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Sussex chief executive hits back at merger idea
Sussex chief executive Zac Toumazi has hit back at a controversial idea to cut the number of first class counties by a third.
Former ECB Lord MacLaurin believes merging clubs like Sussex and Kent would help produce better players for the England team.
The radical plan came on the back of the 5-0 Ashes whitewash in Australia with Lord MacLaurin claiming the current set-up of 18 counties leads to “pretty average cricket” in the domestic game.
MacLaurin said: “Do 18 first-class counties produce the Test cricketers we need for the future? I think if you started from now, 12 first-class counties all playing County Championship for four days, with rest and recuperation in between, would be a far better producer of Test cricketers than 18 first-class counties. Some are playing pretty average cricket.
“(You could put) Sussex and Kent together for one because they are near and maybe in the south-east of England you’ll get some very good players coming through in a bigger county.”
Toumazi, right, rejects MacLaurin’s inference that England’s failure in Australia had its roots in the domestic game and also insists that county cricket’s role is about more than just producing players for the national team.
He said: “We absolutely need to look at what is going on with the England team and why things didn’t go as well as everyone hoped in Australia.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion and clearly we need to do something but I don’t think merging counties would solve anything.
“I know Ian (MacLaurin) very well but I didn’t hear him saying we needed to reduce the number of first class counties when England retained the Ashes in the summer. It is only now after we have been beaten that the performance of the England team is the fault of the counties so I find it hard to accept.
“I am comfortable with the contribution we make to the England set-up.
“We have partnerships with Guernsey and Oxfordshire to help identify and develop talent from outside of Sussex as well and have a well respected academy which has produced a string of first class players.”
The suggestion that Sussex should merge with neighbours Kent is particularly galling considering the club is the oldest of the 18 first class counties and preparing to celebrate its 175th anniversary.
Toumazi added: “It is an interesting concept but I don’t see how it could work and I don’t think it has any real value.
“Kent and Sussex are two well established clubs who both have a proud history so you can’t just merge them. Where would the team play and what would happen to all the staff?
“The idea misses the point to some extent, too, because the role of a county cricket club is to provide entertainment for the local community not just to develop players for the national side.
“Of course we want a strong England team but there are other factors to consider as well.”
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