Vaughan admits to Twenty20 concerns
Michael Vaughan fears a new Twenty20 competition giving Yorkshire and their fellow counties the chance to win a staggering £2.5m could have a damaging effect on Test and first-class cricket.
Speaking after England clinched a Test series victory over New Zealand yesterday, Vaughan said the prize money at stake in the new Twenty20 Champions League could tempt counties to prioritise Twenty20 over the County Championship, with possible adverse consequences for the Test match game.
Clubs receive £100,000 for winning the Championship compared with the vast riches on offer in the eight-team Champions League, which is due to start in the autumn and feature the finalists from England's Twenty20 Cup.
While welcoming the spice the Champions competition will add to the domestic Twenty20 tournament, Vaughan warned of the potential harm it could cause to traditional cricket.
"My only fear is that it (the Twenty20 Cup) will become the ultimate competition because it (the Champions League) is such a carrot at the end of the summer," said Vaughan, who is in line to play in Yorkshire's opening Twenty20 Cup match against Derbyshire at Headingley Carnegie on Thursday.
"Counties might start developing the Twenty20 team as the ultimate importance, rather than developing the four-day team.
"There's a lot of money at stake for both players, counties and authorities, but I just hope that the ultimate county team is not the Twenty20 team but the four-day team and the 50-over team. That's where you get your ultimate test."
Vaughan's comments are sure to dampen the euphoria of the England and Wales Cricket Board, who have helped set up a Champions League scheduled to take place over a 10-day period in the autumn in India or the Middle East.
In addition to England's Twenty20 finalists, the competition will feature the top two Twenty20 teams from Australia, the Indian Premier League and South Africa, already confirmed as Victoria and Western Australia, Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings, and Titans and KwaZulu Natal Dolphins respectively.
The fine details of the league have yet to be confirmed – in particular whether rebel Indian Cricket League players and their counties would be allowed to take part.
As only a handful of counties do not have ICL connections, however, it seems likely a line will be drawn in the sand leaving the likes of Yorkshire and their ICL pace bowler Rana Naved-ul-Hasan free to participate.
There is also the thorny issue of a potential conflict for those players involved with more than one Twenty20 team.
Whatever is decided, the way now seems clear for the creation of a haves and have-nots divide in county cricket as the sport lurches ever closer towards a footballing mentality.
There must also be significant implications for each county's ability to host/sustain international cricket as some counties start to become richer than others due to their on-field success.
ECB chairman Giles Clarke welcomed the new competition, saying: "We are extremely grateful to our great friends from Australia, India and South Africa for their hard work and determination to get this tournament off the ground.
"The Twenty20 Cup will be even more fiercely contested this season in the knowledge that the two teams who reach the final will qualify for the Champions League and the chance to win US$5 million."
While Clarke advocates the merits of Twenty20, Vaughan's No.1 priority remains creating an England Test side capable of challenging Australia.