The radical shake-up Shield cricket needs

It is no surprise that when the Sheffield Shield is booming, Australian Cricket is at its best. However, in recent seasons, Shield cricket has taken a back seat to the Big Bash as T20 cricket reigns over the cricket calendar. This has seen a major decline in fan interest and attendance which has seen a perceived reduction in development of Shield matches and player development.


With this decline the Australian team has run into a bad mix of poor form and a lack of reserves knocking on the door. So the question arises, how can we fix shield cricket and better prepare our players for test cricket? The answer may come from the Big Bash itself.


The Big Bash attracts mass attention not just because of the fast pace of the game but also the high level of international talent playing in each game alongside domestic Australian cricketers from around the country. In recent seasons we have seen retired players Jacques Kallis, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakarra and Test hopefuls Michael Carberry, Shakib Al Hassan and Kevin Pietersen on our shores. All of these players are world class, full of experience and only recently out of the game. If these players were able to be persuaded into playing for the full summer the benefit to Australian cricket would be enormous. Is it perhaps the time to move towards the Big Bash method of mixing in international talent with our domestic competition? And if so, how would it work?


The Format


Although it would be easy to simply add in international players to the current state sides, as seen in county cricket, it is important that Australian talented players are not cost matches in the attempt to enhance the strength of Shield cricket. Therefore, adding in an extra two sides of international talent mixed with talented young Australian players could help create more depth and increase overall talent.


The reason for adding 2 sides instead of 1 is to eliminate a bye situation. With now 8 teams, 4 matches would be played each round with the 2 new sides playing only away games against the current states. The format keeps out byes, enhances fan interest and may draw additional fans to attend the matches. The schedule would remain similar with just 7 rounds allowing each team to play each other once before the shield finals.


The Players


In the last two summers alone players like Kyle Abbott, Rilee Rossouw,  Mitchell Santner, Neil Wagner and Miguel Cummins have missed international matches with no substitute. Therefore, to help fill the sides, touring squads reserves could fill in gaps on the playing list, benefiting Shield cricket but also helping the touring players to get in match practice and get used to Australian conditions. It would be up to the touring side whether they pursue this option or not, however given the mutual benefit of touring reserves getting match practice in local conditions many sides should enjoy the chance to allow all players some game time.


If these players were able to play in the Shield the standard of players would be vastly improved. Although these players are able to greatly increase the competitions standard they will not be reliable in competing for a whole summer. Therefore, the two sides should have squad numbers of 20, accounting for 14 full time members and up to 6 from touring sides.


The full time squad members would be a mix of retired international stars who still wish to play and international players who are on the brink of their Test squads, such as those mentioned above, as well as uncontracted Australian players. This provides the side with high a level of talent to compete with the current state sides but also for Australia to blood some more talent.


The Benefits


There are several benefits to this dramatic change in Shield cricket. Firstly, it allows our cricketers a chance to compete against international stars, learn from them and help them develop. This will benefit the national side by creating greater depth in talent and helping the Shield cricketers to be ready for international cricket when they make their debuts.


Additionally, the extra sides allow for more Australian players to get matches and develop their games. With more Australians in Shield cricket it creates more competition for spots in the national side, forcing more players to perform. Also, adding in touring players to the squad will benefit international sides as it keeps all their players match fit and gives them a chance to find form while also allowing the best talent available to play against our state players.


Finally, with all the playing benefits outlined, the Sheffield Shield will also gain more interest from fans. With increased interest, Shield cricket can once again become a priority of the Australian summer and so help to bring Australia once again to the top of the test rankings.


  1. Nice one.

    Mate, I think the best thing for shield cricket is to play it in regional areas. The teams represent states and that makes the games marketable to big regional towns starved of elite cricket. You can’t turn back time on cricket’s evolution and the the Big Bash and crowded international fixtures are here to stay. Best for the administrators to stop being so precious about only playing shield cricket on grounds that have first class accreditation. Get the shield in Bendigo, Albury and Ballarat and they’ll have crowds again, like they do when NSW play in regional centers. And if they’re gonna play in Melbourne, let them play at the Albert ground. I’d love to watch cricket on those beautiful grassy banks.

  2. Good call Hillsy, the regional areas love being able to see these shield players any time they can and so it would be a thrill for them to see these games where as in Melbourne, Sydney etc they are spoiled for international matches that shield cricket isn’t even on the radar! Would love to see the matches get more attention but also the standard raised so that people want to watch it from all across the country

  3. G’day Scana,
    Whilst I do not agree with some of your suggestions, I like the fact that you are thinking about the Shield and acknowledging the importance of the Shield within Australian cricket as a whole.
    Your suggestion to add in two sides has echoes of that season a couple of years ago when England sent an England A team to the West Indies to play in their domestic first-class competition. So your suggestion, in a way, is not without precedent.
    Of course, the difference between county and Shield cricket is that in England there are 18 teams, in Australia there are only 6. And, I may be wrong, but there seems to be more money in county cricket to pay overseas professionals. Interestingly, there is a bunfight on in county cricket at present – the ECB wants to introduce city-based franchises for their revamped T20 comp (along BBL lines), but the counties are fighting it furiously for fear they will miss out!
    Anyway, my belief is that the biggest issue with the Shield, and Australian cricket in general, is the fixturing: the sumer’s format tries to be all things to all people, but ends up being nothing to no-one!! Play three solid rounds of Shield cricket with all Australian players available, promote the hell out of it, and it will be more relevant, if only a little more well-attended. Good hard Shield cricket is the best preparation. And when countries come for Test tours, make them play a first class warm-up match or two against the states – not this Mickey Mouse two day stuff.
    And I agree with Hillsy: every year there should be a match in Geelong, and one in Bendigo for example. But, with the Junction Oval almost ready to take its place as Victoria’s first class venue, this is unlikely to happen.

  4. Happy for any criticism Smokie and I always love to discuss issues as such in depth. The main point of me writing this is that shield cricket is in trouble and something needs to be done and CA don’t seem too interested in trying. As much as I would love to see the summer rescheduled so our test players can play more shield cricket the biggest indicator that CA won’t let that happen is this ODI series against New Zealand. We’re in a 2 week period between test series that would be the perfect time for our players to get a bit of rest and work on some issues in shield cricket and the board throws in a one day series that benefits nobody.

    That’s why I tried to piece together something a big more radical that as you said does have some precedence. I was conscious of there only being 6 shield sides and thats why I felt the adding of sides was necessary otherwise there would be too few positions for Australian players. The Idea is flawed as it is not a complete idea but a basic outline I felt could help CA given their lack of willingness to have an international break for the benefit of shield cricket. It is a complicated issue and I feel there is no one right answer however perhaps a blend of many.

    However, we can all agree that shield cricket needs help getting the games to rural areas can only be positive.

  5. Peter Warrington says

    I think we need to have the difficult conversation around purpose, too. what is the purpose of the Shield? is it to blood young talent, like the u-18’s AFL? to be the best state (an EPL approach)? a bit of both (always has been, I guess)

    I guess it got my goat when Rob Quiney was laying into Maxwell recently. and I felt that was real easy sitting at the top of the order. 34 years old and never going to play for Australia again? Victoria trying to win another shield (notwithstanding they have provided exposure to White and Handscomb in recent times).

    I think the quineys of this world – Cowan, too, and james Hopes -should either be in grade or the Big Bash.

    i know there is value in young guys mixing with experience, but if we start picking young again, the 30 year old you rom with might have had 10-12 years experience.

    (definitely think geography and demography are working against state comps, unless they are state of origin. note a semi-serious proposal that the UK base its domestic T20 comp around the historic 7 kingdoms, Game of Thronesish – this is on Cricinfo today).

    Gray Cosier not oicked in the shield once he wasn’t going to play for Australia. I think I support this. I think?

  6. Luke Reynolds says

    Scana, good to see some thinking on the Sheffield Shield.

    I’m not convinced your two new teams would have much appeal unless they could get some huge names in, which is unlikely.

    I’ve long had a theory that it should be a 7 team competition, with the ACT Comets added. 3 games every round, with the team having the ‘bye’ playing the touring team, while if there is no touring team at the time, or it coincides with a Test, the bye team could play an Ireland, Afghanistan or our neighbours PNG in a 4 day game to help grow the game. And get the Sheffield Shield out into the Regional areas as much as possible. Regular games in places like Ballarat, Bendigo, Launceston, Newcastle and Cairns would be great, while the ACT could play games in places like Wagga Wagga and Albury.

    Thanks for putting up some ideas about how this great competition can be revived, it deserves better with it’s wonderful history. I think it’s super important it remain just that, a competition, instead of just being a development competition.

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    Also, by adding the ACT, you still have geographic teams based around established associations. With Manuka Oval getting a Test in 2 years this is the perfect time.

  8. Love the discussion guys, always enjoy hearing multiple opinions and given just how different everyone’s is and the different points being raised it shows just how much the competition needs a new edge.

    I See your point Peter but I feel that if the shield sides drop the Quiney’s and Hopes’ of the competition we will lose the Hussey’s and Rogers who come in a provide 3-5 very good years of international cricket. Additionally the experience these guys bring is really important to the young guys coming through. These guys could be moved on to the expanded teams I have mentioned or that Luke has mentioned in order to create some more competitive balance and opportunities for younger cricketers but I think removing them from the state system is very risky and personally would caution against it.

    I like the Idea there Luke, I just worry that the shield competition would then become unbalanced with an uneven draw as sides are playing different teams and getting different experiences. I would love for Australian cricket to become more involved in developing nations such as Ireland and Afghanistan and they have quality players who aren’t getting long form practice in but could be very good test players given the chance. Perhaps a combination of our ideas could be of benefit?

    Ideally what I hoped to achieve was a system that is a bit more interesting that shield cricket is now but primarily a system that prepares Australian cricketers for the test match arena as it is currently very clear the difference between shield cricket and international level is enormous.

  9. I am totally with Luke in that if there is a extra team it must be from the ACT I don’t see the purpose in the other sides you have mentioned,Scana all teams in the competition must be striving to win the shield
    I will compare in to the SANFL comp in that the afl sides are about development of younger players preparing them for afl footy with winning a bonus compared to the SANFL teams trying to win the premiership how the dopey afl can not see that a national reserves comp is a must has me stuffed.i feel your extra sides creates the same problem.Ironic in Peters point about older players I disagree strongly in that as I mentioned in my article losing the older players in District cricket has hurt big time and the gap between district and Shield cricket has grown again sports administrators to pig headed for district cricket to go back to a 1 0 clock start all for some shield cricket to go to the country but not too much as we need our players to have played at that ground before playing a test match at that venue.The main problem in cricket at the moment is greed and money being put before the game so what do we go back to programming they have the Argos report it recommends more shield cricket played before the test matches and it doesn’t happen pure greed and incompetency.Any ideas re Shield cricket are worthwhile throwing out for discussion thank you

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