• Mail Sport's departing cricket correspondent Paul Newman reflects on his career

Cricket is a very different game now to the one I started covering as a correspondent for Mail Sport and it is one I leave, after more than 17 years, in a more precarious state than ever.

Michael Atherton tells how, in early 2008, he warned a group of journalists that if the IPL was not checked by administrators, it would rapidly become the dominant force in the game.

How they all scoffed. Well, most of them. I was in that bar in Dunedin during England's tour of New Zealand and, as I remember it, was pretty much the only voice in agreement with Athers who, then as now, is one of the best thinkers on our great game.

The rise of franchise cricket, and the IPL in particular, has been the biggest development in my time and it is one that, yes, has brought unprecedented wealth to the players. But it is also one that, to me, has been largely detrimental to cricket's health.

The primacy of international cricket is being irretrievably eroded by the rise of the franchises and it is rapidly leading to a wealthier but more plastic and far less interesting game.

Where is the identity in all these new teams? How can supporters form an allegiance with them when their personnel changes so rapidly? Do the players take as much satisfaction from winning a trophy with an artificial team as they do with the counties that nurtured them or the countries that have given them the ultimate stage on which to play?

Answer me this. Do you know who won the last SA20? Or PSL? Or even the Hundred? Does anyone care? I don't and I'm meant to be a professional observer.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy Twenty20. Cricket, thanks to then Hampshire administrator Stewart Robertson, came up in 2003 with a format that suited modern tastes and, yes, was more conducive to attracting younger supporters and families.

It's just it should not have been at the expense of 'proper cricket' and it certainly should not have led to a situation where the Test game is under greater threat than ever before and first-class cricket has been shoved to the margins.

India have all but taken over the world game. They have all the wealth and power but with that has to come responsibility to see the wider picture.

My fear is that we will just see an extension of the Indian self-interest that has seen the IPL grow ever longer - and even more tedious - and Indian owners buying ever more teams in the other franchise leagues springing up around the world.

We are told the ECB's controversial attempt to buy into the new world, the Hundred, will bankroll our game and preserve the 18-county system when it is opened to private investment later this year. At least now the ECB seem to have reached an agreement with the counties on their slice of this financial pie.

I hope it all works, I really do, but I have doubts. For a start, it remains baffling why, in their wisdom, the ECB had to invent a new format when T20 was doing perfectly well, thank you.

If they had given as much money, attention and exposure to a re-vamped T20 Blast, as well as the platform of regular slots in peak summer and nightly TV coverage on Sky and the BBC, it would have done just as well.

At least now the ECB are in the much better and wiser hands of the two Richards, Thompson and Gould, who created the modern powerhouse of Surrey and are the best administrators I have known in our game. I trust them to get the big decisions right - including turning the Hundred back into a T20 tournament - and I have to trust them because I want to watch cricket, preferably with something cold and meaningful in my hand, long into retirement.

And that does not mean watching the Punjab Kings, Multan Sultans, London Spirit or even the Mighty Ducks of Chigwell (OK, I made the last one up) in my dotage.

But enough negativity. I have had a blast covering cricket all over the world for this paper. It has been an enormous pleasure, in particular, to follow the England team and cover virtually the whole international careers of Alastair Cook, Stuart Broad, Kevin Pietersen and Jimmy Anderson (although I didn't expect to retire before Jimmy). There has truly never been a dull moment. From covering England winning four World Cups (and I will never forget being at Lord's for the 2019 50-over classic and the 2017 women's triumph) to the highlight of my career, seeing England win three Tests by an innings to take the Ashes 3-1 in Australia in 2010-11. Goodness me, I enjoyed that one.

Plenty of bad times, too, of course, including two overseas Ashes thrashings and controversy in the form of the 2010 spot-fixing affair at Lord's and having to fly back from India in 2008 after the Mumbai terrorist attacks.

And lots of sadness, notably at the disgraceful treatment by Sky of one of the best people in our game and a national treasure in David Lloyd. Thankfully Bumble remains a big part of Mail Sport and I look forward to continue reading his columns. You have to have opinions in this job and be prepared to criticise and that has led me into some scrapes over the years. I seem to have fallen out at times with some of the biggest names in the sport and it is fair to say I'm not on the Christmas card lists of Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff (he fell out with every cricket writer, to be fair), while the late great Shane Warne wasn't exactly a fan of my work, either.

Fair to say I wasn't a favourite of Ben Stokes when I criticised him over the Bristol incident but I'm happy to say we get along fine now and it has been a thrill to watch Stokes become one of the greatest of all England captains.

The 'extra' press conferences Stokes gave to a handful of newspaper reporters in India earlier this year were insightful and a privilege to attend.

You have to call it as you see it in this job and, above all, you have to be consistent and it gave me pleasure to see Cook, who I backed when most others did not, come through the nightmare of the 2013-14 Ashes to have the fairytale farewell he deserved at the Oval in 2018.

Plenty of pleasure, too, in seeing Nasser Hussain, who I first met when I was 15, become another of the greatest England captains, then go on to become the best pundit in the business, not least with his columns for Mail Sport.

How I hope to see Nasser, Athers and the rest of Sky's commentary team, the best even without Bumble, back covering England's winter Test tours because it hasn't been the same without them.

But fair play to TNT who have stepped impressively into the breach in Australia and India and have unearthed a cricket presenting star in Kate Mason.

It was another highlight to take Nasser's dad Joe back to India to watch his son captain England in 2002 for a feature when I held a different role in this organisation. What a great character and immense man Joe was.

And when I had the privilege of interviewing Jonny Bairstow, another favourite of mine, and his mum Janet at Headingley on their incredible life story when we serialised Jonny's autobiography. A very humbling, emotional and uplifting experience.

So, yes, it has been a joy and I'm looking forward now to using my MCC membership at last and watching England from the Lord's pavilion rather than the press box. And seeing county cricket at Chelmsford, the Oval and elsewhere (red-ball of course) and perhaps making my playing return with Chigwell CC.

I may be worried about a franchise future but cricket is still a great game in all its formats. May it prosper (particularly Test cricket) and may Mail Sport readers enjoy reading the wonderful coverage of Lawrence Booth, Richard Gibson, Hussain and Lloyd. The best cricket-writing team in the business.

Read more

2024-07-09T23:10:09Z dg43tfdfdgfd