Future of cricket October 23, 2013

Should Twenty20 be Over-30s only?


On a night of erudition and deep thought on what cricket means through the psychoanalyst eyes of Mike Brearley, it was his 1981 Ashes tour adversary and now Australian selector Rod Marsh who floated the most radical concept for the future health of the game. In a discussion following Brearley's Bradman Oration for 2013, Marsh offered the suggestion that Twenty20 matches be restricted to players over the age of 30.

While careful not to attribute the idea to himself, nor even express his wholehearted support for the concept, Marsh forecast the possibility of T20 becoming a sort of long service reward once cricketers had fought through the longer game for their club, state and country. Such a scenario would lengthen the careers of those players who reached their later years with physical and mental baggage, while also eradicating the current trouble most nations are experiencing around grooming young players for three wildly disparate formats.

Among the most versatile and adaptable cricketers currently playing the game are the group still old enough to have gone through their formative years when sound fundamentals of defence, strike rotation and technique were the first order of business. In recent years T20 has increased the impetus for developing players to build up on power and learn outlandish shots well before they have established a bedrock game, leaving many floundering in first-class or Test match contests.

"A wise man said to me not that long ago that you shouldn't be allowed to play Twenty20 cricket until you're 30," Marsh said. "And if you just stop and think about that, I don't think that's a bad solution. Maybe it should be the topping on the cake after your career, after you've fought your guts out for your country, after you've given everything to the real form of the game, then you get your rewards by playing the short form of the game. I'm not saying I agree with it necessarily, but I'm not saying I disagree with it. In fact I'm sitting on the fence."

Sharing the panel with Marsh, Brearley and the former Australia women's captain Alex Blackwell, Greg Chappell said the struggle to adapt to Test matches, T20 and everything in between at an early age was the source of an almighty struggle for many players and their mentors. As Cricket Australia's national talent manager, Chappell has often glimpsed the tension between such contrasting goals.

"It's a heck of a challenge," he said. "The modern cricketer is challenged more than any other generation before with the different formats and the adaptability required to go across the formats. I think it will be very hard for most cricketers to play all three formats. It is a real challenge for young cricketers to try to develop their game to be chopping and changing so much and playing so much T20 cricket early on. What it requires to be a good hitter is very different to what it requires to be a good batter."

Brearley's address, delivered at the Langham Hotel in Melbourne, had ruminated on how cricket and sport in general could mean nothing and everything in the same breath, and how it was arguably more respectful to an opponent to give them no quarter on the field rather than to be insincerely courteous. Later, when pondering how cricket had changed, he said the preponderance of support staff and computer analysis had complicated the game for captains and coaches, while limiting a player's ability to think on his feet.

"The biggest change is the number of people around the dressing room, apart from players," Brearley said. "When we came to Australia we had a manager, a physio, a scorer and maybe an assistant manager … we didn't have a coach, and if we did it was the assistant manager who might do a bit of coaching. Sometimes I'd be worried he was getting someone to try to change at the beginning of a cricket tour when if he was going to be making that sort of change he should be doing it some other time.

"So I think the difficulty of having all these people around the dressing room, all of whom have got to do something, or be seen to do something, and for a captain and coach to manage that lot as well as the team seems to me a great difficulty.

"Cricket is much the same in the main central ways … but the emphasis on computer information could turn people from a certain sort of spontaneity into something that becomes cut off and rather external. I heard the story of a young English bowler in a 50-over match who had no idea whatever about the tactical state of the game when they were fielding, he was only worried about that the right wrist was at exactly the right angle."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on October 24, 2013, 23:28 GMT

    Is this guy serious? T20s for cricketers aged above 30? Sorry to say this, but this is the last thing I'd like to hear from an experienced cricketer. T20s are for entertainment value - athletic fielding, exciting bowling and batting, crunch situations to test the nerves.

  • Dummy4 on October 24, 2013, 20:01 GMT

    Can the ICC and all the boards from all over the world decide that they will just play tests and some ODI's in the months of october through january 15th and other time of the year play T20s and some ODIs? If some players does not like then too bad. The boards like it and also I was really disappointed to see Transformers. That does not matter because that movies made like 1 billion dollars. Test cricket should be played in winter and most of world have winter around december. Also, anticipation makes people to actually wait for any product to buy even if the have the exact same.

  • Syed on October 24, 2013, 14:57 GMT

    Split the sport into Test Cricket and T20. Test Cricket may not survive as the financials will not attract players. Most of us do not care much about Test Cricket - don't blame me, the proof is in the attendance numbers. As youngsters, we were forced to watch this sport in India as there was nothing else to take its place. Now I do not have time to spare to watch 5 days of any game, and to boot it may or may not result in a winner. And I also don't mind one bit that T20 players do not have Test Cricket techniques. Give me a scoop shot over the over-rated "classic" cover drive any day.

  • Dummy4 on October 24, 2013, 14:35 GMT

    Oh, my God! We don't need more rules, more varieties of formats, more field restrictions. Rules! Rules!! And, more rules!!! Let the talents, competencies and efforts to improve flow freely, and settle down naturally, wherever the players wish, whatever may be their age.

    Open market competitive spirit will guide the process naturally. Rule-makers & administrators, please, just back off!

    We all want just better QUALITY; not more restrictions and guidelines; which may turn counter-productive.

  • Arjun on October 24, 2013, 11:26 GMT

    @Prabhakar Muthukrishnan and others who think that the formats will take care of themselves and those who adapt to tests will play tests... If fewer young players are interested in test cricket each year, one of two things will happen: fewer players will adapt to the test format or the quality required to become a test player will drop to qualify more players. That's just the nature of supply/demand. So maybe instead of age as a qualifier for T20, I propose that it should be the number of first class and list A matches. You cannot sign up for a T20 franchise anywhere around the world until you have met the minimum requirements of 3-5 day and 50-overs cricket. But if you are playing your natural game at the age of 20 and decide that you want to be a specialist T20 player, then you sign an affidavit saying so, thus removing yourself from selection into any national or domestic squads. Essentially, you will be declaring yourself as a specialist t20 franchise cricketer.

  • Dummy4 on October 24, 2013, 11:25 GMT

    Players tend to peak between the ages of 28-33. I don't think it'd be a good idea to let them start playing a different format of cricket all of sudden. It could possibly ruin techniques and whatever whilst players are in the peak. This one isn't gonna work.

  • Rahul on October 24, 2013, 10:09 GMT

    There are some solutions which sounds sensible but are impossible to be implemented in practical. This is one of it.

  • Swami on October 24, 2013, 8:49 GMT

    Its a free market. Who are some individuals to determine what others should play or watch ?

  • Saif on October 24, 2013, 8:33 GMT

    Disagree! In fact this is soooo funny. Twenty20 is yet another format of cricket and his its own place, only some cricketers would be able to play all the 3 forms so let them do that and let them the only ones to decide on what form they what to play and for how long. Today's world has given variety to people. 20 years ago you could only think about becoming a doctor, engineer, lawyer or a teacher but ask a youngster and he'll have so many choices. Similar is the case with sports as of today. Have fun, what's wrong in having a shorter career when you've achieved everything within it, there are others to follow, cricket will always be played and that the beauty of life!

  • Dummy4 on October 24, 2013, 8:31 GMT

    @satishchandar on (October 24, 2013, 6:49 GMT):

    You are right on the mark!

    I will also add, the far-better-than-expected performance in India, by the current Australian ODI team, is partly (if not to significant account) attributable to the vast experience of all the members of the OZ team (except one) over many IPL seasons, often with multiple franchises, all over India in a large assortment of pitches, over very many competitive games.

    I am also expecting a superior performance from the WI team, when they visit India soon, for similar reasons.