Matt Prior, the former England wicketkeeper, has castigated county cricket for housing too many complacent cricketers without the ambition to succeed for England.
Prior said on BBC Five Live: “I think there are too many players at the moment earning their salaries, whatever they may be, floating around in county cricket having a nice life with actually very little ambition to push on.”
He called for the first-class counties to demand a culture of excellence from the 400 or so professionals in England, adding: “There is a huge responsibility on the counties to create that level of ambition from English cricketers.”
County cricket often becomes a scapegoat after the sort of England defeats that have just seen them thumped 4-0 in the Ashes whilst receiving little praise when things go well.
But the perception that standards have slipped is taking hold as the Championship has been pushed to the margins of the season, more and more players are withdrawn for England duties at various levels, top overseas players are increasingly hard to find and many young professionals put a growing emphasis on the Twenty20 game.
Prior, who played the last of his 79 Tests in 2014 before persistent achilles trouble forced his retirement, believes that many of these players know they have no chance of England recognition and lack the desire for self-improvement as a result.
Judgment is often in short supply at a time when media attention on the county game is no longer widespread or is largely limited to In House coverage which is necessarily more forgiving.
“The worry for me is there’s a lot of cricketers I think at the moment playing county cricket who are not looking or ambitious enough to think, ‘Right, hang on a minute, I want to play cricket for England. I want to play and win a series in Australia'” he said.
“This isn’t about winning a county championship or a domestic competition. This is about being the best you can be and going and winning a trophy for England or winning the Ashes or the World Cup.”
It could also be argued, however, that the issue is not merely attitudes but also ability levels. A heavy reliance on the private schools to produce a stream of county players also suggests that county academies are persistently failing to unearth enough players of talent from other areas so leading to a lack of competition for places on a county staff.
Prior has sounded increasingly exasperated with county cricket. He took to Twitter recently to question attitudes in Sussex, the county where he spent his entire first-class career, and indicated he would welcome a role with the county to help change the culture.
That mood was then appeased when he welcomed the appointment of Jason Gillespie, the Adelaide Strikers and former Yorkshire coach, who he greeted as an excellent appointment who would refocus the county.