sport

MacLaurin backs county changes

Reducing the number of first-class counties could make the England side more successful, according to former England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chairman Lord MacLaurin.

English cricket looks set to undergo a major review in the wake of the national side's Ashes humiliation and Lord MacLaurin is backing drastic change.

A reduction in the number of counties is necessary, according to MacLaurin, who believes dropping from 18 to 12 teams would make sense.

"If you were starting from here with a clean sheet of paper you wouldn't have 18," he said.

"People don't watch country cricket. What they are watching is Twenty20 and the IPL - that is the sexy part of the game - and international cricket.

"We have got to get players coming through our system which give us the best possible future and as I said it is a blank sheet of paper.

"It would do no harm at all to actually look at the structure of cricket going forward and see where we come to.

"(We need to) have a really thorough debrief and see what comes out of that and then look at the future of English cricket and ask a few questions.

"Do 18 first-class counties produce the Test cricketers we need for the future, which is the game in this country, and the sponsorship?

"I think if you started from now, 12 first-class counties all play county championship with 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."

Instead of removing the first-class status of six counties, MacLaurin, who was chairman of the ECB between 1997 and 2002, feels merging sides may be the best way forward.

"(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," he added.

"You could go Warwickshire and Northants, you could go Gloucestershire and Glamorgan or Gloucestershire and Somerset, you could do it easily.

"We are not producing Test cricketers, we haven't got a spinner to name in the squad now Swann has gone.

"Put it out for people to look at and discuss it and see what can take the game forward."