October 21, 2012

Drop a format, or restrict T20

Administrators need to stop blaming India and collectively take tough decisions

The concentration of T20 cricket in recent weeks has accentuated a few major flaws in the game. The first and most important is to do with scheduling. The ICC has a Future Tours Programme, but it would be more appropriate to call the overall schedule the Futile Touring Circus. It has long been an unwieldy schedule, but as every day passes and a new T20 tournament is proposed, it has become not only an embarrassing joke but also a serious risk to the players' fitness.

With two tournaments - the World Twenty20 and the Champions League - preceding the prime season of three major countries, India, Australia and South Africa, it's not surprising there has been a knee-jerk reaction in trying to protect players from injury. There's a decent amount of scientific data now available to show that fast bowlers in particular are susceptible to injury when they quickly transition from a low workload to delivering a lot of overs in a day. Therefore it's asking for trouble to programme Test matches immediately after international T20 competitions.

However, that's exactly what Australia and South Africa are facing, and both teams have plenty of fast bowlers. Surely the point has been reached where the administrators not only have to revise the schedule but also to consider separating the different forms of the game into their own "seasons".

Australia's decision to recall Shane Watson from the Champions League mid-tournament has been criticised but it's Cricket Australia's statement, not their action, that is questionable. CA said it made the decision "in the best interests of Australian cricket and in the best interests of Shane Watson".

How can it be in the best interests of the player? Watson, like all cricketers who reach a high level of performance, is a fierce competitor. No one of that ilk enjoys missing the knockout portion of a tournament after competing in the round-robin stage. It would have been better to prevent Watson from playing at all rather than pull him out at the point where the Sydney Sixers have established themselves as one of the favourites to win the lucrative tournament.

The rapid expansion of T20 cricket has further exposed the game's huge dependence on India's financial clout and the relatively small pool of marquee players. The business model is highly dependent on drawcards to make it financially viable, and the number of tournaments drawing from that small pool of players keeps growing.

These two points were highlighted by the Australian official who bemoaned the unavailability of India's star players for the Big Bash League. He indicated they were needed to attract the big-money sponsors from India and the higher television fees that can be extracted from that part of the world if their players are involved. It's time cricket administrators from other countries broadened their horizons, especially with recent signs that India is finally starting to suffer a little cricket fatigue. It's also a bit rich to quibble about the lack of star Indian players in the competition when Australia's best aren't available to play the bulk of the BBL schedule.

Many outsiders are quick to criticise India for misusing its power at the administration table. However, the other major cricket bodies are even quicker to accept its money. They rarely challenge India when it wields its power in an effort to broaden the perspective, and instead pander to India's wishes.

By definition this makes the other administrations equally guilty of any misuse of power. The administrators need to formulate a co-operative approach to devise a workable schedule, one that is acceptable to the players and that satisfies the financial needs of the game. Any discussion on a grand plan for cricket's future should include the option of playing only two forms of the game, or of retaining three versions but scheduling T20 cricket as a club-only franchise model. If they decide on only two forms, then the 50-over game is the one most likely to become extinct. This may open the way for a hybrid 30-over game to represent the shorter version.

Cricket is fortunate to have choice of different formats but only if wise decisions are made about their future.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • nalin on October 24, 2012, 15:02 GMT

    I congragulate Australia for retaining a 3test series against SA without ODIs against them. This CLt20 appears meaningless and to maintain any legitimacy of T20 franchises CLt20 is important. I propose 2 groups of 6 team CLt20 involving 3 Indian franchises, 2 australian and one champion from SA,ENG,WI,PAK,SL,NZ and Bangaladesh. One group in INDIA with 3 Indian sides,SA,AUS2,ENG and the other group shared by BANG and SL cconsisting of champions of PAK,SL,BANG,AUS,NZ and WI. There will be 15 preliminary games in each group [total=30] played in 15days wednesday to wednesday with SEMIS on FRIDAY and FINAL on Sunday. [19days total] There will be 2 TV slots a day and great for tourism and legitimacy for t20 franchises.

  • Shakti on October 23, 2012, 16:54 GMT

    The Future Tours Programme is flawed,it prevents Test cricket from being played at a single standard.Australia,England & India play the game at a far higher standard when compared to the rest.The other countries receive far more home test compared to the other 3.The ICC's main goal should be to have the game played at one standard & they are failing miserably.

  • Jay on October 23, 2012, 13:40 GMT

    (cont) According to ICC CEO Dave Richardson: "Probably the biggest challenge: making sure the international calendar works, providing balance between and context for the three formats". He adds: "with the proliferation of domestic T20 leagues, there has to be a way to make sure that they can exist and complement international cricket rather than destroy or cannibalise it". Yes, there's room for all 3 formats. Focus should be to prioritise & rebalance the schedule. There are no easy answers, but plenty of good ideas. Richardson thinks there has to be "one global event for each of the three formats" like the World Cup for ODIs & T20, plus the (future) World Test Championship. So something has to give way. WTC would be a "worthy replacement" for the Champions Trophy. Why have 2 ODI tourneys? As for T20, domestic leagues create a larger & deeper pool of players, not smaller. Ultimately market forces & time will dictate which ones survive or drop off. Can't force "wise decisions" now, Ian!

  • Jay on October 23, 2012, 13:34 GMT

    Ian - You can't have your cake & eat it too! It's futile to "quibble about the lack of star Indian players" in the BBL. Because BBL clashes with the prime-time part of India's international & domestic calendar. Who doesn't want "marquee players" & India's big-money sponsors & TV revenues? Hard luck, CA & ECB! BCCI must take care of Indian cricket's "best interests" too! Like it or not, IPL is here to stay: the ultimate destination for many of cricket's "marquee players". IPL is evolving: it's becoming like the Australian Open & Wimbledon in tennis. These lucrative Grand Slam tournaments - with their huge "financial clout"- are well entrenched in the topmost tier of the ATP World Tour. IPL is striving for the same in the international cricket calendar: it's the most lucrative cricket league. Plus India generates ~70% of international cricket's revenues. Surely BCCI must have a say in the way the international calendar works. Right, Ian?

  • anton on October 23, 2012, 12:07 GMT

    I think most of us agree there is too much cricket. When you have too much you are either going to bore some people through overexposure or people will start being selective about which tournaments they watch.The international calender needs to be streamlined.

    A world championship is a must because at the moment most test series feel like 'friendlies' like you have in football. Each test match must count for something like a world championship. Most test series should be two test matches while the marquee series like the Ashes should be three match series. But each match will contribute to world championship points. Stage the World T20 world cup every year but with 14 or 16 countries in the tournament. If you rotate between Northern and Southern hemisphere, you will still have around 15 to 18 months between tournaments as opposed to like 12 or so if you stage it the same hemisphere two years in a row. T20s has to be a vehicle to spread the game.

  • Dummy4 on October 23, 2012, 9:01 GMT

    Ian is spot on. To say that only India is culprit is a prejudiced disposition. All crave for money and no one actually thinks of the game. India is talk of the town because it is the place where cricket is most popular.Therefore, it has come in a position to dictate terms. Anyone, be it England,Australia or SA , if enjoyed the position India is in today, would have acted in a same way as India is. One can exploit the other only when the other agrees by virtue of his greed to gain something.However, it is then when the poisonous game of greed,desires,temptations and compromises begin...

  • Hitesh on October 23, 2012, 6:02 GMT

    Only 'Test cricket' should be played as International cricket. The ODIs should be removed at all. The T20 should be played in league mode only (something similar to football leagues played in european countries) with a champions league at the end of the season...the International T20 should be played in friendly matches only..

  • Sony on October 23, 2012, 4:43 GMT

    First time in my life as a cricket fan, am immediately switching off television upon seeing a t20 match. we definitely are having an overdose of cricket.

  • Tim on October 23, 2012, 0:33 GMT

    I can't believe there are people who say that Test cricket should be removed. The international game was built on Test cricket. Test cricket is the purest form of the sport, and requires that bit extra to win - not only do you need to outscore your opposition, you need to beat them. People might not have five days to watch, but they do care about the result - something that can't be said as much for other forms and it is the very essence of the sport. Administrators, and apparently some fans, have lost sight of the fact that the primary responsibility is to the game; the money is to be amde from, and in order to, keep the game strong. The current limit of international T20 is a good thing, and certainly should not be expanded upon. Dealing with the proliferation of domestic T20 leagues is a far bigger issue. As for the 50 over game, its purpose was money and has been overtaken by T20. Before it goes there are other things that can be tried, such as banning limited overs "only" tours.

  • Dean on October 22, 2012, 22:10 GMT

    Although dividing the formats in to seasons would seem a good idea in principle, its just not feasible. Here in Eng we can only play the game for around 4/5 months a year which would mean that we could only ever play one or two formats at home, there is a similar climate in NZL so the same would apply to them. It would make sense to play CLT20 bi annually in the years when there is no WT20 and expand it to 16 teams. The next WT20 is due in Mar 2014 so it would make sense to scrap the CLT20 that year and play the IPL during Sep/Oct.

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