Tom Harrison has accepted that the England and Wales Cricket Board must embrace a “moment to reset” in the aftermath of Ashes defeat.
The ECB’s chief executive has been at the helm since 2015, overseeing a profound change in the country’s approach to limited-overs cricket.
In that time England have gone from perennial also rans in the white-ball game to 50-over world champions and the top ranked team in Twenty20s. Harrison was also an instrumental voice in the launch of The Hundred.
But England’s disappointing tour of Australia, where they surrendered the urn in 12 one-sided days of action, has shone a harsh light on the state of the red-ball game.
A review of the tour is being prepared by managing director of men’s cricket, Ashley Giles, but Harrison already admits that a change of emphasis is overdue.
“Our priority is Test cricket. We want to be successful at white-ball cricket, of course we do, but we absolutely need to be successful at Test cricket,” he said.
“It feels like this is a moment to reset the importance of red-ball cricket in our domestic schedule, for us to recalibrate how we play first-class cricket in the UK. It’s a brilliant opportunity for us to come together as a game and really sort that once and for all.
“Sometimes the ability to effect change on something as complicated as our schedule is when you have a performance-related issue, and we have one now.
“This has been an exceptionally difficult tour. I don’t think we can get away from the fact that it has been another very disappointing episode in our ongoing attempt to win the Ashes in Australia.
“We have really got to get to the bottom of this once and for all now and make sure the debate is answering the questions we are asking. We must not be afraid of some of these questions. Let’s have the right balance of red and white ball, let’s look at when we play red ball cricket, the pitches we play on, the ball we use.”
Harrison also revisited the issue of England’s exhausting international commitments. No other country plays as often and the cracks have started to emerge during the Covid-19 era, with rest and rotation becoming a regular part of the equation.
Simply agreeing to a less bloated fixture list may ultimately free them from the need to do so, but would come with a commercial cost attached.
“We do have to look at the schedule – everyone knows that,” Harrison said.
“The way we manage player workloads is clearly going to be a matter of premium concern as we go forward in 2022. Internationally, when we get out of the immediate aftermath in the wake of Covid, we’ve got to look at how we manage fixture workloads.
“This is something that the chief executives’ committee at ICC need to tackle in the round. It is a difficult challenge for world cricket.”
Harrison went on to suggest that there was “a strong case” for greater cricket knowledge on the ECB board and offered full support to Joe Root’s captaincy but was less eager to engage on the subject of his own bonus scheme.
He and other senior executives are due to split a pot reportedly in excess of £2million as part of a long-term deal incentive agreement
Asked if it was appropriate to accept the payment at a time when performances are under the microscope and finances are stretched by the pandemic, he said: “That is a question about an employment contract. The board set the criteria on which we are judged and that’s a matter for them.”