ICC Hears Test Cricket’s SOS

There was a fantastic ODI in Dunedin overnight. England scored 335 on a small ground (which was slightly better than par imho), and New Zealand chased it down thanks to Ross Taylor’s sublime 181*. He’s not bad that Taylor. However, it would certainly help if England could find a world class bowler or two. Our lack of a real match-winner is the missing ingredient that could cost us the World Cup we all covet.

England didn’t bowl particularly badly, don’t get me wrong, but somehow the Kiwis were able to take wickets in the last ten overs of our innings and slow our batsmen down when 400 looked on the cards. Sometimes when the pitch is good and the boundaries are short, taking wickets is the only way to curb the run rate. Unfortunately, England couldn’t make the same crucial breakthroughs New Zealand did. I feel a bit sorry for Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root really, who both made centuries but finished on the losing side.

Anyway, enough about the ODI series in Middle Earth. What I really want to talk about is yesterday’s intriguing reports that the ICC wants to take action to save test cricket. Apparently they’re genuinely concerned about T20 cannibalising other forms of the game and want to halt the proliferation of money-spinning, player-nicking, and garish-looking domestic T20 competitions. There’s even a rumour that the ECB support this initiative. Excuse me while I remove my jaw from the floor.

Obviously this news is extremely welcome, and possibly the best cricket related news I’ve heard for some time. I don’t want to repeat all the details when I can simply link to the full report in the Guardian, but the basics are as follows …

1. They want to establish firm windows for T20 cricket competitions, so they can only happen in certain parts of the world at certain times. This will leave 6 months clear for international cricket … including tests of course. These restrictions should stop players specialising purely as T20 players as they’ll only be able to earn money for half the year.

2. The number of overseas players in each domestic T20 team could be capped, thus preventing the wholesale migration of foreign players into each league. Basically this will reduce opportunities for average T20 players to quit first-class cricket and start globetrotting in random T20 events.

3. Players under the age of 32 will only be able to play in three domestic T20 leagues per year. And this, of course, includes the competition in their own country. I wonder if the NatWest Blast and Harrison’s Harebrained Have A Hit will count as two separate tournaments? If so Jos Buttler, Alex Hales, and Adil Rashid will be crying into their beer tonight.

4. All domestic franchises will pay 20% of a player’s contract value to that cricketer’s home board. I think that means the ECB will get a fifth of every eye-watering Ben Stokes IPL deal. I knew there had to be a reason why they’re in favour of this (wink, wink). This move is to ensure money is ploughed back into the grass roots … or Giles Clarke’s gin budget.

5. Player welfare and payments will be standardised across every domestic T20 tournament.

It’s interesting to note that it’s the West Indies board which is driving this forward, despite the fact they’ve won two T20 World Cups. I imagine they’re concerned that it’s almost impossible for them to put out their best team these days – a situation which might cost them a place at the next 50-over World Cup.

My eyebrows also moved in an upwards direction when I read that the ICC are worried a Kerry Packer type figure might hijack T20 cricket at some point; therefore they want to take steps to get both players and national bodies signed up to the proposals asap. I have no idea how realistic this threat is, but I’m pleased that the ICC apparently sense the need for urgency.

Obviously I’d love to know what everyone makes of these reports. I know some of you might want stricter restrictions on T20 cricket – and in an ideal world I might agree with you – but the world game is where it is, and I can’t see the shortest form of the game contracting anytime soon. In fact, curbing its influence might be the best we can hope for.

The important thing to take from all this is that the ICC are worried about the rise of T20, can see the problems as well as the benefits it creates, and want to implement measures to ensure all forms of the game can exist in balance and harmony.

‘Balance and harmony’ might sound like a bit like a slogan for a probiotic yoghurt, but cricket currently has a bad case of stomach ache, and personally I’m all for the introduction of some good bacteria to counteract the toxic stuff.

James Morgan


  • More changes afoot on the governance front:

    Good to see that the ECB care about over rates when a broadcaster complains – unlike their usual not giving a stuff when it’s just the poor paying fans.

    Good also to read that Tom Harrison has been seen wearing England kit and Simon (everything bar T20 and the Ashes is doomed) and Mark (the Ageas Bowl was my idea) Nicholas have got on the MCC Cricket Committee. The game is safe in their hands!

  • I do have some concerns that the windows will work against test cricket unless we’re careful (eg, in England, tests would be played in May, June and September, leaving July and August free for HHHAH). The IPL already eats into the England test summer (though playing tests in may is ludicrous anyway). However, the general plan seems a good one. I merely observe that the detail is important.

    The WI board has been particularly hard hit by T20 (although some of the hits involve them shooting themselves in the foot)., so it’s good to see them take the lead on this. Having said that, part of the problem is that some of their players are so used to T20 (eg Pollard) that they can’t play anything longer (Andre Russell is a particular pity on that front). It’s good to see Chris G at the top of the WI order in the qualifiers, though.

    • Cricket WIs also don’t own the CPL, which loses money at the moment but they are assuming will in the future. It means they don’t currently have a lot to lose by the CPL clashing with the English or other T20 comp

  • Just as T20 is getting the public fired up and interested in cricket again along come the authorities who want to curb it. I don’t get it. If people are interested in test cricket, like me, then they are going to watch it anyway.

    • To be fair I think this is about players specialising in T20. The talent drain will eventually diminish test cricket. I think that’s the main problem. Plus we surely don’t want T20 leagues going on around the world every month of the year. If so international cricket will suffer. It’s interesting that the ICC fear that their own T20 World Cup will get overshadowed.

  • “They want to establish firm windows for T20 cricket competitions, Players under the age of 32 will only be able to play in three domestic T20 leagues per year”

    I just can’t see this working. If another T20 tournament springs up willing to flout these rules, and a load of 25 year old players want to play, what exactly are the ICC going to do about it? Issue a strongly worded letter? They don’t own cricket.

    • Any rebel league is going to have to have enough cash to pay the players more than they can otherwise earn year-round (as the ICC & members can stop them playing in sanctioned comps as well as dishing out international bans).

      Packer succeeded because he was able to offer big money to players previously paid a pittance. ICL failed because the BCCI learned the lesson from WSC & set up the IPL and offered players good money, and the chance to stay in the fold

  • The only way you’re going to stop players going to T20 is to make sure they get equally well paid playing test cricket. and that means the big 3 giving up some of their revenue to support the other test nations that they are reliant on for meaningful competition. If England vs South Africa gradually morphs into England vs South Africa 2nd Xi (in the way that it has with the West Indies), then the fans will stop coming, and sky will stop paying £10m+ per test.

    I don’t really see why T20 pays so much more than Test Cricket anyway, given that the majority of T20 tournaments lose money, but test cricket rakes it in. Where is all this money coming from? It can’t all be from illegal betting syndicates, can it? (Dumb question, of course it can)

    When we say “T20”, do we really mean “the IPL”? Does the BBL the CPL and the PCL all pay huge wages? We know that the NWB doesn’t – you’d definitely make more playing test cricket, which is as it should be.

  • Let me start with track-suited Tom. If there is a bigger p*****k in the ECB, please identify him. Hubris personified.
    Nicholas can no doubt be relied upon to shout “it’s a ripper” if he ever extracts himself from his backside , sorry, Oz for long enough to attend a meeting. Claire Taylor and Brearley, in their very different ways might just bring some sanity and shake up a few old fogies.
    Good to see Kerry Packer’s name mentioned. His World Series Cricket pitted a very fine bunch of fast bowlers against some good batsmen and unlike T20, the bat did not dominate. It was widely thought that Packer would destroy Test Cricket but he was in fact a force for good. So if a Packer-type character were to hijack T20 he might make a much better fist of things than some other people – are you listening Mr Track Suit?

    Changing subject slightly, I see that England’s bowlers are getting blamed for the defeat. So nothing to do with our number 4,5,6&7 batsmen only scoring 9 runs between them then?

    • Agree about the bowlers being singled out. We have batting strength but they were equally culpable. I wouldn’t put a penny on England to win the World Cup. We lack bowling fire power, containment strength and our batsmen are inconsistent. I wish them luck but my money is staying in my handbag.

    • Agree about the bowlers being singled out. We have batting strength but they were equally culpable. I wouldn’t put a penny on England to win the World Cup. We lack bowling fire power, containment strength and our batsmen are inconsistent. I wish them luck but my money is staying in my handbag.

    • Interesting isn’t it. Future directors will have to be independent … but obviously Graves will not be.

    • This resignation is going to rock the ECB. Talk about pay off’s. This must be bordering on illegal activity. Graves could go at May’s AGM. I bloody well hope so. Its about time this so called governing body was sorted out once and for all and start to properly represent the sport. Spivs out!

  • Ross Taylor underwent surgery to remove a small growth from his left eye in January 2017. Since then, he has averaged 65.50 in one-day cricket, with four centuries and nine half-centuries to his name. Not bad.

  • Standardization is necessary in one other area as well – anti-corruption. I have not joined the populist call for the abolition of International T20 matches for this reason. Whether you like them or not, you know that the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit – as ineffective as it has been – is at least there, and trying to solve problems. I’m not convinced the proliferation of T20 tournaments and the insistence from individual boards that it is their business and their business alone has been healthy, and while I’m glad that looks like it might be changing, there must be a basic anti-corruption standard at every match. If local boards want to go above that, more power to them.

  • Cricket has the same problem as all other major sports. Once cash is flowing into the coffers the businessmen take over, offering their ‘expertise’ to maximise profits. Whilst I have no issue with business brains getting involved, I would restrict them to advisory roles. You don’t have to be a businessman to negotiate sponsorship deals. You just need to be aware of what your product can offer. After all, accountants, the core of any business plan, are generally restricted to this in the boardroom, decision making being left to the ideas men who see the big picture. In my view the core of committees in all major sports should be ex competitors who have operated at the level being administered, so understand the nature of the game at that level and what effect any changes will have on those who play and pay for it. This way vested interests can be kept to a minimum and the game administered for its own sake. You can tinker all you like with technicalities, but the general direction has to be consistently improving all aspects of the game. When you start playing one area off against another it becomes opportunist and directionless.

    • I don’t mind if the “business brains” that come in are at least competent and well-intentioned. The problem cricket has is the people that run it are either moronically stupid or only in it for their own personal gain (sometimes its hard to tell which).

      No competent businessman would allow their market share and expected future revenues to plummet by a factor of 10 in the space of under a decade unless they were actively trying to asset strip the company before filing for bankruptcy and walking away with a new yacht. The ECB’s running of English cricket is actually very reminiscent of Philip Green’s deliberate running-down of BHS (or good old Gerard Ratner shitting on his own merchandise).

      • If the players on the committee are the ones who judge which ‘brains’ to use then there is more chance of the interests of the game being protected.
        We see in soccer how many so called successful businessmen make a hash of running a club, by being too impatient for success. To be a success in business can sometimes be a simple matter of being in the right place at the right time. Look at all the Saudi millionaire sheiks, who are simply raping their own resources. There is no guarantee they can repeat their success elsewhere. In the USA it has long been a cliche that you have to go bankrupt at least once before you can be trusted as a success in the business community. This seems crazy logic to me, a good reason why we should never trust those involved in it with any general responsibility.

  • The ICC World Cup Qualifying tournament is apparently taking place, not that anyone can watch it because the ICC helpfully decided not to fund any streams so David Warner can buy a thesaurus or England hire another coach.

    It looks like it’s going to be between WI, Ireland, Scotland and Zimbabwe (not that the dice were loaded to help the latter justify their status by staging the tournament there or anything). Afghanistan, the Dutch, Nepal and the rest have mountains to climb already. There are still many games to go, quite a few of which will be entirely meaningless, which should at least prepare us for the tournament next year.


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