The LCU have it wrong
Iím sitting here at my desk in my apartment in Malahide struggling to deal with the disbelief and frustration that itís late August and I have competed in just 8 League matches throughout the duration of this yearsí infamous soaking summer of discontent.
Having played two seasons in the NCU, one season in Section One and one season in the Premier League, I am used to ten team Leagues and playing 18 League matches. Once again, to be approaching the beginning of September and to have only completed 8 fixtures of our League campaign leaves me gob smacked.
The current structure in Leinster is: 8 team Leagues, you must play each team at least once which potentially leads no replayed fixtures which have been abandoned, a bonus points structure, and finally, a League ruled by percentages as a result of teams potentially being unable to complete the same number of fixtures. Dublin Universityís presence in Division II means that thereís immediately one less match to play, given that they only play up until the end of the June.
I have a major issue with a number of these League requirements in Division II because, in my opinion, it leads to a lack of cricket and, in the worst possible scenarios, teams not wanting to complete their fixtures for fear of losing and being relegated.
In my mind, the LCU have it wrong on a number of fronts. The first of which is the lack of opportunity given to replaying rained off fixtures. Letís face it, we live and play in Ireland where rain is upon us most days in the week. Itís highly likely fixtures are going to be lost to the elements and therefore highly likely we face a scenario like we do at present Ė some teams, including my team (Malahide) facing the real prospect of a 9 match League season.
It must be said, I have no idea why the LCU has the current structure in place for Division II but it must surely have come about as a result of thoughtful consideration. It surely hasnít come about as a result of a lack of time to fit in all fixtures?
Looking back on our season, we have already had six Saturdays where no cricket was scheduled for us, not to mention the number of Sundays (14) where we could potentially have had matches scheduled. What I am suggesting is a structure in line with that of the NCU where importance is placed on playing cricket Ė not avoiding it. We have lost four League matches to the weather this season Ė a potential 400 overs of cricket.
Drawing a parallel (or lack thereof) with the NCU: their Premier League structure has trimmed down to 8 teams this year, but they allow for three attempts to get a fixture played in the first round of League matches and two attempts in the second half of the League season. In the second half of the League season, any refix immediately becomes a T20 match Ė making it easier to schedule for a weeknight as well as a weekend. If you fail to get a result after all those attempts, then both teams receive zero points, instead of a possible four (for a win), making it all the more important to get your fixtures played. Teams are desperate to complete their fixtures at either the first or second attempt.
The NCU Leagues have no bonus points, just simply four points for a win, two each for an unlikely tie and zero for a loss or a no result. The keeps things plain and simple Ė win and get rewarded. Donít play and you lose out. The fact that you play each team twice provides a fair indication of where you are at come seasons end. Compare that to the LCU League rules and you may in fact play the worst teams in the League twice and the best teams only once which will significantly alter your percentages. In the LCU, you can also have a scenario where a team who wins less games than others wins the League because their percentages are slightly better than others.
In essence, what we have seen this season is a real shame for the clubs and the game of cricket in general. We have seen less cricket Ė not just because of the weather but because of the Union stipulations Ė which leads to a lot of lost opportunities for clubs and players. While I donít necessarily subscribe to the idea that more is better, I do believe that what has happened this year has caused a loss of revenue for clubs via their bar takings. It also means that clubs who have spent a lot of money hiring overseas player/coaches have been adversely affected. With less League fixtures, you have less opportunity for these player/coaches to play alongside and against local players. In theory, there is less opportunity to learn and share playing and coaching experiences with both your own players and opposition.
In my mind, this could all be avoided in at least the top two divisions of the LCU if they brought the League regulations into line with those of the NCU. That leads to more opportunities to play cricket, more potential income for clubs over the bar, more exposure for local players to overseas players and coaches and more deserving League winners. Itís a no-brainer.