Sutherland pushes higher Test match pay
International cricket's future can only be secured by making it the financial pinnacle for players currently torn between Tests and domestic Twenty20 leagues, the Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland has declared.
Having returned from a round of ICC meetings he considered as constructive as any he had witnessed in 15 years as CA's CEO, Sutherland argued that any changes to the schedule or additions of championships or league formats had to run parallel with extensive work to ensure that the financial rewards for Tests outstripped the cash on offer in T20.
Outside of Australia and England, most players can currently earn far more for a few weeks' work in the IPL or BBL than their contract retainers or match fees to play international matches. This trend was underlined last summer in Australia when the payments for New Zealand and West Indies were lined up against those of the home side. Sutherland said players should not feel they are being shortchanged by putting international cricket first, meaning new ways must be found to pay them more generously for Tests in particular.
"I'm genuinely excited about the progress that's been made and the collective will that appears to be in the room among Full Members to improve the context around international cricket and the quality of international cricket," he said. "Some of the key things there are about trying to make way to ensure the best players play international cricket, that they're available and they don't feel under pressure to go and chase money in T20 leagues.
"Part of that is elevating the primacy of all forms of international cricket but particularly Test cricket, and looking to build context. Whether that's through leagues or championships or whatever it might be, it's too early to say, but I can honestly say that in terms of ICC meetings I've attended and we've discussed these sort of matters, these were as a good a meetings as I've ever been to."
Another option raised in recent weeks has been the establishment of ironclad windows in the calendar for domestic T20 events, which Sutherland is opposed to. CA have managed to engineer a home summer where the BBL runs parallel to Test matches, and Sutherland said any move towards domestic T20 windows - apart from the unofficial gap that has grown around the IPL - would serve mainly to diminish the international game.
"It's for others to state their position, but my view is that international cricket comes first," he said. "International cricket must be protected and it should be the form of the game that is the priority for players. I don't support creating exclusive windows for T20 domestic competitions; there may be an exception for IPL which almost seems to have created its own exclusive window, but to that end irrespective I still maintain the position that international cricket must come first, and there shouldn't be any exclusive windows for domestic T20 competitions."
Among Sutherland's priorities while in Dubai was to further prosecute his case for a day-night Test against South Africa in Adelaide next summer. He said discussions with CSA and the South African players' association had revolved around ensuring South Africa's players had the maximum possible opportunities to get used to playing with a pink ball under lights before they arrive in Adelaide. The former captain Shaun Pollock has raised the possibility of a day-night Test at home against New Zealand in August, before the Australian tour begins.
"I maintain my position that I continue to be optimistic about the Adelaide Test match being played as a day-night Test match," Sutherland said. "In a timing sense we probably won't have any firm decisions on that until after the IPL's over, when their [South Africa's] players get back home, but certainly constructive discussions and I think things are heading in the right direction.
"As we know from last year we'll see an enormous attendance at a day-night match in Adelaide. It'll be a bigger crowd than the South African players have ever seen before. To some extent that can add a little bit of extra trepidation when they haven't played under lights before; hopefully as part of the plan here we'll provide as much opportunity for them to prepare with pink balls and under lights both back at home and leading into the Test match. It's a lot about making sure they have a comfortable preparation to get themselves ready for that game."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig