When legendary New Zealand all-rounder Sir Richard Hadlee invoked Sir Don Bradman’s immortal words that “we are all custodians of the game” at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on Friday, the gravity of what was discussed became immediately obvious.
“Whether it is players, officials, administrators, the media, or spectators who are watching the game, we all have a responsibility to ensure that the game is in good health,” said Hadlee, expanding on the central theme of the discussion.
Former India captains Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri, who have both kept closely in touch with cricket as television commentators and media columnists apart from being on high-profile cricket committees, were equally forthright on the need to protect the game.
“The crucial thing is to maintain a balance. There is certainly room in the international calendar for all three formats — Tests, 50-over cricket and Twenty20s — to coexist,” said Gavaskar, while stressing the primacy of the longest version.
“The emphasis must be on Tests,” agreed Shastri. “If a young player is coming up in the game, the priority for him will always be to perform at the highest level of the game, for his country. And that is Test cricket. It is only players who realise they are not good enough for Tests who decide to focus on one-day cricket or Twenty20s.”
Hadlee was of the view that the big challenge before administrators was protecting Test cricket.
“I am a traditionalist and to me Test cricket is supreme,” he began.
“I love Twenty20 cricket and the excitement involved and the new crowds that the format has attracted, but why should there be any experimentation with Tests?
“If you want to tamper with the 50-over game or Twenty20 to make things more interesting, that’s fine, because that is more about entertainment. But Tests — no one should to tamper with that,” Hadlee said.
The discussion, which began with the question: “Is cricket, as we know it, dead?”, covered a wide range of subjects that have been the talking points in cricket circles over the past few months.
Gavaskar and Shastri, who have the experience of working with the International Cricket Council and the Board of Control for Cricket in India, said the composition of series could change from 2012.
“In the current cycle of the ICC’s Future Tours and Programmes (FTP), countries play seven-match ODI series because these things are agreed on, on a reciprocal basis between boards,” Gavaskar explained.
“When the new cycle of the FTP is agreed on after 2012, you might well see something like three Tests, five ODIS and five Twenty20s in a series, whether it is India playing home or away.”
There wasn’t always agreement within the panel and one opinion often drew a quick counter, especially once the scope of the discussion was widened when the floor was thrown open to the summit delegates.
The earnestness with which things were discussed however showed what interesting times these are for cricket and how much its stakeholders care about its future.