Why aren't we up for Challenge?

IT appears that the Marshall Hatchick Sunday Challenge (MHSC) is becoming a bit of a waste of time. So far this season, Clacton and Colchester & East Essex, two of the biggest cricket clubs in north Essex, have dropped out of the MHSC.

IT appears that the Marshall Hatchick Sunday Challenge (MHSC) is becoming a bit of a waste of time. So far this season, Clacton and Colchester & East Essex, two of the biggest cricket clubs in north Essex, have dropped out of the MHSC.

There are also rumours circulating to suggest that another five west Suffolk clubs – Exning, Mildenhall, Bury St Edmunds, Worlington and Sudbury – are to follow suit and either depart from MHSC or not re-enter it next season.

It's believed they want to form a sort of breakaway competition among themselves and cut down on the amount of travelling they currently have to undertake.

I've also heard it whispered on the grapevine that east Suffolk clubs like Browns, Copdock & OIs and Tattingstone may also not bother with the Sunday Challenge next season, but obviously the final decision on that matter will rest with the clubs' committees.

Several fixtures in the MHSC have already been conceded due to lack of numbers by cricket clubs all across the county. Indeed, my own club Copdock and Old Ipswichians, have been struggling to regularly raise a competitive XI to play on a Sunday.

Four years ago, when the ECB directed that all league cricket should be played on a Saturday, cricket clubs were left without regular competitive Sunday cricket.

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As a result, the Two Counties came up with the Sunday Challenge and initially it was done on a regional basis, but that led to its own problems with many sides turning up with more or less a full first team against a side that was markedly weaker.

At the start, it looked like a good idea but it all seems to have gone horribly wrong. To date, cricket clubs have been regularly conceding games, which cost them £25 at a time.

There are a number of reasons that might explain the lack of interest for the MHSC and one of the main ones must be the travelling involved. This season saw the regional leagues abandoned in favour of two divisions of strength, something that the clubs themselves voted for at the league's annual meeting back in October.

Players from clubs like Bury St Edmunds, Mildenhall and Clacton, who play on Saturdays in the East Anglian Premier League, can be leaving home as early as 7.30am and arriving home late in the evening.

Undoubtedly this is a big commitment especially for those players with families. Even for players who have fewer responsibilities the possibility of a 150-mile round trip again the very next day must be quite unappealing.

Those who don't participate in the EAPL and play in the Marshall Hatchick Two Counties Championship still do their fair share of travelling on Saturdays and for a lot of them, playing cricket the next day is often seen as an unattractive option.

Generally speaking, most players want to play just one game a weekend. If they commit to two games it is preferable that the second one has to be relatively local or at home.

Another possible explanation is that county games, ranging from junior to senior levels, are often held on Sundays in order to avoid coinciding with Saturday league cricket. Many cricket clubs have members who are committed to representing their county and this too can mean lack of availability.

However, I make these judgments and analysis with the benefit of hindsight. I am not blaming anyone for the problems that have occurred, as they are sometimes hard to envisage. The Sunday Challenge was a good attempt at creating something different and I'm all for that, but I'm afraid it's just not working and needs to be changed.

All this leaves a revenue problem for cricket clubs as many rely on the money brought in from Sunday cricket.

My solution would be to scrap the MHSC altogether and instead I would bring back regional Sunday cricket. This way, travelling can be reduced and therefore availability increases.

The type of game, whether overs or time – proper friendlies, as the older generation know it – could be decided before the start when the two captains toss up or, even better, when the fixture is arranged.

This way both captains can gauge what type of sides each has available to them on the day and a sensible game of cricket can be manufactured and enjoyed by all those wishing to take part.

As I say, these are just my views, but I would like to hear from any cricketer or club official who has something different to say on the subject. You can contact me care of The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP1 4AN or e-mail me at tepercival@hotmail.com