AB De Villiers’ absence from England series a ‘wake-up call’, warns Mike Brearley | cricket | Hindustan Times
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AB De Villiers’ absence from England series a ‘wake-up call’, warns Mike Brearley

AB De Villiers is considering his future and will take a call on his future in Test cricket after a meeting with the officials from the Cricket South Africa (CSA).

cricket Updated: Jul 05, 2017 16:23 IST
South Africa's AB de Villiers in action against England during their ODI series.
South Africa's AB de Villiers in action against England during their ODI series.(Action Images via Reuters)

AB de Villiers’ absence from the upcoming Test series between England and South Africa was cited as an example, as the Marylebone World Cricket Committee (MCC) meeting witnessed its outgoing chairman Mike Brearley warning them of ‘a looming potential crisis’ in international cricket.

De Villiers, one of the finest batsmen in modern day cricket, is considering his future and will be taking a call on his future in Test cricket after a meeting with the officials from the Cricket South Africa (CSA). The right-handed 33-year-old batsman turned up for the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the 10th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), but excused himself from the England-South Africa Test series.

De Villiers is expected to feature in the South African home season wherein they host India and Australia for Test series, but he may also quit the format post his meeting with CSA in August.

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In his final meeting as the chairman of the MCC, Brearley warned the members about the players “from countries lacking the funds to pay their top players well” will see them opting for “domestic tournaments ahead of making themselves available for their countries”.

Brearley added that de Villiers’ absence from the South African side was a ‘wake-up call’ for international cricket and that it ‘symbolises the problems and tensions facing it”.

He also warned that cricket may soon get to a ‘point of no return’, calling for “rethinking of the distribution model in international cricket”.

As a partial solution, The MCC Committee has also appealed to the International Cricket Council (ICC) for having ‘conceptual plans’ in place for a Test championship, adding that there should be a specific window for Test cricket, in which no other competition would be authorised, reported ESPNCricinfo.

Brearley said that cricket is facing “if not a crisis, a looming potential crisis. And this crisis needs to be noticed and taken seriously.”

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“For international cricket to flourish, competitive levels need to be close and teams need to be able to field their best players. The committee is worried that with the spread of privately owned T20 leagues and the rapid increase in remuneration, more players from counties lacking the funds to pay their top players well will choose these domestic tournaments ahead of making themselves available for their countries. The more this happens, the greater the threat to international cricket, not only to Test cricket, but also to ODI and T20s,” he added.

“The committee is aware of the gradual encroachment of domestic T20 leagues into cricket’s schedule and the threat this poses to Test cricket. Whereas a few years ago ICC was willing to accept a window for the IPL, now the question is: do we need windows for Test cricket?”

Former New Zealand captain and a T20 hot property himself, Brendon McCullum, said the absence of former South African captain de Villiers was “another red-flag moment”.

McCullum said, “I don’t see T20 leagues as the devil, by any stretch. But it’s how we continue to make sure Test cricket continues as an important game at the same time. That’s where there’s probably a tipping point: what’s more important? These leagues or the international game?”

“The actual health of the game is outstanding but the perception in some parts of the world is that the entertainment of Test cricket is diminishing. So we’re trying to ensure there is context to every Test and we feel the Test Championship would bring that in and we encourage the ICC to continue to bring this to the table,” he added.

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The MCC World Cricket Committee may not have having direct power, the report said, but it has influence. The committee has argued for revising several laws of cricket which have in fact been included in ICC’s Playing Regulations.

The MCC Head of Cricket, John Stephenson, said, “What we are trying to encourage the ICC to do is actually follow through this plan. We’ve seen a couple of false starts with this. In 2013 there was supposed to be a World Test Championship and this year there was supposed to be one as well. We are hoping that in 2020/21, we’ll see this come to fruition.”

The Committee ended up concluding that “there must be efforts to reduce the earnings gap between playing Test cricket and gaining T20 contracts and between the earnings of Test cricketers in different countries. The committee believes that the current distribution model will, in unchanged, see the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.”

“What the committee suggests may prove to be too idealistic. We are asking the richer countries to give up some funding in the long-term interest of cricket as a whole,” according to the MCC statement.