The university cricket season is nearly upon us once again. Team members would usually be hunting down those elusive cricket whites, misplaced after a winter of inactivity, whilst desperately attempting to force reluctant muscles back into action in preparation for pre-season. However, for many of them, this familiar ritual has been replaced by uncertainty and anger, as the BUCS committee has spent the winter attempting to change the format of both the league and cup competitions.
Usually, the BUCS cricket calendar comprises of a 50-over league for all tiers, followed by a knock-out cup competition. However, due to a poor completion rate during the 2011-12 season, which saw only 39.8% of games finished, the BUCS committee office tabled a paper at competitions group, which proposed to scrap the Twenty20 knock-out cup. The competitions group felt that the proposed changes would not reduce the fixture congestion, or improve the completion rate.
Therefore, they suggested that, in addition to scrapping the cup competition, the league format should be reduced, for the men’s leagues 2A and below and all of the women’s leagues, from 50 overs to 20. The only knockout element to be retained would have been the Men’s Trophy, which would have been an end of season knockout between the top two teams from Premier North and South. BUCS stated that:
“the changes will allow institutions to fulfil more fixtures, with less time pressure… without compromising the elite end of BUCS leagues.”
However, the alterations, especially the reduction of the league format, have caused uproar in the university cricket community. A petition, launched by Freddie Hulbert of the University of Kent, on the website ‘change.org’ attracted 1506 signatures and St Andrews’ Cricket Club was equally dissatisfied. Jake Starkey, captain of the St Andrews’s Men’s Cricket team, called the changes “an ill-informed reaction to some unseasonal bad weather.”
He referred to the reduction of overs as a decision which would force “teams to play what is essentially a ‘mickey mouse’ form of cricket” and said that, had the reduced over format been enforced, it “would have degraded the BUCS competition as a whole and made the gap between the tiers… almost irreconcilable.” Commendably, BUCS recognised the unpopularity of its changes, the package was put up for revote and 57% of the 108 members have voted to reinstate 50 over cricket, although the cup competition will remain as it was in the original proposal.