Stay awake! ICC's Twenty20 blueprint will shape the future of Test cricket
'Cricket's chief executives meet in Dubai' is not a headline to stimulate the juices. This partly explains why the politics of sport, with a few honourable exceptions, are reported so sketchily.
Sport is of the heart; men in suits and air-conditioned rooms are, at a pinch, of the mind. Sporting drama is the reason journalists enter the trade; boardroom manoeuvrings can leave us cold.
And yet the two-day meeting of the ICC Chief Executives' Committee (CEC) must not be allowed to vanish like some mirage in the Emirati desert.
Brave new world: The Bangladesh Premier League is just the latest T20 competition around the globe
The press release that landed on Sunday spoke so bountifully of 'strategies' that you ended up wondering whether Haroon Lorgat and friends were protesting just a bit too much.
Under the heading 'T20 strategy', we were informed that the 'CEC will hold a strategic conversation on whether the current strategies relating to T20 cricket are appropriate to best manage the balance and long term viability of all three formats of the game'.
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Please stay awake. This is important, perhaps even more so than the item at the top of the press release, which is the CEC's response to the Woolf Review. (A wild stab in the dark: cricket's rich and powerful will decide, on balance, that they'd rather not be any less rich and powerful.)
The clue to what Lorgat, the ICC's chief executive, hopes to achieve lies in the final line of the 'T20 strategy' section, when he refers to the format's 'implications for cricket as a whole'. To which a possible retort could be: better late than never.
Balancing act; ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat has to juggle Tests, ODIs and T20 in cricket's calendar
At this point, it's traditional for
English cricket writers to be mocked for being backward-looking. Many is
the occasion that concerns expressed about Twenty20's dominance of the
sport's landscape have been met with a 'get back to your three men and a
dog if you don't like the IPL' – as if there is black and there is
white and there is nothing in the middle.
But you can be damn sure the men who run the game would not be discussing this issue unless they were concerned about the proliferation of a form of cricket that was supposed to be a light accompaniment, not the whole three-course meal plus coffee, mints and a taxi home.
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VIEW FULL ARCHIVE
Like so much of cricket's contemporary
discourse, the argument about Twenty20 has become polarised and
parodied: you're either with it (with 'it' often taken to mean the IPL
and the Champions League) or you're against it (which means you must be
an MCC-tie-wearing Test-match zealot).
Naturally, it's rather more complex than this. For the story of Twenty20's rise from the saviour of English domestic cricket in 2003 to the liner of rich men's pockets in 2012 is the story of cricket's identity crisis. It is the story of a sport that has lost faith in itself and is now uncertain how best to deal with that loss.
Don't, as they say, get me wrong. Twenty20 can be thrilling. It has opened the eyes of people who would never have given Test cricket the time of day. It has improved standards of fielding. In many cases, it pays the rent. But Twenty20 has become the one-night stand which, almost imperceptibly, takes over the apartment.
Of all the cricket lovers I know – and the span covers all ages and nationalities – not one has ever suggested his or her favourite form of the game is Twenty20. Most, like me, enjoy it for what it is.
In a roundabout way, this was what Lorgat was getting at in the ICC press release: 'Cricket is uniquely fortunate to boast three exciting formats at international level and we have recognised the inevitable need to strategically manage these formats for each to be successful in the long run.'
This, then, is cricket's chance to move away from the self-interest that blights the game at boardroom level. Test cricket may not be the easiest sell in the second decade of the third millennium. But without it, most of the players who earn their fortunes in Twenty20 would have no reputation to trade on.
Lorgat is spot on about making sure the three formats work together. But will the chief execs take his point Cricket will be watching this space.
THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS
A shaky start for the BPL
It's not been an auspicious first year for the Bangladesh Premier League. One player reported an approach by an illegal bookmaker before the tournament had even begun, while another was called into a hearing after a man was arrested on suspicion of match-fixing.
Then we had a farce involving the identity of the semi-finalists, with the rules apparently being made up as the competition went along.
Still, at least the players are making lots of money. What's that Ah.
'The commitment was to pay us 75 per cent of the contracted amount before the end of the tournament,' said Duronto Rajshahi and Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim. 'But we haven't received anything of that sort. We got some of the money but not the said amount.'
OK, well surely the locals will have learned useful lessons from the BPL's legion of foreign mercenaries, sorry, stars
'Definitely there are good things to pick up from the foreign players,
but also there are things that have been negative that is going on,'
explained Mushfiqur. 'Whoever can get out of this with cricket in their
mind, will do good in the future.' Curiouser and curiouser…
Famous face: Pakistan star Shahid Afridi (left) reacts after taking a wicket for Dhaka Gladiators in the BPL
Srikkanth lashes out
If, in the weirdest of parallel universes, the Top Spin were an Indian selector, we would probably from time to time lose our temper too. But Kris Srikkanth may have chosen the wrong target when he told a TV reported to 'shut up' during an impromptu press conference following the announcement that Virender Sehwag had been rested from the Asia Cup squad.
Thanks to Cricinfo, you can see the exchange here.
But it was just as notable for the kind of statements that have been giving the Indian hierarchy a questionable name ever since last year's World Cup triumph.
In England, said Srikkanth, India 'got battered a bit because of injury problems', as if it was that simple. In Australia, 'probably the batting did not click properly' (check the bowling figures, Kris: they were pretty grim too).
As for his outrage at journalists questioning the validity of a fitness bulletin, perhaps Srikkanth should have sat through last summer's tour of misinformation in England. Then he might have grasped the scepticism.
Something to smile about
Mind you, Virat Kohli can bat a bit. If you haven't seen highlights on Youtube yet of his unbeaten 133 off 86 balls in the CB Series against Sri Lanka at Hobart, you've missed a treat.
Give us a smile: India batsman Virat Kohli (left) has finally flashed his pearly whites
There were plenty of highlights, not least his one-man destruction of Lasith Malinga (7.4-0-96-1). But our favourite bit came when Kohli reached three figures. And smiled.
Kohli has been in danger of combining skill and scowl, talent and temper. At times, he has resembled the angriest man in world cricket, a white-van man accidentally transported to the cricket field. But here was sheer pleasure. And he looked all the better for it.
Jesse Ryder – a marked man
As sure as day/night follows day, Jesse Ryder has landed himself in a whole lot of bother again.
Which is to say he had a drink while recovering from an injury (split webbing in his hand) and failed to walk away while he and New Zealand seamer Doug Bracewell were being abused in a bar by the kind of fan who thinks public figures are not actually human beings with feelings but punch-bags for their own inadequacies.
Ryder, who last week upset Craig
McMillan for his part in a needless Twenty20 defeat against South
Africa, was promptly dropped ahead of the third one-day international,
and has since been the subject of inevitable public hand-wringing by the
great and the good of New Zealand cricket.
no question he's been a naughty boy in the past. But on this occasion,
you did wonder whether the bloke deserves a break.
Swashbuckling: Jesse Ryder's (left) attacking batting has won him many fans but he has often been in trouble
Test cricket – please give generously
We suspect you like Test cricket, which is why we suspect you'll be keen to support the making of a film called Death of a Gentleman – a documentary about the state of the five-day game involving interviews with, among others, Rahul Dravid, Steve Waugh and Haroon Lorgat, plus dawn raids on the homes of Dickie Bird and Brian Close.
The brains and brawn behind the project are Sam Collins and Jarrod Kimber, perhaps known to a couple of you as the Two Chucks.
They tell me they’re running out of money. They also tell me their film’s going to be really good/save Test cricket.
If you want to know more or even help out, check out their website for some teasers or visit their funding page. You have nothing to lose but your dignity.