Should T20Is be scrapped to give Test cricket a bigger window?
Fears are growing over Test cricket’s fate as Boards around the world lean more towards T20 internationals for commercial purposes. And an increasing number of Sri Lanka cricketers are voicing their concern about the future of the longer format.
Playing their first series in seven months in New Zealand, Test skipper Dimuth Karunaratne and former Test skipper Angelo Mathews expressed their disappointment over fewer Tests. Sri Lanka played just six last year and there are five this year, all of which are part of the World Test Championships.
Following the first day’s play of the first Test between Sri Lanka and New Zealand currently being played in Christchurch, Mathews said “Everyone’s talking about Test cricket dying, but we’re not doing any good for Test cricket playing only five Tests a year. Hopefully, we’ll get more matches this year. Five feels like not enough.”
Similar sentiment were shared by Sri Lanka skipper Karunaratne ahead of the team’s departure to New Zealand.
”It’s really frustrating,” he told the Sunday Times in February.
“We need matches to keep performing but sadly we don’t prioritise Test cricket like other countries do. We have only five matches this year. It’s sad, but this is how it has been.”
“In fact, I have asked the Board to get us more matches outside the Test Championships that will help our boys to get good rankings and even reach personal milestones,” he continued.
“I would love to play 100 Tests but the way things are, it needs at least four more years to do that.”
As a solution Mahela Jayawardena, Sri Lanka Cricket’s (SLC) Consultant Coach and ICC Cricket Committee Member, says bilateral T20s should be completely scrapped to give more weight to the longer format.
Sri Lanka no longer plays three-match Test series. This is primarily due to the tendency to increase revenue by playing T20s series instead of the third Test. SLC says it’s difficult to play three-match series due to tight international calendar.
“I think T20 internationals should be done away with,” Jayawardena said.
“There are enough and more T20 leagues around the world and players are getting enough opportunities. True, the Boards want to maximize their earnings but, by doing so, they are killing the longer format. This is where the ICC can come in and support these poorer nations financially to cover the losses.”
Former Indian coach Ravi Shastri shared a similar sentiment last year when he said the T20 format is not meant for bilateral series between international teams and that fast-paced cricket should be restricted to franchise and the World Cup.
“Yes, absolutely, there’s too much of bilateral stuff going on in T20 cricket,” Shastri was quoted as saying by cricinfo.com last June.
“I’ve said that [before], even when I was the coach of India, I could see it happening in front of my eyes. It should go the football way, where, in T20 cricket, you just play the World Cup. Bilateral tournaments – no one remembers.”
Under the current FTP cycle (2023-2027) the 12 Full Members will play 777 international matches (173 Tests, 281 ODIs, and 323 T20Is) in the next four-year period. That’s not counting ICC tournaments, of which there is one every year. However, Sri Lanka will only play 25 Test matches during the four-year cycle, a drastic drop from the previous cycle where Sri Lanka played 43 Test matches.
Meanwhile, issuing a statement, the MCC World Cricket Committee (WCC) said the game has reached an important crossroads and asked the game’s leaders to intervene urgently to ensure international and franchise cricket can thrive together harmoniously.
“The men’s cricket schedule in 2023 is saturated with franchise competitions, which overlay and compete with the ICC Future Tours Programme (FTP) of bilateral international cricket, recently released until 2027,” the statement reads.
“The only gap in the combined schedules this year is in October and November, when the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup takes place in India. This trend is repeated annually, with constant overlap between international and franchise cricket, and the only clear air created for ICC Global tournaments. Of the domestic tournaments, only the Indian Premier League commands anything like a window to avoid international clashes.
“Also notable in the new men’s FTP is an alarming and growing disparity in the amount of international cricket played by a minority of member nations compared to others; a situation which is clearly neither equitable nor sustainable”.