Contracting the business is not always a sign of progress but in cricket it could well be the saviour. Instead of lamenting the demise of Test cricket and indulging in conjecture that the fifty-over game has run its race, it’s time to devise a plan that gives all three forms the best chance of survival.
The major problem in having three forms is the congestion it creates in the schedule. This eventually causes players to choose between forms of the game, which then exacerbates the lack of stars.
There are two chances, Buckley's and none, that Test cricket can expand into major markets like the Americas, Europe, Japan and parts of Asia and Africa. Therefore it would be pragmatic to focus on programming the ultimate competition between the major Test playing countries.
By contracting to an eight-team competition, there would be less one-sided contests and it would then be possible to stage a meaningful World Championship. It may also be possible, with the advent of Day/Night Tests, to reduce the matches to three or four days, as they were originally.
By all means, continue promoting the longer versions of the game in countries where they could eventually raise their standards to compete with the best. However, don’t do it in a manner that dilutes the standard of Test cricket.
The fifty-over competitions should be held at different levels and operate under a promotion/relegation basis. T20 can be used to foster a wider appeal, and open up strong markets worldwide. This is best done on a city franchise basis.
T20s between countries could then be scrapped, and hopefully this would open up opportunities for skilful players from a broader range of countries.
And that's where expansion comes in. In the IPL, BBL etc., 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.
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.
It’s no coincidence that Sachin Tendulkar’s skills were honed on the maidan, Sir Garfield Sobers and Javed Miandad in the streets and many Australian players in their backyards.
Cricket can’t afford to lose players with such a high natural skill level. 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.