MCC world cricket committee meeting October 26, 2008

MCC wary of Twenty20 threat to Tests

Cricinfo staff

Shaun Pollock: "Tests are the true test of the game, it's where the game originates from" © AFP

The Marylebone Cricket Club's world cricket committee believes Twenty20 cricket must be scrutinised to prevent it from damaging the impact of the traditional Test format. The group comprising former Test captains and players met over the weekend with a view to improving the game and focused on the growth of the sport's newest version.

Twenty20 has exploded over the past two years with the introduction of the IPL, the unofficial ICL, the Stanford Super Series, the World Twenty20 and Twenty20 Champions League. "The committee realises Tests are the true test of the game, it's where the game originates from," the former South Africa captain Shaun Pollock said. "We'd like to do all we can to keep it that way."

Traditional supporters are concerned Twenty20's popularity could swamp the five-day game and there are already conflicts between Test boards and the private competitions. Players who take part in the ICL are banned from their national and domestic teams, while Sri Lanka's tour to England next May has been cancelled because most of their contracted players have signed with the IPL.

"The MCC world cricket committee appreciates the benefits of Twenty20 cricket - such as introducing the game to a new audience and emerging markets, as well as bringing in new levels of wealth into the sport," it said in a statement. "However, the committee also recognises that its proliferation needs to be scrutinised to avoid a potentially damaging impact on Test cricket.

"In a year of rapid evolution for the game, the committee feels that the time is right to carefully analyse the effects of Twenty20 cricket to ensure that this short format of the game does not become the sole focus for players and spectators alike."

Ways to increase the attractiveness of Tests that the committee discussed included further trials into using a pink ball for day-night matches and ensuring a minimum of 90 overs are delivered each day.

"It's only the colour of the ball," the former Australia captain Steve Waugh said. "If that attracts more people to the game and they can see the ball better then that's what we're after. If spectators can get better value it's got to be better for the game. Test cricket has got to move with the times."

Over-rates remain a regular issue in Tests and the committee said there had been no significant improvement since it requested in May that the minimum level should be 15 an hour. "All players should be fined equally - not just the captain - with immediate effect," said Tony Lewis, the MCC world cricket committee chairman.

Currently, the captain is hit with double the punishment of his players and he could be suspended for a match if the team is six overs behind the required rate at the end of the day. Something the sport's lawmakers, the London-based MCC would take note of, as it can alter the rules of the game and use its influence to urge the ICC to change its position on other issues.