Ian Chappell – We need a debate on the future of cricket and we needed it yesterday


I read a fascinating book, Extraterrestrial, which raises a fundamental question which should also apply to cricket. Author Avi Loeb is a decorated science professor at Harvard who posits a tantalizing notion: “Imagine life on our planet the day after irrefutable confirmation of life elsewhere in the universe.”

In this vein: what is the future of cricket?

This debate is long overdue. It’s not too late now, but the list of participants has grown, given the relative strength of women’s football and the massive influence of climate change.

Styles of play have changed drastically in a few decades and there is still no plan for the future of cricket. Just as it did in the World Series Cricket (WSC) uprising of the 1970s, the administration is leapfrogging, driven mostly by a knee-jerk reaction.

The WSC insurrection was over wages and conditions, but it was the 50 plus game that ultimately flourished. Now T20 is the main format, with Test cricket occasionally receiving favorable mentions from players.

England captain Ben Stokes recently announced his retirement from the 50 plus game. A reluctant Stokes said it was not possible for him to compete in all three formats, and while his retirement was not unexpected, it is nonetheless a concern.

Played well, the 50+ game makes for a good game of cricket that is rewarding in its entertainment value. These are usually the feelings of older players, who only knew two formats. Current players often place the IPL, in particular, and T20 in general, at the top of the list when it comes to satisfaction.

This is why the future of the game requires careful consideration. A firm decision is needed on how many game formats are best suited for cricket. Once this is decided, it then needs to be confirmed how the formats need to evolve to ensure the game evolves.

Any positive promotion of the game must go hand in hand with players, and that includes female cricketers. An international players’ association, with Indian representation, should be an integral part of the future of cricket.

The overrun game evolved due to a perceived boredom with Test cricket. T20 grew on the back of 50+ cricket’s supposed stagnation. What if fans get bored with the 20-over game?

In nearly 50 years, the game has grown from a semi-amateur status to a full-fledged professional enterprise. The administrators could not have imagined the enormous power they granted to the players when they triggered what has become an incredibly lucrative T20 circuit.

Cricket’s history must be carefully considered before a firm decision is made on the future path. The overrun game evolved due to a perceived boredom with Test cricket. Then T20 rose rapidly due to the supposed stagnation of 50+ cricket. This begs the question of what happens if fans get bored with the game at age 20.

Cricket is already dabbling in T10 leagues and it’s not hard to imagine the game embracing this format more. The T10 should be seen as overstating the entertainment quotient and not a format that professional gamers should adopt.

Even T20, with its propensity for a power play, and lasting no more than 40 overs, can often be unsatisfactory for a player. The pitch is a nice part of cricket, but it’s not the same for batters if they face very few deliveries.

However, it’s understandable that a current player, needing to support his family, would be comfortable making a good living from the shorter game. The T20 is suitable for many young cricketers as the necessary skills can be developed more quickly than those required for long formats. The future of the game is in the hands of young players, but they must balance their future decisions with keeping an eye on the past.

The balance is delicate, but the game needs to hear informed opinions before making a decision on the direction of cricket. This is why the administrators should have organized a global debate a long time ago. As the intriguing Loeb points out in his book, it is crucial that those involved are prepared for what lies ahead.

Former Australian captain Ian Chappell is a columnist


Comments are closed.