Marcus Hook’s Surrey CCC column: T20 hopes could rest on how long England players are available to play for us us

Me and my big mouth. I had high hopes for Surrey’s T20 campaign, but that all changed when it was announced Sean Abbott (hamstring) would be taking no part and Reece Topley (side strain) was ruled out for most, if not all of the group phase.

With wicketkeeper Ben Foakes (hamstring) sidelined for at least three months and fast bowler Liam Plunkett struggling for fitness – at the same time as Rory Burns and Ollie Pope are on international duty – it will all come down to how long Surrey’s IPL returnees – the Currans and Jason Roy – are around before they too are whisked away by England. The T20 series against Sri Lanka starts on June 23, so we’ll know pretty soon.

An ongoing injury list is part and parcel of all team sports. But, yet again, Surrey could find themselves in a position where selection comes down to the 11 fittest from a squad of 29.

That will certainly be the case when the The Hundred gets going in six weeks’ time. Surrey will be losing 11 players to the new competition; although, as things stand, that includes Jade Dernbach, who hasn’t played since August 2019, as well as Plunkett and Topley, who are injured.

That’s where Alec Stewart’s planning gets even more exasperating. On top of having to find an overseas player from somewhere to replace Abbott, if the likes of Dan Moriarty or Jamie Smith – who haven’t been taken in draft for The Hundred – do well in the Blast, they too could get snapped up as injury replacements for the new competition.

Richard Gould, Surrey’s outgoing chief executive, continues to highlight the downsides to The Hundred.

“The issue is, how much time do we get to see our best players? When central contracts were first brought in the assumption was, when they weren’t playing for England, they would play for their county.

“Now they will play for their county if they are not playing for England, if they’re not being rested for England, if they’re not playing in the IPL and they’re not playing in The Hundred. That, I can assure you, is quite a frustrating place to sit.

“When franchise teams appear, all they tend to do is skim the cream off the top; their idea of a player-development pathway is a chequebook and we need to value what county clubs, or any club within the community, actually provides.

“These new teams will exist for 33 days a year. They have no player pathways. No academy. No age-group teams. No regional community projects. Our domestic clubs do so much. They provide focus and pride.

“It’s easy to underestimate the value of the county network. Surrey have developed players for 170 years. Look at the annual cost of setting up new teams for The Hundred. More money per team per year than they are putting individually into Surrey, Somerset, Yorkshire and so on… that’s difficult to understand.”

On a brighter note, Gould departs having grown Surrey’s membership from 7,000 in 2011 to 13,900. In 2020, that figure was 13,500.

To increase membership, even during a pandemic, suggests Surrey could teach the ECB about bringing the game to a new audience.

 


 

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