Wednesday, July 17, 2024

PCA: Hammond documents dangerous schedule

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Photo Credit: Professional Cricketers’ Association

  • Gloucestershire batter produces video diary in problematic period in domestic season
  • Further evidence suggests minimum standards need to be introduced
  • Hammond: “This period was the hardest week I’ve had in my career, regarding the congestion of the schedule”
  • Harris: “The men’s schedule is broken and player input is needed to find a solution”

Gloucestershire top-order batter Miles Hammond has documented a ‘dangerous’ section of the domestic men’s schedule for the PCA, offering a reality into the unrelenting fixture list.

Producing a video diary throughout Thursday 20 June – Thursday 27 June, the 28-year-old captured his and his teammates thoughts that saw Gloucestershire face back-to-back Vitality Blast fixtures before a County Championship encounter at Scarborough.

The Bristol-based club were one of 10 counties who faced T20s on consecutive evenings on 20-21 June before a four-day game starting on 23 June. It was not only Gloucestershire that had extensive travel between games with Hampshire travelling between Chelmsford, Southampton and Birmingham.

Hammond was one of only five players for his county who played in all three fixtures, with 16 players featuring in the games that resulted in a brace of 20-over victories before a defeat by an innings and 22 runs to hand Yorkshire their first four-day victory of the season.

This video diary highlighted the difficult conditions the players faced, including a gruelling seven-hour coach journey the morning after a late-night victory over Somerset and follows PCA data gathered from pre-season meetings with men’s domestic squads. The research showed 81% of current players say the fixture list causes them physical concerns, over three out of four are worried about unsafe travel and 62% noted concern from a mental wellbeing perspective.

The data supported further research in full team and smaller group breakout discussions with player welfare the main concern. However, two-thirds of current male players also believed the schedule was not conducive to high-performance with the same percentage feeling too much county cricket is played across the summer.

As part of the same survey, over 70% of players said there should be at least three clear days for rest and preparation ahead of four-day games while this rises to 78% who believe there should be at least one rest day between T20s as they searched for solutions.

The PCA continues to lobby the counties and the ECB for a fit-for-purpose schedule that prioritises player welfare and therefore the future of the sport.

Gloucestershire batter, Hammond, said: “This period was the hardest week I’ve had in my career, regarding the congestion of the schedule.

“To have evening T20 games in Cardiff and Bristol on successive nights, including our biggest derby against Somerset, followed by a seven-hour drive to Scarborough on a travel day before taking on Yorkshire in a four-day game the very next day was incredibly tough.

“As cricketers, there’s nothing more we love than playing as much as possible in the summer, however, the schedule at times does seem out of control and little, if any emphasis placed upon player welfare.

“It feels like the demands on players in 2024 are greater than ever from a physical and mental perspective and the game must do more to protect those who take the field.

“We were delighted with the two wins in the Blast, however, despite the lads doing their best, it was not a surprise to see how the game in Scarborough turned out with no preparation time. All we want as players is to have a reasonable chance to produce our best cricket and feel like we’re doing so in a safe environment due to appropriate rest, recovery and preparation. In 2024 that isn’t the case for chunks of the season and we hope as a collective group, we are listened to.”

PCA Chair, James Harris, said: “I would like to thank Miles and his Gloucestershire teammates for documenting their dangerous and unacceptable schedule whilst they gave everything they had to win games of cricket for their county.

“This section of the season brought trepidation amongst all-format players since the fixture list was revealed in November last year.

“To reiterate the collective view of the majority of the players in England and Wales – the men’s schedule is broken and player input is needed to find a solution to advance the standards on player welfare, performance and physical safety.

“We accept a small reduction of cricket is not possible for 2025, however, we feel this is still necessary for the long-term benefit of players and the wider game. While this is an aim for 2026, the creation of minimum standards on days between games and travel arrangements needs to be implemented for next season before we look to evolve the schedule further.”

For the full men’s pre-season survey results click here.

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