Future of cricket August 22, 2009

Hayden suggests scrapping Champions Trophy

Cricinfo staff

Matthew Hayden, the former Australia opener, has suggested scrapping the Champions Trophy and creating a two-month window for the IPL in order to revive spectator interest in the game.

"Playing the World Twenty20 every other year is too much," Hayden wrote in his column in the Independent. "And why have the Champions Trophy when you've already got a 50-over World Cup?"

The Champions Trophy was postponed to September 2009 and shifted to South Africa after teams expressed security concerns about playing in Pakistan last year. The ICC has been trying to rebrand the tournament as a short two-week elite tournament played at just two venues - Wanderers and Supersport Park.

Hayden, who was appointed a board director by Cricket Australia earlier this month, listed down his suggestions after being challenged on air during Test Match Special by cricket writer Christopher Martin-Jenkins to come up with solutions to re-jig a jam-packed international calendar full of "meaningless matches".

England will be playing seven ODIs against Australia at the end of the Ashes and Hayden said five matches were enough for any bi-lateral series. He also said the 50- and 20-over World Cups should be played in the same cycle.

Hayden, a key member of the Chennai Super Kings franchise, said no international cricket should be played during the proposed two-month window of the IPL, which according to him had brought the game to a "tipping point". "The IPL has the ability to generate international fan bases in the same way as achieved by the English football's Premier League. I believe some IPL matches should go on the road each year and be played in other countries, to make it a global competition. The sooner the world of cricket embraces the IPL, the sooner everyone can find ways to benefit from its massive potential."

Hayden also lent his support to the concept of a Test Championship that the MCC's World Cricket Committee put forth last month. Hayden rejected the ICC's Future Tours Programme and instead proposed a world series of the top eight teams on a rolling calendar with finals every two years. He said Zimbabwe and Bangladesh's dismal Test records disqualified them from the Test championship. Bangladesh's only three Test wins have come against Zimbabwe and a second-string West Indies side, missing senior players who were on strike. "When a team like Australia play a team like Bangladesh in a Test series, you've got problems. It can't be fun for the underdogs and it's no challenge for the favourites. Just as importantly, it's not a good spectacle."

Hayden said the core of the Test championship would be the iconic series - the Ashes and India v Pakistan. "They should stay as five-match series. Aside from those ties, teams are pooled in two groups, with everyone playing each other and scoring points for wins, draws and series wins, and picking up bonus points for stand-out batting and bowling performances. The leading two in each group would progress to semi-finals and a final, the other would enter a rankings play-off system.

"This way, every game means something - even the dead rubber at the end of a series between two lesser sides. Every Test fits into a bigger picture that adds up to a championship. It gives players something to aim for, fans a format they can follow, and commercial stakeholders with something that's compact and exciting. By changing Test cricket into something more relevant and therefore more marketable, additional revenue is generated. More revenue in the sport is good for everyone, including players and the ability of the game to develop."

Hayden was also in favour of playing matches indoor to avoid losing days to rain or poor pitches like in Antigua. He said it was important to have a fixed global calendar for cricket that fans could identify with. "Football fans instinctively know if they're in a World Cup year, or Euro Champs year. They know when seasons start when trophies are decided, give or take. Not so in cricket. A universal calendar is fundamental to all the above solutions. Once this is in place, competitions for each of the different formats of the game can be settled upon. Fans, broadcasters, sponsors, players - everyone will know where they stand."