I’m not a complete traditionalist, but when it comes to the game I love, the longer the better – at international level anyway. It was always the drama and tension of a test match that drew me to the game and from there I expanded into watching the One Day game. In an ideal world this would be how all children would discover the game, seeing the world’s top players slugging it out over a 5 day epic contest. However, in a modern era where instant gratification is plentiful for young sports fans, then it is more than likely that it will be the One Day game that will capture their imagination, especially Twenty20. Of course, in recent years and perhaps in the future, the Twenty20 game may well be the only format where the world’s best players play regularly – as a mercenary mind-set takes over world cricket.
As a devoted fan of the test match game, I would back any plans that protect the integrity and stature of the five day contest. Despite my reservations on Twenty20’s and love of test matches, I am actually in favour a franchise based system taking hold in all domestic leagues. The success of the IPL, BBL and Caribbean Premier League shows that despite dwindling test match crowds, there are still hoards of fans willing to see live cricket. It also shows us that cricket doesn’t necessarily have to be ‘international’ to be popular and successful, the franchise system allows for mass investment in the squads and therefore attracts many of the games big players and in turn draws large crowds.
The reluctance of the English domestic game to embrace the idea of a franchised T20 league is indicative of its archaic approach and fear of upsetting traditional counties. However, surely a franchised T20 league alongside a traditional 18 team County Championship and One Day competition would benefit both the fans, and the county administrators. The counties would be able to draw on a large pot of money gained from increased gate receipts at the franchised T20 league and invest it into their own county structure. A franchise system may also help to spread the game across England and allow areas such as the South West and East Anglia to see professional cricket as the franchises could tour their local area.
All of this leads me to my main argument, which is that Twenty20 Internationals should be scrapped all together. World cricket has become flooded with new domestic T20 leagues the world over and they have been an almost universal success. In the modern era, there is just simply no need for T20 Internationals, the franchised leagues allow fans to see their home countries heroes playing with, and against, the very best all summer the world over. Who can honestly say that after a hard fought three, four or even five match Test series they can get excited by a set of meaningless Twenty20’s? – Usually with the best players rested. There have been some moves from the ICC, including a specialised window for the IPL, but they need to be brave and allow more franchised leagues and leave the international sides to the serious business of test match cricket.
The Twenty20 game is often used a way to spread the game throughout the associate and affiliate nations. I’m sure that the ICC would argue that T20’s are the best way to engage with new fans across the world… and I would agree. But why should international T20’s capture their imagination more than a franchised league. Surely if it was a choice between Nepal v UAE and Delhi Daredevils v Kolkata Knight Riders, then surely the locals would rather see the world’s best players in their hometown. You could even take the leagues into the associate nations; why not spread some IPL games to China, CPL games into Canada and the USA, and form an English league with games played in the Netherlands and Ireland. The BBL could even open up and allow a couple of New Zealand franchises to participate.
The point I’m trying to make it that yes the T20 game is the best way to get children and new nations involved with cricket, but it certainly doesn’t have to be through international cricket. The ICC needs to allow more flexibility for domestic boards to schedule their own tournaments and leave international cricket to carry the flag for the Test Match game.