Contracts are changing & players are moving... What's next?
With the rise of several T20 leagues around the globe and massive amounts of money splurged into international cricket stars, there is now a cloud over the future of test cricket.
Many players have voluntarily chosen to withdraw from National contracts, opting to play franchise cricket instead. This includes New Zealand fast bowler Trent Boult and batting all-rounder Jimmy Neesham, who have rejected National contracts making it clear that their appetite for touring has diminished.
These decisions from players may foreshadow the increased amount of players doing the same in the future and may impact the under-resourced nation’s performance.
The relaxed lifestyle of franchise cricket is attractive to big hitters such as Chris Lynn and Tim David who travel around the world all year round, from India to the Caribbean, to play two-and-a-half-hour games.
Big money, one-month duration tournaments, whereby if batters can get a quick 20-odd - or if bowlers can bowl some good yorkers and cutters at the death - they have played their role. It can seem an irresistible job instead of the hard rigours of test match cricket.
Players are being offered hundreds of thousands of dollars for 30-day tournaments which may be more than what some state cricketers earn in a whole year, leading to a certain problem in the structure of cricket at the moment.
The implementation of two new T20 franchise leagues such as the South African T20 League (SA20) and the UAE T20 league (ILT20) has jam-packed an already busy schedule. The game of cricket for all we know “has been damaged”, said Former England batsmen Micheal Atherton, who doesn’t see any solution to it.
“I am not saying it was easy but if they got together to organise the calendar then maybe they could have made franchise competitions pay an amount for a window that could go into a test match fund,” Atherton said.
“There were innovative ways to think about it but they didn’t think about it as they cannot see beyond the end of the next pay cheque.”
Cricket Australia’s stance
After a disappointing series against India, Cricket Australia have come under fire for their decision to allow test players such as Steve Smith, Usman Khawaja and Marnus Labuscahgne to play in the BBL finals rather than prioritising the Indian test series.
These decisions didn’t allow Australian players to have time for a tour match in those tough conditions, similar to their tour matches before the Ashes that they’d normally have.
The Australian cricket team's batting collapses in the series have been largely linked to the team not having a tour game. These collapses include Australia losing 9-47 on day three of the second test in Dehli after being 1-61 earlier.
CEO of The Australian Cricketers Association Todd Greenberg told The Grade Cricketer Podcast late last year, “if you’re a talented cricketer, you’ve got a choice of where you play and apply your trade”.
It is extremely important in this day and age of cricket to give “every opportunity” for players to want to stay and play for their country, Mr Greenberg said.
Struggling Poorer Nations
With the big three (Australia, India and England) continually playing bilateral series against each other to give back to their commercial investors, it’s left the developing countries in a rut.
Former Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews has lamented his country’s lack of test cricket opportunities, with only five tests this year contrasted to 11 ODI’s, six T20Is, Asia Cup and World Cup that they have this year.
“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 not enough,” the former Captain said.
Sri Lanka is not the only country who is having a lack of Test cricket. Others include South Africa, West Indies, Afghanistan, Ireland, Zimbabwe and plenty others compared to the big three. The ICC seems to have little knowledge or direction of what cricket is going to look like in the future or even in the next 12 months.
Some of the revenue made from the big three should be invested back into the developing nations to ensure that a “broader range” of competitors exist in cricket, Todd Greenberg said.
The world of Cricket, as we know, is surrounded by a huge cloud and updates are being unravelled on a regular basis. In recent days Australian players have reportedly been targeted with huge contracts to play on 12-month contracts for IPL franchises. These huge contracts are about to test International stars in their loyalty and passion to play Test cricket and most importantly their desire to play for their country.
This threat of wealthy investors will intensify and no doubt leave many cricket fans around the world dispirited.
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