Is it time for cricket to take a stand?
I'm amazed how much optimism is to be found around the circuit at present. Predictions of county clubs playing out the end game financially led me to return from the World Cup expecting long faces.
The brilliant weather was a lucky break and the lucrative TV deal for England's forthcoming series against India is well timed. Even so there is a stance being taken by the sport here which says 'we know what we want and we know how to achieve it'. The question is can they?
It might prove to be a misplaced gamble of confidence and nobody is saying this year is going to be easy. Next season with the Olympics pushing everything to the side will be more challenging still.
I'm now wondering whether this is the time for our game to go a step further and stand up to players and agents who want the Indian Premier League money and still to turn out for England and their county clubs. From now on players should be told if you want to go and play as 'freelance' performers, do so.
I for one don't blame them chasing the money. It's a correct freedom of choice. But if that's the path they take, the clubs and the England and Wales Cricket Board should from next season say 'fine but we'll talk about different contracts and see you in June for our T20 and we'll pick our Test team from those who are fully committed to it'. Will that lead to us losing our best players? Possibly. But a compromise is unsustainable and I don't think it will.
Many stories interest me this season and Durham's fortunes are right up there. They could implode, as has been suggested to me, if they carry on as they did last year. To counter, the currently injured Steve Harmison rightly says 2010 was no train crash but it was clear they had lost their way. Preparation and approach appeared to have slipped. Director of cricket Geoff Cook talks of the 'chemistry' needing to return and making sure the 'emotions' are correct.
I'm backing the players to stop that slide. I think they'll remember what it was that made them the strong Championship-winning outfit, if they listen and most importantly act upon the things the right people tell them. There are some senior players who with the right responsible attitude will make them one of the two most serious challengers to Somerset who have universally been tagged as title favourites.
Sidebottom took 3-71 against Durham on the opening day of his first game back at Headingly
Nottinghamshire are the others but it will be tough for them. New exciting bowlers need to step up and replace their former player Ryan Sidebottom, who is now at Yorkshire. On the evidence against Hampshire they look like doing so, led again by the dangerous Andre Adams. There are concerns over the disruptions Yorkshire will face middle to late May onwards with England and Lions call-ups, however they will again be strong contenders.
I've had plenty of response from followers on Twitter this week to my asking why are the defending Champions not involved in the opening round of matches? I think it's an important issue as it seems many of you do. Notts, I understand, asked not to play that round. That's a shame.
Finally, I hope chief executives still believe on-field success is their main priority. Winning things does little to nothing to keep them alive financially but raising money must be a means to an end and not the end itself. That success should be with England-qualified players. Maybe you can write to your club and ask directly what their number one aim is?
You can follow me at twitter.com/kevinhowellsbbc.