Andrew Gale believes England are being asked to succeed at next year’s Twenty20 World Cup despite the fact there is no quality franchise competition in this country for their players to gain vital skills and exposure.
The Yorkshire captain said the national team will be expected to perform at the tournament in India next Spring even though there is no equivalent in England of the Indian Premier League or the Australian Big Bash.
Gale, who wants an EPL to help pull in the crowds and prevent English cricket being left behind, said he sympathised with the England players.
“Some of those players don’t actually play that much Twenty20 cricket,” he said. “A lot of them are not actually playing in the current English competition, the T20 Blast, and yet they’re expected to perform in the next World Cup.
“Unless you’re a specialist like Eoin Morgan and you can go to the IPL, how do you ever get better at T20?
“Everyone would benefit from an EPL – we’d see more money coming into the game, bigger crowds, and the England players would be tested against the best players in the world – and we’re probably getting left behind a bit.”
Gale would scrap the T20 Blast in its present form and replace it with an EPL of 10 franchises who would operate in a set window during the season at Test grounds such as Headingley.
He said cash from the competition could be split among the 18 counties, who could contest a scaled-down T20 tournament at outgrounds such as Scarborough to help aspiring players reach franchise standard.
“The EPL would replace the Blast, but I’d have some sort of T20 competition on at the same time in the background,” said Gale.
“Otherwise, how would you ever develop players to get into that franchise system?
“It could be a scaled-down Blast with fewer fixtures – say six or eight per team – and perhaps regionalised and played at outgrounds.
“With some counties merging for the purposes of the EPL, you’d have a lot of players sat around for three weeks during the season otherwise.”
Gale is open-minded to the idea of Yorkshire merging with another county to create a franchise.
“I don’t think you’d have Yorkshire merging with Lancashire, because you’d want to play at established Test grounds,” he said.
“It might be more realistic for Yorkshire and Durham to merge, for example, but the point is, a franchise system would work as a spectacle.
“Some might say, ‘Would people drive from Durham to watch a franchise game at Headingley?’
“I think they would, because if you had the likes of de Villiers, Dhoni, Starc and Johnson playing, you’d think, ‘You know what, I’ll drive two hours to go and watch that, it’s going to be a right spectacle with a full house there’.”
The prospect of an EPL has long bubbled in the background.
The Indian and Australian versions clearly benefit from big crowds, good weather, and, in the Australian case, free-to-air television coverage, but Gale sees no reason why an English tournament could not compete.
“The bottom line is, if you got the big names coming here, the likes of your Dhonis, your Kholis and your de Villiers, that’s going to fill the ground at Headingley, and the cricket would be of excellent standard,” he said.
“It would be just as good, if not better, than the Big Bash, for example, and there’s no reason why it couldn’t work.
“The big problem at the moment with the Blast is that it’s spread out and you can’t get overseas players to commit for four or five months, and the key is getting the international players.
“At the minute, I don’t think there’s the money there and with the time period, it just doesn’t sit right, but if the rest of the world saw it as a quality competition, people would be going, ‘I want to go and play in the EPL’.”
Gale admitted he “probably wouldn’t get a gig” in an EPL, but he has put his name forward for the Pakistan Super League, which takes place in February, along with county teammates Adil Rashid, David Willey and Tim Bresnan.
Although by no means certain that any of them will be hired by the five franchises, who will contest games in Dubai and Sharjah, Gale thought he would give it a go.
“It’s a bit of a wild card,” he said. “My agent said, ‘Why don’t you put yourself forward?’, and I said, ‘Well, no one’s really going to pick me. I scored short of 300 runs last year in Twenty20.’
“I didn’t tear it up like some players, but I didn’t do that badly, and it all depends on availability whether I get picked or not.
“But, if I do, it’s a fantastic opportunity because I’m not the captain of Yorkshire in the one-day stuff anymore, so I’ve got to put my name in the hat for a place in the side.
“If I could do well, I could take that form into the season and give Leesy (one-day captain Alex Lees) and Dizzy (first-team coach Jason Gillespie) a headache, because I still want to play white-ball cricket for Yorkshire.”
Gillespie today lead Adelaide Strikers for the first time as they open their Big Bash campaign at home to Melbourne Stars.
Rashid is in the Adelaide squad, while ex-Yorkshire all-rounder Glenn Maxwell is in the Melbourne ranks.