A major revamp of the Murgitroyd Masterton Trophy has been announced for the forthcoming season. A twin league structure will replace the previous knock-out format with professional players also being permitted to play in the tournament for the first time.

Fraser Watts of Carlton and Heriot’s Kevin McLaren have led what is a radical overhaul to ESCA’s showpiece Twenty20 competition.

“There had been widespread discussion in cricketing circles for a while about why the Masterton was a straight knock-out,” said Watts. “Kev and I had been talking about how clubs should be playing more Twenty20 but the knock-out format meant that some teams were actually playing very little.

“Last year, for example, the first round draw put our two sides against each other. We won, thankfully, but it basically meant that for Heriot’s their T20 cricket was over for the year. They had played one game, got knocked out of the tournament and that was that.

“The new format will give teams more games and at a higher standard,” he continued. “Each team will have a guaranteed five games every year with a couple more for those getting through to the semis and final.

“The tournament runs through May and June and to the start of July, giving us basically ten weeks of cricket. The games are predominantly on Thursday nights, so pretty much every Thursday you can go somewhere and watch a game of T20 cricket.”

The make-up of the two leagues has been determined by seeding each of the twelve eligible teams according to their 2016 league positions in fifty-over cricket. After the initial stages the team in first place in one pool play second in the other before the two winners meet at Grange Loan for the trophy and the chance to qualify for the Murgitroyd T20 Finals Day in August.

Equally eye-catching, however, is the decision to end the ban on professionals playing in the competition.

“From this year onwards anyone who is eligible to play for a club’s first team can play in the Masterton,” said Watts. “The thought process behind the decision is to try and get the best quality cricket in the tournament that we can.

“Some may object and say that the pros might dominate games and that sort of thing but it seems ridiculous to have a quality overseas player sitting on the sidelines watching when he could be upping the standard of the game.

“It is up to clubs whether they want to use their pro or not, of course, but the whole point is to try and get us playing better cricket, more of it and to a higher standard.

“I’m confident that these are changes very much for the better.”