A couple of major changes of tack proposed during the week have the cricket world resembling an America’s Cup race rather than a game played on manicured green fields.
First, CEO James Sutherland was musing about the day an Australian Test team would be competing in one part of the world while the T20 side was performing elsewhere. If that wasn’t enough to satiate the appetite for irony the BCCI then conjured up the notion of a string of ODIs against Australia disappearing into thin air and two Test matches and three fifty-over games magically appearing in their place.
It seems the explosive growth in domestic T20 attendances has suddenly swayed Cricket Australia (CA) from the idea that Test is priority number one and other forms of the game fall into line. While a number one Test ranking and a couple of ODI losses to Zimbabwe has caused amateur Indian magicians to think they’re Merlin.
Let’s consider the proposition of CA’s CEO. The weakness in the proposal is it would hinder the best players and reward one-dimensional cricketers. For example take a young all-rounder like Stephen Smith; presumably his preference would be to play all internationals that involve Australia. He has the skills to succeed in this endeavour but with Sutherland’s proposition, he’d be forced to choose between playing in a Test series or a T20 tournament.
Any player who has the desire to excel in both the long and short forms of the game should be encouraged to do so, rather than being forced to choose between the two at an early stage in his career. A player who only wants to play in the shortest form of the game is either nearing retirement, lacking in some fundamentals or has a flaw in his temperament. This flaw will eventually surface in even the shortest form of the game and once it’s exposed, players will circle like a shark scenting blood in the water.
There’s also the paying public to consider. Even if a good proportion of a T20 audience is attending mainly for the entertainment there are still a number who go to enjoy the cricket skills. Smith is the type of player who is a big drawcard for cricket fans because they’re almost certain to see him performing at least one of his skills on any given day.
Forcing Smith to choose between Test matches and T20 is going to rob one set of fans of an opportunity to see a good cricketer.
Then there’s the vital question. Who is going to decide where the talented player performs?