With T20 leagues “popping up faster than weeds in summer”, international cricket’s ambitious but “implausible” future programme is headed for a breakdown of epic proportions, feels former Australia captain Ian Chappell. Hastening the process could be the absence of a healthy partnership between the game’s administrators and international players, he wrote in his column for ‘ESPNcricinfo’. Recently, yesteryear stars such as Steve Waugh have expressed about cricket’s crammed schedule, saying the public “has almost overdosed” on the game and the interest levels are on the wane.
Chappell, known for his sharp cricketing mind, feels, “The whole cricket structure, especially the schedule, is in need of a thorough but positive inquisition with the game’s future in view.
“There is also the glaring matter of the lack of partnership between players and administrators. Surely it shouldn’t be – as it is currently – a matter of the administrators deciding the programme without any input from international players.
“If the international programme evolved as a result of consideration from such a partnership, then it would be much more palatable than the abomination that is the current schedule.
“T20 leagues are popping up faster than weeds in summer and an already implausible programme is headed for an almighty implosion.” Amid the proliferation of T20 league, players are now required to choose which to play and which to skip, depriving some leagues of star power and affecting their ability to remain financially viable in the long run.
“T20 leagues now clash with each other and star players are signing longer-term contracts with expanding IPL clubs. These contradictions mean there will be a growing problem of how to produce greater numbers of marketable cricketers,” Chappell wrote.
“In the current environment some leagues won’t be able to sign the limited number of star players available and this could eventually damage the ability to remain financially viable.
“These are all matters that need urgent attention but the big one is to ensure the players have a voice in the game’s future.” Speaking of Test cricket, he said the traditional game would be better off if it is limited to countries that have a strong first-class structure and “culture of the format”, which teams such as Afghanistan and Ireland lack.
“Test cricket is a tough but rewarding game and players deserve the opportunity to participate in the format if that is their choice. However, Tests are also steeped in culture and that requires the countries involved to have a strong first-class infrastructure,” Chappell wrote.
“Not many teams have or can afford to build such infrastructure, as it costs money rather than bringing a return on investment. T20 leagues, which produce a healthy return, are much more acceptable to administrators.” The former player added, “Consequently, it makes no sense to reward Afghanistan and Ireland, two recent recipients of Test status, neither of whom have the grounds or the infrastructure to reasonably expect that status.
“Sadly, Test status is best confined to the eight nations who have had a long-standing culture of the format.” According to him, teams like Afghanistan and Ireland could have gained from playing a second-tier competition before entering the Test arena.
“If there is still a desire to spread Test cricket’s reach, some thought could be given to eventually including combination teams composed of interested players who represent non-Test status teams.
“Teams should still have to fulfil infrastructure and financial requirements to qualify for Test status. This would require a second-tier competition, where teams that perform well could state their case for Test status qualification.” Chappell lauded England captain Ben Stokes for the manner in which he not only “markedly lift his team’s performance but also raise the profile of Test cricket”.
“Stokes has decreed that England players bat freely, but he also has fans anticipating something akin to a T20 run rate in the five-day format. This massive change of approach has come at a time when Test cricket, like the 50-over game, is suffering at the hands of the junior format.
“Despite Stokes’ highly commendable approach, the game still requires answers to some difficult queries.
“There are two big questions that appear to be overlooked by those in charge: How many teams should be playing Tests? And why aren’t administrators working with the players in a partnership to ensure the future of the game?”
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