The future is bright for Minor Counties Cricket, says ex-Suffolk star Phil Caley

Phil Caley in action for Suffolk. Picture: ASHLEY PICKERING

Phil Caley in action for Suffolk. Picture: ASHLEY PICKERING - Credit: Archant

Suffolk’s former Minor Counties cricket captain Phil Caley, now a leading administrator, tells Nick Garnham why he is optimistic about the game’s future

Minor Counties cricket is facing a bright future, according to Phil Caley.

And the 54-year-old should know. Not only is he Chairman of the Minor Counties Cricket Association’s Cricket Committee, but in December he was elected as the association’s Secretary.

Caley, who played for Suffolk from 1982-2009 and is the county’s all-time leading run-scorer with 9,269 runs in 219 appearances, said the Minor Counties had received assurances from the ECB over its future role.

The former all-rounder, who spends several nights a week working on Minor Counties business as well as attending a match most Sundays throughout the season, was back in Suffolk recently.

Caley, who lives in St Albans, was attending a MCCA Management Committee meeting at the Victory Ground in Bury St Edmunds.

It was no coincidence that the meeting was scheduled on the same day as the four-team Unicorns East T20 Tournament, which was won by Bedfordshire.

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Caley revealed that a national T20 competition will form part of the future landscape of the Minor Counties.

He said: “Change is afoot in the Minor Counties. We have to move with the times and get the right competitions and formats in place which means changing the fixture list, so it is a busy time.

“We will be trialling a new national T20 competition next year. It was tried two years ago but financial considerations at the time were one of the main reasons it was then dropped.

“But we know we have to go with the times and T20 is a popular format of cricket and we need to make it part and parcel of the Minor Counties fixture list.

“The three-day Championship format will hopefully remain in its current format as it is the pinnacle of recreational cricket in this country.

“It is still very popular with the players who play the game and it will continue to be our major competition.

“Our challenge is to accommodate the T20 competition alongside the three-day Championship and the one-day KO Trophy in a crowded calendar which also includes the National Club competition.”

Minor Counties cricket has faced an uncertain future in recent years, but Caley enthused the 20 member counties can look forward with confidence.

He said: “We have been informed by the ECB that they have no intention of disbanding the Minor Counties, so what we need to do is to be pro-active in how we run our competitions and put suggestions and ideas to the ECB to show how we are driving things forward.

“If we do that hopefully they will look favourably on a new seven-year Memorandum of Understanding. We have a one-year extension on the current agreement which covers next year, so it will come into effect in October 2018 for the 2019 season.

“The new MoU will give Minor Counties and Cricket Boards the chance to plan ahead for the future and decide how best they can drive the game forward in their own arena.

“We are more positive about the future now than we have been in the last couple of years when there have been rumours circulating around about the role of the Minor Counties.

“The ECB are coming to terms with the fact that we are providing a very good platform for cricketers who aspire to the level above club cricket.”

One of the roles of the Minor Counties is to provide a pool of potential players for the first-class circuit.

Caley continued: “We have been asked to produce names and numbers of players who have gone from the Minor Counties to the first-class environment in one format or another.

“Over the last ten years each Minor County, on average, has provided at least ten who have gone into the first-class game.

“Some players that started in the Minor Counties have even gone on to play for England, and we hope to continue to provide that type of cricketer across the formats we are playing.”