Tom Harrison, the chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), believes the aftermath of an “exceptionally difficult” Ashes tour is time to “reset the importance of red-ball cricket in our domestic schedule” to support the Test team.
Harrison has been CEO of the ECB since 2015, the year England shifted their approach to white-ball cricket, and has overseen the introduction of The Hundred, a fourth format and competition in the domestic game.
He says now, though, that red-ball cricket – a large portion of the County Championship is played in April and September – should occupy a more central position in the schedule.
“Our priority is Test cricket,” said Harrison, in Hobart. "We want to be successful at white-ball cricket, of course we do. But we absolutely need to be successful at Test cricket.
“It feels like this is a moment to reset the importance of red-ball cricket in our domestic schedule, for us to recalibrate how we play first-class cricket in the UK. It’s a brilliant opportunity for us to come together as a game and really sort that once and for all.”
Harrison said the Professional Game Group – which includes various county CEOs – would consider the schedule in the coming weeks, after Ashley Giles submits his report on the Ashes tour.
He said their role would be to “work out how both the conditions in which we play first-class cricket in our country and the schedule for first-class cricket reflect the ambition that we have to be the best in the world in this format”.
“We’ve got really difficult moments coming up with the shift towards more white-ball cricket in the calendar than we’ve ever had before, with respect to an expanding IPL, a World Cup every year,” Harrison said. “These are the difficulties with which we’re trying to cope with as international boards going forward. We do have to address that front on as a group of boards. What you’re seeing is different priorities coming to bear.
“We obviously have had a lot of postponements, shifting matches, shifting tours, cancellations in some cases as a result of the pandemic, which has put huge pressure on global boards around the world. Keeping the show on the road has been really difficult.”
Harrison threw his support behind Joe Root’s Test captaincy, which is expected to continue after this tour, but would not be drawn on the issue of his own bonus. Harrison is one of a handful of senior ECB executives who will share £2.1million when the board’s “long-term incentive plan” matures this year.
“That is a question about an employment contract,” he said. “The board set the criteria on which we are judged and that's a matter for them.”