2009 Cowdrey Lecture June 24, 2009

Cricket must be an Olympic sport - Gilchrist

Cricinfo staff

Adam Gilchrist has called for a dramatic reduction in the number of Tests in a move he believes will preserve the five-day format in the face of the Twenty20 challenge. While delivering the Cowdrey Lecture at Lord's on Wednesday, Gilchrist said Tests were the "most impractical vehicle to use" when trying to promote the game globally and he continued his push for the expansion of Twenty20, along with a call to include cricket in the Olympics

"To preserve [Test cricket's] future, which we must - less is in fact more - we should go back to the future where there were fewer Test matches, but a lot more important ones," Gilchrist said. "And where the best cricketers of the day played closer to 50 Tests in their career, not 150."

Despite wanting a cull of the five-day itinerary, Gilchrist said Tests should be tampered with "as little as possible". "Its rules, customs and playing conditions - like Major League Baseball - should remain as close to how it has been played for the past 130 years," he said. "Many of cricket's innovations should be applied only in the shorter forms of the game. This not only includes the expanded umpire referral system, but especially the mooted introduction of night Test cricket and a different coloured ball needed to accommodate this."

Gilchrist, who captained Deccan Chargers to the IPL trophy in May, does not believe Twenty20, which he wants in the Olympics, answers all of cricket's problems. "Whilst I now appreciate and enjoy playing and watching T20 cricket - especially after captaining the Deccan Chargers to the 2009 IPL title - I am at heart a traditionalist, who firmly believes that Test cricket is the ultimate test of a player's and team's ability," he said. "This is not to say that T20 isn't a skilful game. It certainly is.

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Cowdrey inducted into Hall of Fame
  • Colin Cowdrey has been inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame, in a ceremony before the lecture that bears his name on Wednesday evening. A former England captain and president of the MCC and the first ICC chairman, Cowdrey was a passionate advocate of the concept of the spirit of cricket and was instrumental in embedding it into the Laws of the Game.
  • Cowdrey's son, Chris, received the cap at the 2009 Cowdrey Lecture at Lord's. "It is a proud moment for me to be here to accept this cap on behalf of my father," Chris said. "I think he'd be delighted by how the spirit of cricket has been embraced and how increasingly it is becoming recognised as a means towards protecting everything that is good about our great game."
  • His Test career, from 1954-1975, saw him score 7,624 runs in at 44.06, including 22 centuries and 38 fifties. He was the first player to appear in 100 Tests and, en route, passed Wally Hammond to become Test cricket's leading run-scorer. Cowdrey died in 2000, aged 67.
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"For all their similarities, T20 still requires many different skill sets from the longer forms of the game. The fact that some very well credentialed Test cricketers have struggled to adapt to the game, whilst others who will probably never come close to playing Test cricket have thrived in T20- is surely proof enough."

Gilchrist spent considerable time in laying out his reasons for cricket's inclusion in the Olympics. "The single best way to spread the game globally," said Gilchrist, "is for the ICC to actively seek its inclusion as an Olympic sport.

"Without doubt, the Olympic movement provides one of the most efficient and cost effective distribution networks for individual sports to spread their wings globally. It would be difficult to see a better, quicker or cheaper way of spreading the game throughout the world.

"The Olympic movement's only remaining dead pocket in the world happens to coincide with cricket's strongest - the subcontinent," said Gilchrist. "This region, which includes India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, represents just over one fifth of the world's population. But with the exception of their great hockey teams of the past, these cricket powerhouses have received barely a handful of Olympic medals in nearly 100 years of competition.

"What better way for the IOC to spread the Olympic brand and ideals into this region, than on the back of T20 cricket? The rewards for both the ICC and IOC getting this right would be enormous."

Click here to read the full transcript of Gilchrist's speech