Steve Rhodes was part of the official launch of the 2015 LV = County Championship season at New Road today – and believes keeping the current format of the competition is "absolutely crucial."

Worcestershire's Director of Cricket Rhodes and his Somerset counterpart Matthew Maynard together with county skipper Daryl Mitchell, Warwickshire's William Porterfield and Glamorgan's Dean Cosker were all present.

It is the 125th anniversary of the competition and today's event went in tandem with it being Worcestershire's 150th anniversary year.

Rhodes, who won the Championship as a player with Worcestershire in 1988 and 1989, feels the present programme of 16 four-day games is ideal.

He said: "The fact Worcestershire are 150 years old means everything really. I've been here about a fifth of that 150 years as well and I'm very proud of that fact.

"It is a long time, 150 years, and all of us involved in county cricket should be looking to protect county cricket and I think it is important going forward.

"The LV = County Championship to me is crucial. Sixteen games is fantastic.

"I heard Matthew (Maynard) talk about the format of four-day cricket and it is absolutely crucial we keep that going.

"If we want to be a good Test side, we certainly need to play quite a lot of games and, with the even balance of promotion and relegation, I'm very happy with it."

Rhodes was initially in a  mischievous mood when asked about the county's chances of staying up in Division One after gaining promotion.

He said: "We're tipped to finish bottom again, to us everything is going to be a bonus. Some of these sides in Division One have got twice our budget, so for little lads like Worcestershire, there is no hope for us is there!  (cue laughter)

"On a serious note, it is going to be tough, we all know that. We are going to have to play some very good cricket to try and maintain our status in the division.

"However we have a very young side who are growing and certainly getting better and if they can collectively improve, then it means the side will improve – and if the side improves, then we have got a chance."

Rhodes has a lot of respect for his native Yorkshire and expects the current champions to be amongst the challengers for the title.

But he admits entertaining the Tykes in the opening home game from April 12 is ideal timing given that six players will be on England duty in the West Indies.

He said: "Is it a good time to play them? I think it is a fantastic time to play them. They are missing six players with England and their captain is suspended.

"That's seven players out from their normal starting line-up. It's a great time to play them. 

"In terms of the contenders, Yorkshire will be another tough nut to crack. They obviously showed last year what a quality outfit they were.

"The guys who have obviously got quite a lot of money to spend will end up getting in quality cricketers and that does say something.

"Notts are always knocking around and Somerset will go well. The same old faces will do pretty well again in Division One.

"The challenge for Worcestershire is fantastic and it is a great opportunity for our unknown stars to hopefully become stars."

 

 

 

Yorkshire today announced the signing of India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara until end of May as Younus Khan will be unavailable and likely to be selected for Pakistan's tour of Bangladesh. Mitchell said: "It's always exciting this time of the year and to host the champions is going to be a great four days and hopefully we get a good crowd down here and start well. "Division One is where you want to be, you want to test yourself against the best sides and we are really looking forward to it. "There will be a lot of tests along the way but we will relish the challenge."