Root leads calls for changes to domestic schedule

Joe Root in batting action for Yorkshire
Joe Root made 156 for Yorkshire against Glamorgan on Sunday, his second hundred in as many games [Getty Images]

Joe Root is leading calls from players to reduce the amount of domestic cricket and review a schedule that is “not fit for purpose”.

Research from the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) has found 81% of players have concerns about the physical toll of the fixture list, and 76% are worried about unsafe travel between matches.

“It is apparent the schedule needs to change for a host of reasons to see long-lasting benefits for English cricket,” said former England captain Root.

“Having space to recover, prepare and improve your game during the season is crucial and the creation of minimum standards to protect travel windows and player welfare is non-negotiable.”

Information from players was gathered by the PCA in pre-season meetings with all 18 first-class counties, leading to this unprecedented collective call for action.

The PCA says that players have fears for their welfare, with tight turnarounds between fixtures leaving little time for recovery and practice, and also potentially leading to dangerous travel plans.

“There is a strong feeling the game has to listen to its most vital assets, its players,” said PCA chief operating officer and former Worcestershire captain Daryl Mitchell.

“A reduction in cricket has to be strongly looked at as the solution which the game desperately needs.”

Yorkshire batter Root, 33, who captained England in a record 64 Tests, added an alteration to the schedule could have benefits for the national team.

“You're trying to find a way of getting the standard of first-class and county cricket as close as you can to the international game,” he said. “There’s a large number of players who don't think the schedule is conducive to high-level performance.

“If we can find a way of making it so that gap is smaller and the product is better, in terms of stakeholders and members, everyone is going to be winning.”

Counties play a minimum of 14 Championship matches, 14 T20 Blast fixtures and eight in the One-Day Cup, equating to at least 78 days of cricket in the season.

Including The Hundred, there are 121 days of men’s domestic cricket scheduled this summer, not counting other fixtures against universities or National Counties.

The Blast, mainly taking place in June and July this year, is a particular pinch point of the schedule, with counties wanting to host games from Thursdays to Sundays in order to maximise attendances.

This season there are 55 instances of counties playing on back-to-back days in the Blast, up from 34 last year. Combined with the County Championship, the schedule can be relentless.

In June, Gloucestershire are due to play a T20 match away to Glamorgan on a Thursday evening, a home T20 against Somerset on the Friday, then travel to Scarborough for a Championship match against Yorkshire on the Sunday morning.

Any alteration to the structure of domestic competitions has to be approved by counties.

In August 2022, an England and Wales Cricket Board high-performance review led by Andrew Strauss recommended a cut in the amount of domestic cricket, but the proposals were rejected by counties.

The PCA is now due to present the players’ views on how the schedule could be cut to the ECB.

“The point in doing this is to try and create more awareness around it,” said Mitchell. “At the ECB, there is definitely sympathy and understanding. Potentially in the wider county network with chairs and members, probably not so much, I would say.”

An ECB spokesperson said: “As the PCA recognises, the men’s domestic schedule is a complex issue. The players have an important voice in discussions around this, and we are committed to working with them and the first-class counties to discuss the best ways of overcoming some of the challenges.”