Oxford MCCU coach Graham Charlesworth has called for clarity over the future of university cricket, after the ECB announced that it would resume its funding in 2020.
The existing scheme, taken over by the MCC in 2004, sees first-class cricket played by six ‘centres of excellence’, based at Cambridge, Cardiff, Durham, Leeds, Loughborough, and Oxford.
Details of the new scheme are yet to be announced, but Cherwell understands that white-ball cricket is likely to be at the top of the agenda.
“The MCC has been supporting university cricket for more than 10 years, so my main response is that I’m very grateful to the MCC for their extended support for us over a period of time,” Charlesworth told Cherwell.
“It’s potentially good news, but we’re not quite sure what the detail looks like. We’re not quite sure how the model’s going to change in the future, so the ECB might be talking about more extended coverage across more universities.
“But the financial side of things is still reasonably unclear – at the moment the scheme is fairly well-funded, and the ECB needs to decide what the detail is going to be, what the coverage is going to be across university cricket, and what financial investment is going to be.
“Essentially, it’s good news that the governing body is looking after this pathway for cricketers.”
Charlesworth also anticipates that the change will involve more white-ball cricket at the university level.
At the time of the change’s announcement, the ECB’s national performance manager, David Graveney, said: “With the help and advice [of universities and counties], we will be aiming to develop a new programme which continues to develop white-ball cricket as well as the red-ball game and provides greater opportunities for our most talented young women’s cricketers too.”
Charlesworth said: “The game is changing. There’s a lot more 20-over cricket these days, so the cricket landscape is much orientated towards the shorter format at the moment.
“The first-class game is still very important, but [the ECB] might want to put in more short-form cricket into the pathway. It’s another entry point for them into the game.
“They might keep a [red-ball] county game or two, but they’ll be putting much more white-ball cricket into the programme.”
“The ECB is trying to get really good plans in place for 2020, the sooner we get that information, the better.
“Hopefully towards the end of this year, things will become a lot clearer.”
The current university cricket scheme was initially set up as the University Centres of Cricketing Excellence (UCCE) by the ECB in 2000, before the MCC took over funding and administration in 2004.
The MCC has invested over £7.5million in the six MCCUs in the past 14 years, and during that time, eighteen MCCU cricketers have been selected to represent their country.
Recent England internationals to have benefitted from the system include Sam Billings, Jack Leach, Toby Roland-Jones, Tom Westley, and Monty Panesar.
The MCC’s assistant secretary, John Stephenson, said: “While it is sad that MCC’s investment will be coming to an end, the scheme is in very good shape and I hope that university cricket continues to thrive under the ECB.
The scheme’s future was cast into doubt earlier this year, after one of its major sponsors, Deloitte, withdrew its funding.