alternative and will the cricket be as good.  Also will the county realise that they cannot 'fleece' punters for something of less intrinsic value and rethink their pricing policy?  People with less loyalty to the sport may like the Friday night fun but they are not stupid and we may NEED them to come back time and time again.  

How long will the 50 over competition be supported?  If the 'Hundred' is poorly supported then the funds will go that way to try and fill the hole and if it is taken to the hearts of women and kids in the cities then will the ECB want the 50 over game to still exist as a competitor?  Without that can the county survive on less CC1 revenue and a second tier !Blast that may have variable local support?  I have no answer.

Enjoy next year.  Take special notice of everything you experience.  You may never see its like again.  The 20s may be better but I am personally not in the camp of being excited about it presently and I do not expect that excitement to be heightened by events/actions in 2019 from the London part of the cricket structure. 

I hope to see us fight for the Championship next year - it may well be the last chance we get to win a Championship worth winning.  More sides in 2020 but the same or less games?  How the hell is that going to work out?  After September 2019 it's an unpredictable 'Shadowland' and no one is sure what the future holds.

Roll on April. Bring the wife and kids.