July 1, 2012

Contract the schedule

If Tests are limited to the top eight teams, T20s to clubs and a relegation system is introduced in ODIs, all three formats could survive and cricket could gain a broader talent pool

Instead of lamenting the demise of Test cricket and indulging in conjecture that the 50-over game has run its race, it's time to formulate a plan that gives all three forms their best chance of survival. The answer could be contraction. Contracting the business is not always a sign of progress but in cricket's case it could well be the saviour of the game.

The major problem in having three forms of the game is the congestion it creates in the schedule. This leads to players choosing between forms of cricket, which exacerbates the lack of star attractions in the game.

There are two chances, Buckley's or none, that Test cricket can expand into major markets like the Americas, Europe, Japan, and parts of Asia and Africa where it isn't already played. Therefore, it would be pragmatic to concentrate on programming the ultimate competition between the major Test-playing countries.

By contracting to an eight-team competition there would be fewer one-sided contests and it would then be possible to conduct a meaningful world championship. It may also be possible through day-night Tests to reduce the matches to three or four days' duration, as they were originally. By taking this option you might not save Test cricket, but at least the administrators wouldn't be guilty of an inside job if it does eventually perish.

By all means continue promoting the longer versions of the game in countries where, with proper nurturing, they could eventually raise their standard to compete with the best. However, don't do it in a manner that dilutes the standard of Test cricket.

The 50-over competitions should be conducted at different levels and should operate on a promotion/relegation basis. That way it becomes obvious when a team is ready for the highest level or another is going through a bad era and needs to drop down a grade. It means fewer one-sided contests that do cricket harm by promoting the less endearing aspects of the game on television.

T20 can be used to foster a wider appeal and open up strong markets in places like the Americas, Europe, Japan and Malaysia. This is best done on a city-franchise basis so that teams in, say, Florida, Amsterdam, Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur have a chance of competing on an equal footing with sides from Mumbai and Melbourne. T20 internationals between countries could then be scrapped, and hopefully this will open up opportunities for skilful players from a much broader range of countries.

And that's where expansion comes in. In the IPL, the BBL, or any other competition ending in "L", apart from the local stars, it's the same players who spark the headlines and attract big contracts. The game can't continue to expand unless it finds a way to produce more top-class players from a broader pool.

By all means continue promoting the longer versions of the game in countries where, with proper nurturing, they could eventually raise their standard to compete with the best. However, don't do it in a manner that dilutes the standard of Test cricket

Taking advantage of the franchise system by producing players via academies based in potentially productive regions like Afghanistan and parts of Europe could broaden the pool of excellence.

There's also a need to come up with better ways to produce top-class players. It's no coincidence that Sachin Tendulkar's great skills were honed on the maidan, Sir Garfield Sobers' and Javed Miandad's in the streets, and numerous Australian cricketers' in their own backyards. They all improved by learning how to survive and prosper in numerous pick-up matches rather than spending hours in structured net sessions.

I recall watching a young bloke hook, pull and cut with impunity while facing a tennis ball skimming off a film of water at 150kph on a Barbados beach.

"What first-class team does he play for?" I asked one of the players.

"Man, this is the only cricket he plays," came the response.

Cricket can't afford to lose players with such a high natural skill level. The game needs to at least give those players a pathway to succeed at higher levels.

To find more skilful players from a broader spread of countries and promote more competitive matches, cricket might need to contract the schedule but not the different forms of the game.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • a on July 4, 2012, 15:20 GMT

    Since 1984 I have been an ardent cricket fan, In the nineties I used to tell all my friends that TEST cricket is ultimate real cricket snubbing ODIs but when in 2000s specially since the IPL 1 . I changed my mind , by observing the entertainmet we get through t20s domestic competition. My sugestions to ICC and the cricket administrators is .to give and axe to ODIs and all 50/40 over cricket. cricket is played between bat and ball. We as a spectator want pure entertainment. which t20s give by a long margin compare to test and ODI. please ICC stop ODI we dont want really it give us sleep during the matches. Keep TEsts and t20s and then .depending upon the public opion Icc must axe test cricket also. like soccer we will be having t20s which gives chace to smaller crickiting nations to come up. by looking at tests no country like to play thats why since 1887 there are only 10 nations which play test becoz it is very boring. If icc axe test and Odi. then you will see soccer will be second

  • Dummy4 on July 4, 2012, 1:11 GMT

    Thank you sir!

    Let us recognize and acknowledge what (most) audience and players "really want" - more of DOMESTIC T20s in every country - India, Australia...!

    Let us be gracious and allow the "most attractive of all cricket" - Domestic T20 Championship SPACE to breathe and deliver.

    Free the Domestic T20s from the tyranny of congested International schedule of largely boring test matches and ODIs.

    Create enough room in the calendar so that the major cricket playing countries can have their Domestic T20s and International stars can join it.

    Let Test Cricket be limited to - one International Test Championship a year - to be completed in a max of 2 months.

    Let ODI Cricket be limited to - one International ODI Championship a year - to be completed in a max of 2 months.

    Keep at least 6 months (+1 for CL) a year free so that countries can have their domestic T20 Championship free of distractions.

    This is the BEST way to move forward in my opinion.

  • Jay on July 3, 2012, 14:31 GMT

    Ian - Focus should be to prioritise & rebalance the schedule, not just "contract the schedule"! Case in point: The Top 2 Test sides, Eng & SA, soon play 3 Tests & a lopsided 5 ODIs/3 T20s. Misplaced priorities. To make matters worse, there's the Pom-Aussie series of 5 ODIs just ahead of the more relevant duel for the Test crown! Boneheads!! If ICC & the boards, especially ECB, really mean to "save Test cricket" then why such a stupid schedule in prime-time cricket season? (Don't forget the Olympics!) No wonder the "congestion"! Importantly, will not the Pom-Aussie ODIs "dilute the standard of Test cricket": the Ashes? Or is preparing for the faraway 2015 ODI WC more urgent? Which is it, Ian? It's so obvious. Yet, you don't even recognise this logjam! Couldn't they have made it 4-5 Tests & reduced the 13 ODI-T20s? Even dropped the Aussie tour? No, don't blame IPL/BCCI or Euro for this logjam. Yes, the cricket calendar is sustainable: Just have to prioritise & rebalance it! Get it, Ian?

  • John V on July 3, 2012, 11:57 GMT

    I wonder how we can improve the standard and nurture the game in Associate countries by not allowing any of them play the 10 Test-playing countries. There is already a 4-day competition for Associates and, say, every 2 years the winner of the competition should be allowed play the lowest-ranked test-playing country in a 3-match 5-day series with the winners having test status and the losers playing in the 4-day league. Neither Bangladesh nor Zimbabwe are setting the world alight in their test matches while Ireland and Afghanistan have already ODI status and are surely entitled to have some access to the big league, at least for a 2-year period where they could play 3 or 4 test matches if not a full series. If they prove not good enough then they will revert to the 4-day league at the expense of the winners of that competition.

  • Dummy4 on July 3, 2012, 11:35 GMT

    For all three forms of the game to survive at the same time it is important that scheduling is done in a proper way, meaningless ODI matches should be scrapped, teams shouldnt play cricket for the sake of revenue, etc; for Test cricket to prosper the quality of pitches needs to be looked at. To spread the game in other countries it will be good if top teams like India, Australia, SA etc play matches in neutral venues so that cricket gets more exposure in other countries. I have my doubts about Day night test cricket but the world test championship is a good idea

  • a on July 2, 2012, 19:24 GMT

    Cricket is ruinning itself ,Why dont cricket administrators stick to one foramt of the game. Why they have 3 formats I suspect many more formats are in pipeline, Why dont they make a format which can never be changed. Look at Soccer and Tennis. No new rules no new formats since 100s of years those formats have been stood as it was. Now what the heck , I beg to the administrator, Please axe this meaningless ODIS forever. Keep test matches and T20s

  • Noman on July 2, 2012, 13:37 GMT

    I totally second Srikanth when he says that cricket should honour tradition much more than it does. Unscheduled series should not be allowed and teams should play each other at pre-determined intervals. Additionally I believe teams should be divided into 3 groups of 5 each for test matches with biennial promotion/relegation and top 2 groups gaining proper test recognition. That'll pave way for teams like Ireland and Afghanistan to work harder and have a way forward, whereas it'll keep teams like Bangladesh and WI on toes to keep their status intact and will instill some fear in India to protect their test side from falling into to the second tier. Cheers!

  • Rayner on July 2, 2012, 13:11 GMT

    our problem in England is self(board) made since the big money sky deal, all the counties get a huge handout from the ECB(themselves) then they immidiatley spend this on buying themselves a huge, pointless(and probably ugly) new pavillion and loads of extra seating with the view of becoming an international venue, they then sit in their EBC meeting and moan that they have the stadium and want some international cricket, it's of course unfair to visiting teams to not play at lords so we then have to have a whole bunch of pointless odis to service the moaning counties. we'd have been better off leaving the cricket on free to air TV and be without the money and with the whole country being able to watch cricket of all levels all the time, then we'd probably sell more tickets, especially to county games.

  • Rayner on July 2, 2012, 12:49 GMT

    I don't know if we need a t20 franchise system around the world really. How about just getting rid of the meaningless matches. It sounds so simple but let's get the test league started, all teams casn play each other on rotation 3 home & away tests per 4 years(5/4 match series can just have a 3 of tests that are counted towards them) less arduousley long odi series, 5 at very most thanks and more focus on the WC. 3 t20is per series with the wc every 4 years. get rid of champs troph. a 1 month gap for the IPL, shortened from its current length. Every team playing 4 series per year is then possible, 3 tests, 3 odis, 3 t20is(5 matches if boards agree, ie ashes) then you get the series winner as well, perhaps an ICC leaderboard for total tour wins covering all 3 formats?

  • Jon on July 2, 2012, 12:32 GMT

    The biggest threat to the global game is the IPL and the ICC needs to decide sooner or later whether to embrace it or ban it. ODI cricket and to a lesser extent test cricket are going to fade away if the top players are absent and playing IPL. Altough I do hate the IPL, it is more damaging to ignore it and talk down about it because it is not going to go away. IMO T20 should be restricted to domestic leagues and the IPL should be given a month long window. The clash of IPL and international cricket will constantly throw up problems and who can really blame players for taking the money on offer. In terms of the test matches I would hate to see BD removed as they are finally beginning to produce players of real class ( Shakib, Rahim, Tamin). At the end of the day it took Sri Lanka a while to develop and look at how they came good in the end. I belive that if the public interest is there then sooner or later BD will come good. I fear more for WI than any other side at present.

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