Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Discussion about all aspects of the ECF County Championships.
Jonathan Rogers
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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Jonathan Rogers » Sat Jul 14, 2012 3:22 pm

Hi Alex, as you will have noticed, I read the thread too quickly, but if the point is just that Herts are especially likely to be able to field a team averaging at 179.99, then we can surely relax! Essex and both its opponents in the Minor counties averaged 178 or 179 after all. And as for this year I think that Herts were a tad lucky to avoid Essex and to play a weakened Leics in the final.

Alex Holowczak
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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sat Jul 14, 2012 3:33 pm

Jonathan Rogers wrote:Hi Alex, as you will have noticed, I read the thread too quickly, but if the point is just that Herts are especially likely to be able to field a team averaging at 179.99, then we can surely relax! Essex and both its opponents in the Minor counties averaged 178 or 179 after all. And as for this year I think that Herts were a tad lucky to avoid Essex and to play a weakened Leics in the final.
I think that's the specific point relating to Hertfordshire, yes.

The bigger question is whether or not we have the correct definition of a Minor county. If you look at the second table in the first post, you see that Essex and Hertfordshire had more 160+ players available to them than five of the teams that qualified for the Open. Arguably, they're too big (and too good) to be a Minor county.

It's actually interesting that you regard Essex as your main rivals in the Minor, who have the fourth most 160+ players eligible for them. It seems you're basically agreeing with me that Essex were a class above the rest of your potential opposition. With 102 160+ to call on, compared to Leicestershire's 38...!

I don't really mind what the definition of the Minor county is. It might be that people are happy with it as it is now. I just thought it'd be an interesting discussion to have, since it probably hasn't been had in the recent past.

Jonathan Rogers
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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Jonathan Rogers » Sat Jul 14, 2012 3:51 pm

Ah, a slight misunderstanding of your own - I have always* played for Essex!

But still, I would point to past performances as being the best indicator of a Minor county (as they used to be). On that basis, I fear that Essex as well as Herts are borderline counties at best, and need to qualify for the final stages of the open a bit more often before they are regarded as too good for the Minor. The other way of identifying a county as being too good would be to look at its margins of victory in the minor. But if it is just winning every match by 9-7 or 8.5-7.5, surely it is not "too" good. When you have a graded limit, and when the matches are correspondingly close, it does seem to me that there is a level enough playing field, notwithstanding the extra choice. (Essex could easily have lost to Lincolnshire in the Minor QF).

* well, in the sense that I haven't played for anyone else, except whilst away at University as an undergraduate

Alex Holowczak
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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sat Jul 14, 2012 4:00 pm

Jonathan Rogers wrote:Ah, a slight misunderstanding of your own - I have always* played for Essex!
I thought you did, but I misunderstood... :oops:
Jonathan Rogers wrote:But still, I would point to past performances as being the best indicator of a Minor county (as they used to be). On that basis, I fear that Essex as well as Herts are borderline counties at best, and need to qualify for the final stages of the open a bit more often before they are regarded as too good for the Minor. The other way of identifying a county as being too good would be to look at its margins of victory in the minor. But if it is just winning every match by 9-7 or 8.5-7.5, surely it is not "too" good. When you have a graded limit, and when the matches are correspondingly close, it does seem to me that there is a level enough playing field, notwithstanding the extra choice. (Essex could easily have lost to Lincolnshire in the Minor QF).
I think that's reasonable. The grading limit does help to curb the strength of the SCCU. I wonder about the limit as a limit though. Leicestershire's first choice team (apart from the one or two who were missing) were playing in the Final stages. The same was probably true for Lincolnshire. Essex averaged 187 in their last SCCU game v Surrey, so they actually had to weaken themselves to play in the Minor. I think this is a difficult balance to strike.

Jonathan Rogers
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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Jonathan Rogers » Sat Jul 14, 2012 4:12 pm

Alex Holowczak wrote: ....Essex averaged 187 in their last SCCU game v Surrey, so they actually had to weaken themselves to play in the Minor. I think this is a difficult balance to strike.
Given the general level of support shown by many of their top players :oops: not as difficult as you may think. I don't think that many (any?!) players had to be compulsorily "rested" at the Minor stage.

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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sat Jul 14, 2012 4:23 pm

Jonathan Rogers wrote:
Alex Holowczak wrote: ....Essex averaged 187 in their last SCCU game v Surrey, so they actually had to weaken themselves to play in the Minor. I think this is a difficult balance to strike.
Given the general level of support shown by many of their top players :oops: not as difficult as you may think. I don't think that many (any?!) players had to be compulsorily "rested" at the Minor stage.
Well, you need to ask the captain to find that out. He may just have not asked players, who were completely oblivious to their qualification to the Minor.

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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Sean Hewitt » Sat Jul 14, 2012 4:33 pm

Jonathan Rogers wrote:To me they are an obvious minor county and I would have thought that Leicester would have beaten them in the final if their top two boards in the semi-final (who both won) had been available for the final too (instead the Scottish ch and the schools championships took them away). (And no, I have not forgotten the 180 average rule, but doing well at the top matters an awful lot. Results on the bottom boards can be rather random and you can easily get away with or even benefit from fielding some erratic 40s instead of 160s).
I'm not so sure about that. Had Hebden or Clarke played, then I would have had to play to balance to books. :lol:

Richard Bates
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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Richard Bates » Sat Jul 14, 2012 8:14 pm

Jonathan Rogers wrote:
Alex Holowczak wrote: ....Essex averaged 187 in their last SCCU game v Surrey, so they actually had to weaken themselves to play in the Minor. I think this is a difficult balance to strike.
Given the general level of support shown by many of their top players :oops: not as difficult as you may think. I don't think that many (any?!) players had to be compulsorily "rested" at the Minor stage.
Well quite. I imagine that many players who make themselves available for matches at the SCCU stage (especially for home matches) are lukewarm at best about playing in the National Stages proper, let alone the Minor competition.

At the end of the day wherever you try and draw the line (and there have been different approaches to defining eligibility for Minor Counties over the years) there will always be "strong" Minor counties and "weak" ones. Norfolk seem to have rather a good record for some reason. And if you follow the current approach of average rating, but push it too far downwards you just seriously run the risk of compromising further the other grading limited categories.

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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sat Jul 14, 2012 8:43 pm

Richard Bates wrote:And if you follow the current approach of average rating, but push it too far downwards you just seriously run the risk of compromising further the other grading limited categories.
Correct, which is what we did a few years ago when we moved the U175 up to a U180, but kept the Minor as an average under 180.

Brian Valentine
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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Brian Valentine » Sat Jul 14, 2012 9:56 pm

This thread has implied that Herts is the test case as perhaps too strong. The other way is to consider Norfolk; for many years up till 2008 Norfolk dominated the minor. They now take their place in the open, but are arguably too weak for serious contention in the open. Accepting the blemishes in Alex's data there are 13 counties ranked between them. The ECF should be looking at drawing a line somewhere in this list of 15 that makes some sense.

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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sat Jul 14, 2012 10:15 pm

Brian Valentine wrote:This thread has implied that Herts is the test case as perhaps too strong. The other way is to consider Norfolk; for many years up till 2008 Norfolk dominated the minor. They now take their place in the open, but are arguably too weak for serious contention in the open. Accepting the blemishes in Alex's data there are 13 counties ranked between them. The ECF should be looking at drawing a line somewhere in this list of 15 that makes some sense.
It's not as simple as that in some respects.

The EACU hold an event that qualifies counties to the Open. There's no reason why they can't nominate 0 teams for the Open and 2 for the Minor. However, this year, they nominated 1 for the Open and 2 for the Minor (one of which defaulted).

There's nothing stopping them returning to 0/2 next season however, and thus placing Norfolk back in the Minor.

Incidentally, the same is true of other Unions. There's nothing stopping every single Union nominating 0 to the Open and 2 to the Minor...

Somerset could put themselves in the Minor too, but again they already have two Minor nominations, and they can't have three.

I think this is the basis on which Somerset and Norfolk, the two smallest counties by eligible players in the Open, have found their way there rather than the Minor.

To that extent, I think you have to accept Norfolk and Somerset. The problem may be just the big SCCU counties being in the Minor.

Jonathan Rogers
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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Jonathan Rogers » Sat Jul 14, 2012 10:36 pm

Alex Holowczak wrote:..... The problem may be just the big SCCU counties being in the Minor.
Some would say the problem is that too few slots are given to SCCU teams for the Open. There is no reason why the rules should not change to allow them to nominate four each year, other than it emphasises their dominance of the Open over the last 30 years or so in a way which the other Unions don't wish to acknowledge. The history of these last 30 years is bleak, with several times SCCU only being given two slots, and everyone rightly expecting that the two nominees would then meet in the final, having arguably eliminated their nearest rivals in the SCCU stages.

If a SCCU team is not to win the Open, then you would expect it to be Lancashire or Yorkshire; no one else. This has generally been the case over these last 30 years, save for the occasions when Manchester have got themselves together. So one can easily afford four nominations for SCCU teams unless politics must determine the allocation, or unless we desire so much the prospect of a Somerset or Norfolk upset that we are prepared to allow them qualification ahead of stronger teams "just in case", and/or to give some impression of variety.

(Next week: I join David Sedgwick in a rant about central venues)

Richard Bates
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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Richard Bates » Sat Jul 14, 2012 10:45 pm

Jonathan Rogers wrote:
Alex Holowczak wrote:..... The problem may be just the big SCCU counties being in the Minor.
Some would say the problem is that too few slots are given to SCCU teams for the Open. There is no reason why the rules should not change to allow them to nominate four each year, other than it emphasises their dominance of the Open over the last 30 years or so in a way which the other Unions don't wish to acknowledge. The history of these last 30 years is bleak, with several times SCCU only being given two slots, and everyone rightly expecting that the two nominees would then meet in the final, having arguably eliminated their nearest rivals in the SCCU stages.

If a SCCU team is not to win the Open, then you would expect it to be Lancashire or Yorkshire; no one else. This has generally been the case over these last 30 years, save for the occasions when Manchester have got themselves together. So one can easily afford four nominations for SCCU teams unless politics must determine the allocation, or unless we desire so much the prospect of a Somerset or Norfolk upset that we are prepared to allow them qualification ahead of stronger teams "just in case", and/or to give some impression of variety.

(Next week: I join David Sedgwick in a rant about central venues)
One could also make an argument that the dominance of the SCCU is as much a consequence of the vibrancy of the SCCU stage competition itself, as much as the supposed respective size of the counties. The strength and competitiveness of the competition makes it attractive to play in, and once this initial commitment is established it is somewhat easier to get these players to continue their commitment through to the national stages.

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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sat Jul 14, 2012 10:50 pm

Jonathan Rogers wrote:
Alex Holowczak wrote:..... The problem may be just the big SCCU counties being in the Minor.
Some would say the problem is that too few slots are given to SCCU teams for the Open. There is no reason why the rules should not change to allow them to nominate four each year, other than it emphasises their dominance of the Open over the last 30 years or so in a way which the other Unions don't wish to acknowledge. The history of these last 30 years is bleak, with several times SCCU only being given two slots, and everyone rightly expecting that the two nominees would then meet in the final, having arguably eliminated their nearest rivals in the SCCU stages.
I'm open to that kind of suggestion, although your numbers are slightly out. The SCCU get three spots in the Open. This year for instance, Surrey, Middlesex and Sussex. It gets 3 nominations (if it wants them) because it has more than 5 counties in the Open.
Jonathan Rogers wrote:If a SCCU team is not to win the Open, then you would expect it to be Lancashire or Yorkshire; no one else. This has generally been the case over these last 30 years, save for the occasions when Manchester have got themselves together. So one can easily afford four nominations for SCCU teams unless politics must determine the allocation, or unless we desire so much the prospect of a Somerset or Norfolk upset that we are prepared to allow them qualification ahead of stronger teams "just in case", and/or to give some impression of variety.
At the moment, the rule says each Union nominates 2, plus a 3rd if you have more than 5 in your qualifier. No harm in changing it to be graduated in some other way if that's what's wanted.

As I've explained, Somerset and Norfolk aren't obliged to enter the Open at all, but choose to. WECU and EACU could nominate 0 to the Open and 2 to the Minor quite happily if they so desired. There's no rule to force them to put 1 (or more) into the Open.

The SCCU has dominated the Open, as well they should. They've recently started dominating the Minor too, although there's much less of a pattern.

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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sat Jul 14, 2012 10:54 pm

Richard Bates wrote:One could also make an argument that the dominance of the SCCU is as much a consequence of the vibrancy of the SCCU stage competition itself, as much as the supposed respective size of the counties.
One could, if there were any evidence to back it up. I'm struggling to think of a way you could test that, let alone come to a conclusion about it. So it's a pretty empty statement to make.
Richard Bates wrote:The strength and competitiveness of the competition makes it attractive to play in, and once this initial commitment is established it is somewhat easier to get these players to continue their commitment through to the national stages.
The MCCU Division Two (sic Minor) is equally competitive. This doesn't alter the fact that the counties are fielding teams consistently 10 points weaker than in the SCCU, which is a direct result of not having the same standard (and number) of players eligible to compete in it.

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